Facebooks: ECHOstore / ECHO Sustainable / ECHOmarket / ECHOcafeph / ECHOsi Foundation / Chit Juan/ Jeannie Javelosa / Reena Francisco
Twitter: @echostore / @echomarket / @echocafeph / @chitjuan / @jeanniejavelosa / @ reena_francisco
ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle is a pioneering green retail store brand. ECHOstore is the first store of its kind in the Philippines to position green, fair trade community products in a premium, specialty market segment. In comparison to other international brands, it is a combination of Body Shop and Wholefoods. The brand promotes a sustainable lifestyle and conscious consumerism.
ECHO stands for: E -Environment, C-Community, H-Hope, O-Organization. The mission-business is supported by their 3-prong philosophy: to nurture and sustain the Self, Community, and Environment. Its unique role as an integrating-bridging-collaborative brand-company parallels its growth alongside development efforts of its ECHOsi Foundation. Store-Foundation work with marginalized groups, government, NGOs and private sector to support livelihood through market access; thereby breaking the cycle of poverty and supporting the environment through a sustainable cycle of development, production, sales, marketing and branding.
The first ECHOstore opened in late 2008 then expanded its footprint through gondolas (1 x 1 meter set-up) selling products during events and conferences. Driven by strong growth and high demand, the second branch opened in 2010. As the organization evolved, the ECHOmarket and ECHOcafe were integrated into the flagship store in 2011, completing the tri-concept. Shortly after, the team created the ECHOsi Foundation to organize the development programs they had been doing from 2009-2010.
In just a few years ECHOstore has worked with 82 organizations and foundations, impacting 8,000 households with over 34,000 beneficiaries. In addition, over 90% of the store’s community suppliers are women-led businesses. The Company’s philosophy, advocacy and brand integrity have been the cornerstones of its success since inception and the team’s experience, commitment and passion will continue to lead ECHOstore’s expansion.
THE BRAND. ECHOstore sells products that are sustainable green, local fair trade with the traceability to source customers can trust, green, organic, healthy foods, to support advocacies of sustainability and locavorism. Customers come for the experience within a comfortable and casual environment with personable and knowledgeable staff. The ECHOsi Foundation (Empowering Communities with Hope and Opportunities through Sustainable Initiatives) offers business in development services.
The brand is synonymous with good stories, advocacies, causes, dynamic activity, good and clean Filipino-made products and the experience of sharing a conscious lifestyle that is relevant and interconnected. Customers see the brand as one that is making a difference with a brand experience they are inspired by, a lifestyle they can easily relate to, step into and be part of. Shopping experience offers a “guilt-free”-conscious choice-helping experience. The café offers a casual, friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. They know they are getting added value when they purchase from ECHOstore-Market, and eat in the Cafe. Customers gain a healthier lifestyle and a positive empowered feeling that they are contributing to many worthy causes while purchasing quality products and being part of the virtuous circle of sustainability. Thematic green gift baskets are popular with the corporate groups. ECHOstore custom-makes special packages per their budgets, brand story and customer requirements; while the ECHOstore brand, synonymous with all good causes, is a connection to they all want to make with their own corporate brands.
PRODUCT VARIETY. ECHOstore products include Artisan Gift, Fashion and Décor Items; Body Care; Spa products; Baby Care; Biodegradable Home Cleaning Solutions; Filipino Pride Items; Beverages; Up-cycled products; Books and Advocacy Products.
ECHOmarket’s product variety includes Organic and Natural Fresh Produce; Dairy; Lactose-free ice cream; Natural Sweeteners and sugar alternatives; Fresh cold local Fruit Beverages; Salad Dressings; Grass-fed Meats and Free Range Chicken; Frozen and Prepared Foods; Snacks; Vegetarian Products; Organic Commodities; Bottled foods. ECHOcafe has a menu for breakfast and snacks, pasta dishes, desserts, local coffee, tea and cold fruit shakes.
