Malingkat is a cause-driven brand committed to showcasing and promoting Philippine handwoven textiles and Indigenous weaving traditions.
Named for the Tausug word that means beautiful, Malingkat aims to share the intricate and exquisite beauty of Philippine weaves, especially those from the island of Mindanao.
“We work with weavers and artisans mostly from Mindanao in co-creating fabrics that retain traditional patterns but in more contemporary color palettes for our collection of small-batch home and lifestyle pieces,” explained Founder Faw Maridul.
While advocating for sustainable livelihood through partnerships with weavers and artisans from islands around the Philippines, Malingkat brings a part of the traditions and heritage from their loom to homes across the world.
“Overseas markets are important in generating bigger revenues and a steady cash flow for our enterprise due to the higher purchasing power of retail consumers and prospective institutional buyers/clients. Tapping the international market is also one way of expanding/growing our current customer base,” shared Maridul.
The brand sees the highest demand in countries with large Filipino populations like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
From Pivot to Profits
While the pandemic interrupted a number of plans that Maridul had lined up for the business, they were able to quickly pivot and establish a new strategy. The timely pivot included crafting face masks from handwoven textiles.
“This resulted in our highest annual revenue to date, which also gave us the needed capital to expand our product lines and tap new community partners as demand for woven face masks waned,” said Maridul.
For Malingkat, expanding to new markets comes with new challenges.
Maridul shared that there are two significant pain points that they face in expanding into new markets. “First is the high cost of shipping items from the Philippines compared to the rates in other countries, which contributes to customer hesitation in purchasing our products.”
“Second is access to affordable digital marketing services and experts to help us craft an effective strategy to promote our website/social media pages domestically and in our target countries/regions, increase website traffic and sales conversion.” She added that the expense of hiring digital marketing firms and specialists, in addition to the cost of crucial services like digital ads, is restrictive for micro and social enterprises.
To improve their digital strategy, Malingkat currently utilizes the free trainings, workshops and courses available to maximize their knowledge of strategic digital marketing and ads management.
The pandemic also expedited the launch of a website, now a component of Malingkat’s overall digital strategy. The brand’s social media pages, Facebook and Instagram, are the primary platforms that connect them with customers within the Philippines and beyond its borders.
“This year, we launched our Shopify site in the hopes of reaching a wider market and streamlining the order process for those who prefer buying from a website directly rather than through social media,” she explained. “We also added the Paypal payment option for overseas clients, but surprisingly domestic customers are also using it. We have also connected our Shopify catalog to our Facebook and Instagram shop profile.”
Other critical tools include shipping providers, to manage bookings and package tracking through their website or app, and digital productivity tools like QuickBooks online, for recording transactions, and G-Suite features, for day-to-day operations such as email, document management and calendars.
For Maridul, reducing international shipping costs and access to export information is top of mind.
“If our international postage rates are competitive in relation to other countries, it will significantly boost cross-border trade and encourage more micro and small enterprises to tap overseas markets,” said Maridul.
Another area where Maridul believes governments can step in is helping MSMEs and social enterprises, specifically women-owned and led businesses, to be export-ready. “This includes providing easily accessible resources and information on legal compliance, logistics management, connecting with potential markets/clients, financial support, among others,” she concluded.