A photo of my "maman" and I... I was but just a year old.
In 2009, I started a master’s degree program and took a class on global ethics from a professor I will never forget. It changed the course of my life, both personally and professionally. It served as the corner stone that helped me to turn belief into action. I was sitting in class, on a hard, wooden seat, listening to the lecture when my professor said something very significant. So significant in fact it was like it hi-jacked my brain and I was no longer listening.. I had caught a golden nugget and all it needed was a little mental polish. What my professor said was something like "being aware and talking about “it” is equally as important as taking action.” I just remember thinking: “I know what he’s trying to say but if I want to have an impact, that’s just not enough. If I want to change the way things are, I have to take action. Talking about it is great and I can influence others but if I don’t take action, who will? If I had the power to do something, I should."
At the time, the world was in the middle of a grave economic crisis produced by unethical and selfish individuals who were now panic stricken, asking for help because they were too big to fail and no one was being held accountable. Money was buying them a future free of consequences, free to repeat their costly mistakes. I was truly angry at the injustice of seeing thousands upon thousands of people losing everything and for others to line their pockets with cash. This is where my brain had taken me.
When I finally came out of my reverie, I remember grabbing my professor’s attention as I raised my hand and saying something along the line of: “How do my words matter if I don’t turn them into action?” At that moment, I truly felt compelled to act. If I knew better, I thought it my responsibility to draw a line in the sand and put my money where my mouth was. I wanted to fight along the side of people less fortunate than I was. I wanted to make sure the world I was living in was a more just one than what I was witnessing. It was the genesis of my revolution.
My mom stopped working when I was young so she could raise me since my father consumed himself with his work and was absent most of the time even when at home. I felt often relating closer to women than with men in my friendships and have most certainly always been sensitive to women’s issues.
That only got exacerbated when I met my wife. She is the daughter Filipino immigrants. Unbeknownst to her, she showed me a whole new world when she took me to the Philippines to meet her family. Thanks to her, I came to grips with what life is like for most of the planet. There, walking the streets of Manila, I witnessed abject poverty and real hardship. I saw kids living on the streets, and under bridges, dirty, barefeet with threadbare clothes when they had any, begging for food and money. I saw entire communities built on landfills full of garbage and disease. I also realized that the families that were "better off", relied heavily as a matter of survival on the generosity of family members living abroad. I saw needless poverty there and an overwhelming wealth here.
When I completed my master’s degree, I told myself I would not work for companies I could not stand by and be proud of. I swore to myself to be truthful, ethical and put into action my belief system. I wanted to prove to myself one could be ethical and successful. The problem was finding the right fit for me in Corporate America.
After a year and a half of seeking a position in a downturned economy, with unemployment rates in double digits I was becoming depressed and I doubted my vision. There were occasions where I felt I was letting my family down.
On one rare occasion where I was out for a drink at a San Diego pub I had not been in a very long time, Dan walked in… a long lost college friend I had not seen in over 10 years. After talking together, catching up on each other’s life and just reconnecting as friends, we came to the conclusion we wanted to work together. There was alignment of our interests and we had the same way of looking at business and ethics.
It was sinking in that if I was to act on my beliefs and ethics and create an example of what it was to stand something for my daughter, the best way to do that was not to work for someone else, but to create something from scratch that I and the women in my life could be proud of. I could implement being a disruptor to the status quo and have a hand in changing the world for the better. I could work on creating a more just place for women and mothers wanting the same thing for their own daughters. Out of this collaboration with my two partners Dan and Linda, came Vavavida...
Given the situation the fashion is in (e.g. fast fashion), it is imperative that it changes for the better and we wanted to have an active part in creating a better world for all.
A photo of my daughter and I last year.