Some products are consigned, some are directly purchased especially if food items or those made by cultural minorities. Other owned products are in-house brands being developed with communities and suppliers under a universal brand packaging. Brand extensions and proprietary lines include: Green Kitchen line; ECHOstore Body Basics line, ECHOstore Home Basic and A Thousand Stories line (fair trade products by cultural communities).
SERVICES OFFERED. Product Development. Two development programs organically grew right after ECHOstore opened in 2008. ECHOdesign Lab and ECHOteach Programs brought the founders all over the country to help develop products. ECHOstore became known as a “retail lab” as products were market-test. It was because of the constant demand for new community-created products that the development side was formally separated from the retail side 2011 into a non-profit arm called ECHOsi Foundation. Key directions include social and cultural enterprise development, women’s economic empowerment and culture and design for development. ECHOsi’s ECHOdesign Lab leveling up steps include Level 1 for a General Assesment, Level 2 where checks metrics of production capacities and organizations, and certifications, Level 3 where products are up-market with brands. Level 4 has value additions of new designs and product innovations that professional designers are sharing with the community groups. Presently, a sub-brand entitled Great Women Brand is being developed which will be used for the products of marginalized women helped by designers, food technologists and other support government agencies.
IP Protection and Certifications. The tri-concept sub-brands, fully-owned by the company, are protected by Philippine IP laws. Because organic and fair trade certifications are very expensive for small communities, ECHOstore would like to work towards being able to be the “certifier” for whatever product sold in the store. At present, this is unofficial. With the pertinent international certifications, it will have an added edge for the brand and the products it chooses to carry.
Market Access and Over-all Education. Store-Foundation hand-holds all these community and women groups up the value chain to bring their products to various market segments. Today, these are key services offered: working with communities, product development and strategies, packaging, re-packaging and re-branding under ECHOstore universal packaging; research and development, marketing, market access and adaptability strategies for markets, branding, communications media reach, mentorship for enterprise sustainability and business capacity building.
The Market Place and Competition
THE MARKET PLACE. Before ECHOstore, there were no stores in the Philippines that sold locally-produced organic, natural products except for weekend organic markets in exclusive villages. Handicrafts were found in tourist-oriented shops where run-of-the-mill producers are represented. Traditional and indigenous crafts loose their meaning, stories and value as they are commoditized. No retail shop sold recycled products. ECHOstore opened in September 2008 and changed the landscape, introducing the concept of the sustainable lifestyle. ECHOstore is top-of-mind, the first mover, the “go-to” and a thought leader in the category of sustainability. This is also validated by the number of speaking engagements, events and media interviews the founders are invited to nationwide and internationally.
DEMAND RISING. While organic-natural products sales may not exceed non-organic products, there is a slow but steady rise in the demand for the kind of products sold at ECHOstore. Just on organic and natural products we see a volume of $10 million, not counting fair trade and artisanal products and branded food staples. More people are buying organic food for reasons of health, animal welfare, the environment; just as they purchase fair trade products for its social impact. The Organic Trade Association of the USA forecasts a growth of at least 9%. Just organic food alone is a $29 billion market, so worldwide we estimate the market to be at least $40 billion. Consumers are changing lifestyle and purchasing aligned products. We foresee a trend that will grow annually by 10-20%. The growing market is seen by the demand for more ECHOstores to open around the country.
THE MARKET. ECHOstore focused on the upscale specialty market which sets the trend for the sustainable lifestyle. This is comprised of the rich (earning monthly average of US$ 4,500), the upper middle class (earning monthly average of US$ 1,700) and the corporate market. They are ready to pay premium, are appreciative of imperfections of artisanal products and are aware of the health benefits of natural food. Matthias Gelber, a global environmental speaker and entrepreneur, in a recent presentation he gave in Manila said that a survey saw 20% increase in demand for green and natural products in the Philippines.
POSITIONING. The unique story and selling point of the brand is the partnership of ECHOstore-market-cafe (retail and market access) and the dedicated focused of the ECHOsi Foundation (development arm) for strategic nationwide development that is helping up-level products of sectors like women, cultural indigenous peoples, small groups. ECHOstore is the only retail store in the country with a developmental arm, and a foundation with a retail store. The mission-led business runs parallel to nationwide development. Through the ECHOsi Foundation, innovative partnership solutions for product development and sourcing identifying sustainability in the value chain. Together, they address social, economic and environmental issues while promoting conscious consumerism. Competitor stores are not into product development in the way the ECHOsi Foundation is doing in clear alignment with ECHOstore’s retail directions.
