Mompowerment: Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, Thriving in the Business of Empowering Moms and Sharing Stories That Matter
Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, Co-founder & President, Rags2Riches, Inc., Founder and Curator of @thingsthatmatterph
Reese Fernandez-Ruiz is co-founder and President of Rags2Riches (R2R), a fashion and design house empowering community artisans around the Philippines. The company started from the goal of partnering with a group of artisans from Payatas who were mostly stay-at-home mothers. This is Reese’s passion, her life’s work and advocacy. Unwittingly, in empowering mothers, she found her own mompowerment too.
It started 10 years ago when she and some of her friends saw the social injustice happening in Payatas where artisan moms were making foot rags out of fabrics; earning only P10-P16 for a whole day’s work. The fashion company Rags2Riches was born from their shared feeling of deep disturbance that something had to be done and that it wasn’t merely about giving money to people but providing opportunities.
Reese’s love and respect for her artisan moms grew even more when she gave birth to her son, Miguel, now 2 years old. She shares, “I never thought I could balance being a mom and being an entrepreneur. And I was right because there’s really no such thing as perfect balance. You’re always trying to achieve it. It’s a continuing work in progress and it always will be. I was so happy that I was able to breastfeed my son for a whole year while I was working on one of the hardest years of R2R. It was very empowering because I learned so much about myself during that time.”
Reese shares that as a working mom, she constantly battles with mom guilt. “As moms, we have that guilty feeling all the time. Like, if we stay at home or take care of our kids, okay, what about our career? What about ourselves? Then, if you’re working, you’re always thinking about, ‘Oh, my gosh! What am I missing out with my kids?’ I think, looking back, and seeing the progress of my son now, it’s too early to tell about his character and everything but he’s very healthy, very playful but also very kind. So I feel we’re on the right track.”
Asked about the legacy she wants to leave to her son, Reese says that R2R was built on a set of principles that she hopes her son will grow to be inspired from. She shares, “What I want him to take home from all of the things we have been through is that, he’s surrounded by amazing, nurturing but also powerful women, and he’s a boy so I really want him to grow up having respect, sensitivity and the things that are not stereotypically associated with being a boy or a man. For me, it’s about raising a child who is more human, more compassionate and more caring. So I want him to see that in my life and I want him to see other people as equals, that there are no levels. To be kind to everyone and to know that everyone has the potential to be good.”
Her best mompowerment advice to women is to do what works for you. She shares, “We’ll get advice from everyone but in the end, do what works for you and what feels right. We all have our stories to write, our own stories to love.”
Reese’s stories are filled with compassion and kindness. Hers are the stories we will certainly look forward to for years to come.