9 Filipina startup leaders celebrated on International Women’s Day

Filipina leaders International Women's Day
Filipino women entrepreneurs who are part of the Women-Helping-Women: Innovating Social Enterprises or WHWise Program of the DOST-PCIEERD: Rose Gersava-Villamor (Virtualahan), Deborah Gay Estacio (Action Hubs Philippines Inc.), Stephanie Naval (Empath), November Canieso-Yeo (Plantsville), Leah Rasay (Husay Co.), Karen Jane Salutan (EdukSine), Wilma Alvester (FLQ Foods and Panciteria), Maria Wilvenna Añora (AtoANI), Joy Pulchra Sarabia (Ofamen Cacao Farm). Photos from socials, DOST.

Here are 9 Filipina startup leaders and their enterprises featured by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) as the Philippines and the rest of the world celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2022.

The stories and enterprises of the Filipino women entrepreneurs have been shared for the celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) which honors the contributions of women all over the world. This year’s theme is centered around achieving a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

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The women-led startups are part of the first cohort of the Women-Helping-Women: Innovating Social Enterprises or WHWise Program of the DOST-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) introduced during the Philippine Startup Week 2021 (PHSW21).

The program is a public-private partnership initiative that brings together government agencies and private organizations to seek out and prepare women-led social enterprises for growth, scalability, and subsequent venture capital funding.

The DOST-PCIEERD’s WHWise Program aims to address gender issues in innovation and business and subsequently provide access to technology to enable even women from rural communities to be part of the global economy.

The program offers a suite of services including early-stage funding, training, skills development, mentorship, and business incubation.

Here are 9 Filipina startup leaders who are part of the WHWise Program and their startups:

Karen Jane Salutan
Co-Founder, Pinoy Indie Films Road Show

Karen Jane Salutan is the CEO, Founder, and Marketing Director of Pinoy Indie Films Road Show (PIRFS) Multimedia Distributions Services. She studied filmmaking at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman and Business Management at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.

EdukSine (formerly known as Pinoy Indie Films Road Show) makes socially-relevant films accessible to many Filipinos and serves as a new and unconventional platform to promote indie films that are made by struggling indie film producers and filmmakers.

Maria Wilvenna Añora
Co-Founder and Head of Strategy and Business Development, AtoANI

Maria Wilvenna Añora is a Chemical Engineer who comes from a family of farmers in Bohol. She is also an advocate of sustainable agriculture.

She co-founded AtoANI, a social enterprise based in Bohol that produces and distributes organically farmed fresh produce and processed food products.

Deborah Gay Estacio
Founding President, Action Hubs Philippines Inc.

Deborah Gay Estacio is the Founding President of Action Hubs Philippines Inc. and the Chairman of the Philippines Business Council Abu Dhabi, UAE.

She was also a signatory and participant to the United Nations Global Compact and United Nations Women.

Action Hubs Philippines Inc.’s mission is for local producers to be able to supply the feeding program demand of their own locality.

Wilma Alvester
Owner, FLQ Foods and Panciteria

Wilma Alvester is a graduate of Marketing Management and the owner of FLQ Foods and Panciteria. She is also a former chairperson of Tabuk Women Indigenous Organization (TWIO) and a Chairman of Manggawa Farmers Environmental Development Association (MFEDA).

The FLQ Foods and Panciteria has been producing miki for their panciteria using flour from Tabuk City which is being bought outside Kalinga since there are no flour producers in the province.

Leah Rasay
Founder & CEO, Husay Co.

Leah Rasay has worked in the creative industries and the government for 12 years doing graphics, web design, creative direction, events, and productions.

Husay Co. is a social enterprise that upskills artists and connects them to jobs in creative industries.

Rose Gersava-Villamor
Co-Founder and Vice Presdient for Community Building and Wellbeing, Virtualahan

Rose Gersava-Villamor has over 10 years of experience in community building and represented the Philippines for the Voices for Inclusion in the Hague, Netherlands. She was also a finalist for the 2020 Cisco Youth Leadership Award and was among the honorees in Forbes “30 Under 30 Asia 2021” list.

Gersava-Villamor founded Virtualahan in Davao City to break down employment barriers for stigmatized people, including those with disabilities and recovering drug addicts, by providing digital-focused job-skills training for roles that can be done remotely.

Virtualahan eliminates barriers for People with Disabilities and other excluded communities through online training, life-coaching, and community building using cost-effective and transferrable social technology.

November Canieso-Yeo
Social Entrepreneur, Plantsville Health

November Canieso-Yeo finished Social Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod and MBA in Asian Institute of Management. She started backyard gardening and blogging about cinnamon and learned about its endemic status and the need for propagation.

Plantsville champions for the conservation of the Philippine cinnamon for livelihood and climate change mitigation. Partners with farmers in planting, growing, and harvesting crops.

Joy Pulchra Sarabia
Ofamen Cacao Farm

Joy Pulchra Sarabia has managed a farm with cacaos, mango trees, 2000 gmelina trees and other root crops since 2006.

The legacy of the Ofamen Cacao Farm started 30 years ago. Its major products include cacao seedlings, tableya, vegetables, and bananas.

Stephanie Naval
Founder & CEO, Empath

Stephanie Naval is a mental health and human rights advocate who is currently a law student at the Ateneo Law School. She is a Certified Psychological First Aider and 2019 UN Global Impact Finalist.

Empath is a social enterprise that envisions greater mental health care access for all Filipinos. It provides access to online counseling as well as workshops and seminars on mental health care.

CHECK OUT this list of Women’s Month activities, events, and ways to show your support for Filipinas as the global celebration happens this March 2022.

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Margo is a voracious reader - some might even say she reads too much for her own good. She majored in BS Psychology and hopes to become a forensic psychologist one day. She’s also an aspiring writer, mental health advocate, and a staunch believer of equality.