Entry level for competition is high as one would have to be connected to the communities through networks with NGOs, competitors would have to be savvy in design, packaging and media reach, and the operators must be skilled as retailers. Our competitive advantage is that ECHOstore has become the market-communicator and developmental integrator, which fills the gap between the village producer & the retail upscale market. The founders’ individual and collective expertise adds to the brand’s strength, while ECHOstore has made them thought leaders for social entrepreneurship, women’s economic empowerment, wellness and sustainability. ECHOstore has become the voice, benchmark and central hub around which the sustainable lifestyle has become relevant, hip and dynamic.
Our team’s expertise, and the care we take by choosing only the best products and partnerships which are all aligned with maintaining the image of the ECHOstore brand equity gives us the differential or competitive advantage. No one has managed to bring together government, corporate, private sector and marginalized communities and NGO to come together in the experience of retail in one enterprise.
Marketing and Sales
MARKETING STRATEGY. ECHOstore is creative, strategic and aggressive in Marketing-Communications. Marketing strategies include a mix of in-store promotions strategically aligned to social media. Communications strategies support marketing directions. Introduction of products and communication messages are aligned and planned every quarter. Once a product is brought out in the store, shelf talkers point to this, while sales staff are tasked to push the new product. An introductory electronic direct mailer is sent out and press releases support this. Aside from our witty Electronic Direct Mailers (EDM), advocacy mailers and eView newsletters are sent to a database of nearly 10,000.
Over the average month, the team informs and engages customers, maximizing the social networking sites and aligns information with print and broadcast media. The team now has the capabilities to communicate to over 2,000 followers on Facebook, having already received over 3,000 “likes” and over 2500 Twitter followers etc. However, like most companies ECHOstore is still working on optimizing the social media marketing strategy especially when it moves into E-Commerce.
The ECHOtrio all communicate, market and educate people through the website, columns in the Philippine Star (one of the top three Philippine broadsheets), Manila Times, blogs through our website and Huffington Post (which gets 360 million monthly visitors worldwide). A community booklet in the stores also show the who and where products were made.
Metrics(as of August 2012)
Website hits 1,539.
Marketing EDMs (twice a week) and eView newsletters (once every quarter) sent to 7,500 people in our database
Facebook reach: ECHOstore 2,544 likes /ECHO Sustainable 1,285 friends/ECHOmarket 396 likes/ECHOcafe 51 likes/ ECHOsi Foundation 55 likes/Chit Juan 853 friends/Jeannie Javelosa 1,638 friends/Reena Francisco 461 friends/Pacita “Chit” Juan Public Figure 522 likes.
Twitter following @echostore-1,224@ echomarket-282 @echocafeph-78 @chitjuan-2,460 @jeanniejavelosa- 1,008, @reena_francisco-138
Print Media Columns: Jeannie Javelosa (Philippine Star), Chit Juan (Manila Times)
Blogs: Jeannie E. Javelosa at Huffington Post
The ECHOtrio join discussions that relate to the causes that ECHOstore stands for: green business, sustainability, social entrepreneurship, women’s economic empowerment, locavorism, environment, community involvement and development, wellness.
The flagship store location is also favorable for loyal clients. As the Store is in front of the mall’s driveway this makes it convenient for loyal clients to call in their orders and to quickly run in and get their purchases without having to park their cars.
SALES. Supporting store sales are sales generated via gondolas and store-in-store formats in other distribution places, as well as corporate gift orders. The Store Manager is given sales targets for the month, which she disseminate to the staff to help promote teamwork in achieving their targets. Incentives given are based on the amount of sales reached beyond target. Added sales are made through corporate partnerships under the “Recycle for a Cause Program” which ECHOstore launched in 2009. This made ECHOstore a partner to companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility programs, and as a supplier for gifts. These partnerships are usually special agreements for companies to engage their employees in recycling which allows communities to upcycle post-consumer waste into new products. The companies then commit to buy back these products now under the sub-label Second Life, or at least continue purchasing from ECHOstore.
