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Meet Jeanette Sawyer, Ivy Ocampo, and Samantha Roxas of MAAARI

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeanette Sawyer, Ivy Ocampo, and Samantha Roxas.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jeanette, Ivy, and Samantha. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
All three of us have known each other since grade school, but eventually went our separate ways to pursue our dreams and aspirations. Ivy moved to NY for creative design & branding, Sam moved to San Francisco and worked in politics & public policy, and Jeanette moved to DC to get her masters in exhibition design, then later to LA to curate & program street art shows across the country.

Though we were in the middle of our careers, and in different industries and cities, something drew us back to one another. We wanted to start a project of our own creation, one that was done with consciousness and intention, and one that celebrated our innate Filipino-Americanness. MAAARI was born out of this.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
We don’t even know what a smooth road looks like yet! It has definitely been a wild, bumpy, unpaved road; which makes things both thrilling and challenging at the same time. One of the struggles early on was defining our mission and honing in on what we wanted MAAARI to be. People often underestimate how hard it is to define *the thing* you’re actually doing.

We also struggled with simply learning how to work with one another; not only as colleagues but as close friends. No business decision is just a business decision — it’s personal, it’s passionate, and it’s something that we all own together. So decisions and conversations are much more dynamic and carry a different kind of weight.

One of our biggest challenges is learning to work with indigenous communities/makers/partners in the Philippines in a way that’s culturally competent and effective. Not only is this process new for both parties, but the relationship is long distance, has language barriers, and has serious logistical hurdles. Some of the communities we work with reside in villages with little to no interaction with the outside world.

Many don’t have access to cell phones, let alone an internet connection. We often work with community experts to be the go-between with particular communities to help facilitate the relationship. Some partners aren’t used to working with Americans and our production timelines, and we’re not used to working with communities who will naturally have limitations and variations in their craftsmanship.

This makes our systems incredibly complex and requires extra TLC. At the same time, this process has been humbling, eye-opening, and has given us a deeper appreciation for the differences between our cultures. It brings our Filipino side and our American side closer together. We’re learning a rhythm that works for us, but it has its challenges for sure.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with MAAARI – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We create consciously made goods inspired by Philippine culture. All of our products (jewelry, accessories, home goods, footwear, and soon—apparel) are made as ethically and sustainably as possible and with intentional, artistic, and elevated design.

For example, our Banga planters are inspired by the Traditional Banga dance, that celebrates the strength and agility of Filipina women—who are often the head of traditional Filipino households. They are hand-thrown in the USA by a talented potter in Southern California using non-toxic and natural glazes.

Our Sebu rings are made of recycled church bells by the indigenous T’boli community in the Philippines. They use an age-old lost wax casting technique using local beeswax, dried mud, and an underground flame. This partnership helps create sustainable livelihoods for the T’boli community, diversifying their income source.

Our hanging Orbital Planter is made of teak wood that is harvested from a sustainable tree plantation in the Philippines called Marsse, an organization solely committed to forest preservation, environmental education and eco job creation.

From conception to production, each item is tied to our Filipino roots and is thoughtfully produced with environmental and social impact in mind.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?

We’re looking to scale our impact and deepen our relationships in the Philippines. We’re also starting to get into apparel and currently working on some rad projects with pina (pineapple) fabric from the Philippines. Stay tuned!!

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