This young enabler aims to inspire Filipino students, youth to ‘weave’ their own dreams

Published June 19, 2021, 7:42 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is expected to leave an unimaginable trail of destruction in its wake.

However, a young enabler believes that not all is lost as long as the Filipino youth continue to have a “winning mindset” as they cope with challenges in the education system and deal with uncertainties about their future amid the ongoing public health situation.

CHAMPIONING WEAVING TRADITION. Jennelaine ‘Jen’ Dingalan, Chief Weave Advocate of Daily Habi, believes that entrepreneurship is a viable option for livelihood especially for young people. (Photo courtesy of Jen Dingalan)

For Jennelaine “Jen” Dingalan, 25, changing one’s mindset can also change one’s life. She is currently the Weave Advocate of Daily Habi, a clothing brand that brings Philippine ethnic weave closer to every Filipino.

“Practice having a resilient, winning, and entrepreneurial mindset,” she told students and youth in a Manila Bulletin interview. “Your resilience mindset will help you discover the challenges as opportunities,” she added.

Weaving her own dream

Daily Habi, which had its soft-launch last March, promotes ethnic weave on professional clothing at an attainable price point.

The brand’s first flagship collection, the Cordilleran Series, was dedicated to everyday Filipino young professionals whose journey towards growth and dreams they want to be part of.

The project – which garnered support and interest from various TV personalities, industry leaders, and public officials, among others – was borne from the fascination towards well-regarded leaders and personalities wearing traditional weaves in various engagements.

Daily Habi founders Jennelaine Dingalan as Chief Weave Advocate and Miguel Lopez as Marketing Director champion Filipino heritage by offering young professionals affordable weave. (Photo courtesy of Jen Dingalan)

Initially, Dingalan and her partner tried to buy some pieces. However, as young professionals, they could not afford what was available in the market.

Instead of giving up, they maximized their works’ deployment all over the country by bringing home a piece of indigenous Filipino fabric. They started to manually incorporate these in their formal clothing and attracted interest from co-workers.

Seeing the demand of young professionals for affordable weave, they came up with a value proposition – an ethnic weave on professional clothing at an attainable price point which led to the birth of Daily Habi.

Gearing towards reaching the international market to champion Filipino heritage, Daily Habi also helps build the dreams of women local weavers and small-town tailors by featuring more handcrafted cultural weaves.

Turning point becomes a starting point

The road to success was not easy for Dingalan, a provincial girl-turned-civil society worker.

Growing up from the lakeshore town of Jala-jala in Rizal – where livelihood relies on agriculture and fishery – Dingalan recalled how her family used to live from paycheck to paycheck.

Her mother worked as a hairdresser and her father engaged in cockfighting wagers in between jobs. Things started to go awry when her mother left the country and worked as a beautician overseas despite her father’s opposition.

While Dingalan acknowledges the benefits of having an Overseas Foreign Worker (OFW) as a parent, the reality of having a long distance relationship started to sink as her parents’ fighting over the phone became frequent – to the point of threatened separation.

Having a severed family as turning point, Dingalan started to believe that entrepreneurship is a viable option for livelihood. Soon after she obtained a college degree, she sought mentorship from the country’s top business leaders.

“I dream of a Philippines where no Filipinos are forced to leave their families to serve other families for money,” Dingalan said. “There is opportunity at home, we just need to be enabled,” she added.

A dream is an ‘opportunity for all’

Believing that having a dream is an opportunity for all, Dingalan started sharpening her saw, so to speak.

Dingalan’s interest in enterprises grew in 2017 under the mentorship of Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, the concurrent founder of “Go Negosyo” which is a non-government foundation that advocates for change in mindset and attitude towards entrepreneurship.

Concepcion assigned Dingalan as Programs Development Associate. In her first year, she co-handled the ASEAN Business Advisory Council summits and served liaison to business premiers and State leaders.

Dinagalan also became key intermediary to the delegations of Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar in that same year.

The following year, Dingalan co-led “Mentor Me on Wheels” (MMOW), a nationwide free one-on-one mentorship program for aspiring and established Micro, Small, and Medium Entrepreneurs (MSMEs).

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and ‘Go Negosyo’ Founder Joey Concepcion and Mentor Me On Wheels Project Head Jennelaine Dingalan guide OFW group members on creating an entrepreneurial mindset. (Photo courtesy of Jen Dingalan)

The MMOW was designed to enable mentees for capacity building, market linkage and financial opportunities through the assistance and guidance of “Go Negosyo” accredited mentors, partners and sponsors. Rolled out to 13 regions in 37 strategic locations, the MMOW benefits more than 14,000 Filipinos nationwide.

In 2019, Dingalan was promoted as a Programs Development Officer at 23 – making her the youngest executive committee member of “Go Negosyo.” In the same year, Dingalan led the digitalization of “Go Negosyo’s” learning platform by pioneering Mentor Me Online (MMO) which became timely and effective in the nationwide lockdown brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MMO is an innovated MMOW that serves as a free platform that teaches businesses to pivot during the pandemic to keep the economy afloat through its daily episodes on the “Go Negosyo” Facebook Page.

Jennelaine Dingalan facilitates the Mentor Me Online (MMO) program with some ‘Go Negosyo’ mentors. (Photo courtesy of Jen Dingalan)

It covers mentorship on business navigation, innovation in business operations, supply chain management, crisis mitigation, and business continuity planning. Since April 2020, MMO has aired more than 500 episodes featuring hundreds of stories of inspiring entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

Dingalan also lobbied the “Puhunan Pang-Negosyo” which is a financial assistance program for MSMEs affected by the pandemic. Through the segment, “Go Negosyo” was able to provide over 11 million pesos as supplementary capital to over 1,400 affected MSMEs nationwide.

Creating opportunities

Given her professional and personal experience in entrepreneurship, Dingalan currently sits on the United Nation’s Youth Advisory Board as Sector Representative for Young Entrepreneurs with a mandate to proactively advise the institution on youth issues and strategic development programs.

Dingalan also consults with several institutions and organizations to implement programs that develop SMEs and promote gender equality in the economy. For her, civil society work does not only allow enterprises to scale up, but also provide decent work and economic opportunity for every Filipino family.

Given this, she urged Filipino students and youth not to lose hope amid the challenges. “Having a winning mindset gives you the stamina and reason to pursue those opportunities,” Dingalan said. “An entrepreneurial mindset gives you the creativity and resourcefulness to stand out and stay relevant,” she added.