CUSTOMER PROFILE. After a year into operations, metrics show 90% of ECHOstore’s customers are women. The profile of the primary market is urban female, both Filipinos and foreigners, age 21-40, young mothers and working girls. These people have discretionary income, are well-informed and educated, health conscious, take frequent trips abroad, are technology-savvy, know the brand and are willing to pay a premium for good products. They compose 65% of the population situated at least five miles around the ECHOstore areas. Most customers come back on a weekly basis for consumable purchases. They normally have their children, husband or friends in tow.
Secondary market are foreigners and Filipinos who come from abroad and are visiting the country, would have heard about ECHOstore from their friends and networks, and are ready to spend for locally-made gifts they can take back with them.
The third market comes by the third quarter of the year and these are corporate people who come in looking to purchase bulk or group orders of Christmas baskets and gifts. The ECHOcafe also draws in young people and couples who come for meals, and NGO groups that hold meetings there.
All year round, companies and government agencies are purchasing partners for gift requirements. ECHOstore is also aligned under the International Trade Center’s Global Women Vendors group where Fortune 500 companies procure supplies from women-owned companies. ECHOstore is presently supplying fair trade coffee grown by women’s groups to Accenture.
ECHOstore also drives new customers to the stores through the ECHOtrio’s frequent talks as “thought leaders” that share information about social entrepreneurship, their experiences with community development, their mission-led green business directions and innovations as well as topics on women and sustainable issues in events of companies, universities and organizations. Per 2010-June 2011 metrics, the ECHOtrio has touched over 5,000 people through over 47 talks both in the country and abroad.
Ownership of the Business
The founders, called the ECHOtrio, equally own one-third of the company. Their core competence includes retail store operations, marketing-sales, strategic branding-communications, media relations, visual branding-packaging, creative product design, café operations, expertise in local Philippine culture and community development. The three co-founders follow a collaborative co-leadership model. The individual strengths of the ECHOtrio synergistically come together with the ability to bring ECHOstore into the global market as a profitable brand that can affect change.
Pacita Juan, President of ECHOstore, is a nationally known entrepreneur. She was co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Figaro, a successful Filipino chain of coffee shops, which she ran for 14 years. Her passion for coffee motivated her to start a national campaign to “save the baraco coffee bean”. Pacita also co-founded, the Philippine Coffee Board, an NGO that supports the country’s coffee industry.
As a founder of ECHOstore, she was the recipient of the Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year award of Ernst & Young–EOY awards, one of the most prestigious awards for entrepreneurs in the Philippines. She also is a Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Directors an esteemed group of 300 members who belong to a roster of Independent Directors from where public and private companies choose their directors for good governance. She recently founded the Philippine chapter of Women Corporate Directors. As President of the Women’s Business Council she represented the Philippines as a speaker in APEC Women Leaders Network conference and the Organization of Women in International Trade in the World Sustainable Forum. She is also a 2008 Alumna of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) through the US State Department. Since 2011, she has been invited as speaker or panelist for the International Women’s Federation; for the Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Conference; the Commission on the Status of Women; and the Global Women Summit.
Now as President of ECHOstore, Pacita is tasked to lead expansion directions into different markets and is the “retail” face of the brand to the public. She finished Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of the Philippines.
Jeannie Javelosa, President of the ECHOsi Foundation runs the nationwide development programs for ECHOstore. She is the advocate for culture. Her career path includes being an award-winning visual artist-designer (20 solo shows) and book author-critic (Manila Critic’s Award), culture expert, museum curator, and a strategic branding-marketing-communicator. She is a member of the World Entrepreneur Forum
She has produced international and national projects with the ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information, working with Southeast Asian countries. Jeannie has held consultancies for business development with two other groups between Asia Pacific (China-Hongkong-Australia), Europe (France-Italy) and the UAE. Over 14 years ago Jeannie co-founded EON Stakeholder Relations Firm, a communications agency servicing multi-national clients. At EON, she headed Creative Strategies that conceptualized 360 degree brand roll-outs. Jeannie has headed and run cultural institutions, was Vice-Chair of the Philippine Cultural Education Plan and started the Institute of Culture and Arts Management which ran nationwide programs. Since 1992, she has represented the Philippines in a number of international conferences. To date, she continues to be invited as a speaker on topics of her advocacies. She also writes a regular column at a leading Philippine newspaper and blogs at the Huffington Post.
