HyacinthMNL: Blooming Where Planted
How Danielle Wassmer, a 25-year-old entrepreneur is helping stay-at-home moms in lakeside communities through her mom's legacy.
The common water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) — known more popularly as the water lily — isn’t exactly something we want blooming in abundance. Laguna de Bay, in particular, has been seeing such a large amount of it that it was declared as an invasive plant species that chokes waterways and indicates poor water quality.
On the other hand, these water lilies play a central role in how up-and-coming local bag brand HyacinthMNL came to be. Unknowingly, it became the fateful link between its founder and owner Danielle Wassmer, and her late mother, Luisa Meneses-Wassmer.
When she was conceptualizing her start-up business, Danielle, was certain of at least two things: that she wanted to combine her love for bags and helping her community, even through small gestures that have profound ripple effects.
Leather was initially her top choice for raw material, but all that changed when she, upon a friend’s suggestion, discovered a roadside stall that sold bags woven using dried water lily. When she started researching and canvassing for suppliers of Hyacinth bags, she ended up meeting people who not only knew her mother, but held fond memories of how her mother was one of the key reasons why they were able to turn to water lily handicrafts as a viable source of income.
A restaurant owner and former councilor in Los Baños, Laguna, Mrs. Meneses-Wassmer passionately dedicated herself to community work and public service. One of her initiatives was a series of training sessions and workshops for stay-at-home moms, who were taught how to utilize Hyacinth into sustainable and profitable handicrafts.
“We had to share her time with a lot of people, and I feel like I didn’t understand that when I was younger,” Danielle said. “But it turned out to be one of her qualities that would deeply take root in me, without me realizing it right away.”
This bond between daughter and mother fortuitously came full circle seven years after the latter passed away, with Danielle building the concept of Hyacinth revolving around helping and giving back.
Today, Danielle works with one head designer and five to ten weavers based in Laguna. She continues to take inspiration from knowing that the products she helps design support a holistic ecosystem that benefits everyone involved, while solving a legitimate environmental problem.
“Beyond functionality, business owners these days work hard to ensure that they weave in brand purpose and story to their ideas to send across messages that will touch lives and make a difference — be it grand or small,” she shared. “We have a long way to go in terms of educating Filipinos about sustainability, but the continuous growth of conscious fashion brands creates an avenue that encourages the importance of valuing to learn about loving local, and supporting sustainable causes.”
Her deep source of motivation drives her to work towards bigger goals this year: more sustainable, functional and fashionable designs in the pipeline, and possibly opportunities to showcase the brand and the important story behind it to an international audience. She keeps her sights on these goals while remaining anchored to the true motivation behind all this.
“The most rewarding thing about this passion project of mine is the fact that I feel that I get to make my mom proud all the way in heaven. When my relatives, my dad, and — even some of my mom's friends whom I have never even met — would say things like ‘You are exactly like your mom!’ or ‘Your mom must be very proud of you’, it warms my heart,” she shared. “It’s as if she's actually the one telling me this.”
With Mrs. Meneses-Wassmer’s hopes and dreams kept alive and thriving through Danielle and her team’s purpose-driven work, there’s no doubt that that might as well be what the case: a mother lovingly cheering her daughter on from above in their shared advocacy.
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