For ECHOstore, Jeannie was invited to the Natural Food Expo West by the USDA (2010) and the Natural Food Expo East in Baltimore by the US Organic Trade Association (2011). She represented ECHOstore as a participant to the Global Women’s Vendor Forum in Chongqing, China; as a speaker at the UN Rio+20 Business and Industry Consultative Meeting at the Hague, Netherlands; at the Global Summit of Women in Athens, Greece; and at the European Professional Women’s Network in Paris and the World Entrepreneur Forum Women’s Workshop.
From being President of ECHOstore when it was launched, Jeannie is now President of the ECHOsi Foundation carrying the “development face” of the brand. Her work in ECHOstore supports Pacita in business, network and resource development, communications, marketing and media relations. She has a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Regina Francisco, Director for Operation is an entrepreneur and graphic designer with a career record that includes consulting for food, restaurant and café operations. Alongside Pacita, she co-founded Figaro Coffee and grew the brand for 14 years as Chief Operating Officer (COO). She is a coffee advocate with expertise in food & beverage (F&B) and retail operations, having set up close to 70 coffee shops and retail outlets throughout the Philippines, China, North America and Dubai.
Her experience includes product research and development, retail and wholesale management and food-menu development for F&B establishments. Her operations expertise spans human resource management, recruitment and training, back of house stocks and inventory management, store set-up and design. She handles all of ECHOstore’s day-to-day operational and store details. She also oversees the development of all in-house brands, the creative direction of all electronic marketing mailers, packaging of products and all food-menu related work required by the ECHOcafe-market. She graduated with a Fine Arts Degree in Advertising from the University of the Philippines.
The ECHOtrio’s work-roles are being redefined. Regina will continue to oversee Operations but will focus more on Research and Development (R&D) of products. Pacita will focus on bringing ECHOstore to export and global market level and expansion directions for franchising. Jeannie will focus on communications, business development, partnership and resource development, and running the nationwide development programs.
Business Systems and Organization
SOURCING. Products are sourced from five main categories from all over the Philippines: small home-grown women associations, cooperatives and micro-enterprises; local indigenous cultural minority groups; some charitable or advocacy groups; independent entrepreneurs; and licensed toll manufacturers who have their own brands at ECHOstore.
Product samples are sent and orders are placed. Most of the products are consigned with payment terms of 30-60-90 days. Direct cash purchases are made especially if products are from very poor communities, small farmers and dairy cooperatives. New products take their places on the shelves for market testing and any customer feedback is relayed to the community or suppliers.
Most of these small groups cannot afford BFAD certifications from the Bureau of Food and Drugs so careful check for food hygiene and safety is also done on the production level. The ECHOtrio makes it a point to visit the communities, localities and sites where most of the food products are made so traceability is assured. If products are consigned, samples are still sent for approval and quality check, supplier source check and sustainability.
ALIGNMENTS FOR PRODUCT SOURCING. Two development programs organically grew right after ECHOstore opened in 2008. ECHOdesign Lab and ECHOteach Programs brought the founders all over the country to help develop products with the first partner organization: the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF). Then came the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP). Both PEF and PBSP were looking for market access for livelihood products of communities they were giving financial grants to. A third partner is PinoyME (microenterprise) another NGO working with microenterprises. ECHOstore became known as a “retail lab” as products were market-test. It was because of the constant demand for new community-created products that the development side was formally separated from the retail side of ECHOstore in 2011 into a non-profit arm called ECHOsi Foundation (Empowering Communities with Hope and Opportunities through Sustainable Initiatives). Key directions include social and cultural enterprise development, women’s economic empowerment and culture and design for development.
Other alignments give ECHOstore a nation-wide source-base for products . This include the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) fund under the Philippine Commission for Women (PCW) where products are sourced from women community groups; the PBSP’s Business in Development (BID) Mentoring Program which allows sourcing from small entrepreneurs helped by this program; the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) that allows sourcing of farmers’ products.
PACKAGING AND BRANDING. Communities have livelihood skills but their products lack design, refinement, packaging and the highlighting of their unique stories. This is where ECHOstore adds value–by prepare them for the specialty market (as well as point them to other distribution channels). These products pass through the critical eyes of Regina and Jeannie. Artisanal crafts and those by the indigenous peoples are tagged with their story tags describing the communities who make them and the processes they entail. Other food products go under the universal ECHOstore branded packaging, which includes labels that trace products to the source.
Together, the store and foundation hand-hold all these community and women groups up the value chain to bring their products to various market segments. Value additions are the new designs and product innovations that professional designers are sharing with the community groups. Presently, a sub-brand Great Women Brand is being developed which will be used for the products of women helped by designers, food technologists and other support government agencies working with ECHOsi Foundation and ECHOstore.
IN-HOUSE BRANDS. ECHOstore also continues to develop inhouse brands as a differentiator. Ideas are generated by the ECHOtrio and developed by Regina. For production, non-food products are outsourced to communities like those under the Department of Social Welfare and Development of the government, women in correctional institutes and prisons or other smaller women groups.
TOLL MANUFACTURING. New variants of food products are developed with NGO suppliers who sell their own products in ECHOstore. To ensure quality and safety for body care and home cleaning solution products, production is outsourced to a women’s-led licensed toll manufacturer whose own brand is also sold at ECHOstore.
LICENSES & CERTIFICATIONS. In the near future, ECHOstore hopes to patent specific designs and products that the foundation creates with the communities. With more funds, ECHOstore hopes to get an international fair trade license or accreditation with the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and organic certifications. Or perhaps innovate a way to be the accrediting group for small community-based products that are sold under ECHOstore. This will make our products premium.
The Creativity Quotient. For us, it is about being creative about business. Innovation is at our core. From the brand creation, positioning, product development and mix, partnerships and alignments, ways of linking advocacies to the business and balancing the requirements of the social impact with business sustainability all represent how we are doing things as we think out-of-the-box. It’s about new solutions to challenges. Example: We never pay for media but build relationships; we bring our brand out through speaking in fora, meetings, conferences. This way we promote our Brand and mission without any monetary cost to us. We are able to visit the many communities around the country virtually without almost any cost to us, or the company through the help of organizations.
Financial Sustainability. People pay a premium for the ECHOstore brand. This made us develop a growing array of product lines with our “house brand”. People trust the house brand–be they the body care products, home cleaning products, coffee and tea, food–the ECHO brand adds a premium which our customers are willing to pay for. The ECHOstore idea is franchise-able as a business. This allows us to lend our name and system to others to make it a profitable retail venture. To date, we have had many inquiries to franchise the store and will begin to do so this Q3. We have found a sustainable model with the right space rent and expense through the 10-square meter Podium model. The Serendra flagship store model, albeit bigger in size, is profitable with an ECHOcafe included. Given the options on store size, rent and operating expenses, the whole system is sustainable.
Social Impact. Our main goal is the direct market access for the poor producers through ECHOstore, and who are also helped with the development of their products through the ECHOsi Foundation. We measure impact through the rise of the number of communities we can help level up for markets beyond their existing ones. ECHOstore’s DNA is about giving livelihood opportunities to marginalized communities, women groups and advocating for enterprise sustainability. It impacts poverty which in turn impacts quality of life. It impacts the virtuous cycle of women selling women products bought by women (and men too). It also impacts the preservation of the artisanal skills of communities yet sharing their stories and meanings, as their products move out into the bigger world.
ECHOstore by its very acronym ECHO, environment, community, hope, organization (collaborations) is the blueprint the future is being built on.