Fast fashion is responsible for a devastating impact on our environment. According to the World Economic Forum, we send 85% of the textiles we buy to landfill every year (2021). Perhaps a lesser-known fact is that the fashion and textile industry is responsible for around 1.35% of global oil production due to synthetic fibres produced with fossil fuels (Changing Markets Foundation, Fossil Fashion Report 2021).
In the Philippines, where Ria San Gabriel resided, rural artisans and farmers have been integral to the fashion and design industry, contributing significantly to the country's cultural heritage and economic sustainability. Her prior background working with grassroots communities heightened her awareness of their vulnerability to climate catastrophes in a country highly susceptible to climate change impacts (CGSpace, 2019).
Faced with these challenges, Ria joined her co-founders in exploring a solution. Through successful trials of the concepts in incubators, accelerators, and pitching competitions, and collective refinements achieved during capstone projects, the team officially incorporated Panublix in 2021.
Panublix aims to replace current fashion and design production methods with regenerative fibres and fabrics. It's a sourcing platform that connects creatives, fosters collaboration, and prioritises transparency and traceability. Ultimately, this platform aims to support local communities and creative industries in becoming more sustainable while upholding their cultural heritage.
Keep reading to discover Ria's entrepreneurship story and how her studies accelerated her success.
Why the Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UQ?
The Australia Awards in the Philippines feature REAPs (Re-entry Action Plans), which are innovative projects spearheaded by scholars to be implemented in their chosen community. These projects serve as practical applications of the knowledge and expertise acquired by the awardees during their studies and time spent in Australia, actively contributing to the progress and development of the Philippines. For Ria, going back to school meant an opportunity to give back.
"Higher education holds immense significance to me, as it offers an invaluable chance to broaden knowledge, foster critical thinking abilities, and develop innovative solutions to real-world problems," says Ria.
"It also acts as a doorway to personal growth, empowering individuals to follow their passions and create impactful changes within society."
"I wanted to align my academic pursuits with my commitment to create positive change in the entrepreneurial landscape."
How her time at UQ fostered the idea of Panublix
For her re-entry action plan, Ria decided to enrol in UQ’s Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The program teaches innovation and entrepreneurship skills relevant to any industry, and students can customise the studies to their individual needs based on 5 focus areas:
Design and Information Technology
Social and Community Entrepreneurship
Ria valued the chance to align her studies with her interests and career aspirations and specialised in Design and IT. The courses she studied in this field of studies expanded her skillset and provided insight into creating user-centred solutions in the fast-paced realm of technology and entrepreneurship.
"I highly recommend UQ for its prestigious academic reputation, stimulating learning environment, and inclusive community," she says.
“The interdisciplinary nature of the Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation presents unparalleled opportunities for students to excel in their chosen field.”
The Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation's focus on practical learning, exposure to real challenges and industry connections has given me the tools and confidence to pursue entrepreneurial endeavours.
Ria San Gabriel
Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation
The capstone project that accelerated Ria’s creative industries idea
The Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation allowed her to further develop and refine the concept of Panublix. The capstone course in this program, Lean Start up for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, allows students to create and validate a business model based on in-depth customer interviews, rapid prototyping and agile development.
Ria emphasised the profound value of applying the Lean Startup methodology in their startup journey, highlighting their commitment to continuous testing of assumptions, actively seeking feedback, and making data-driven decisions. This iterative approach facilitated numerous pivots, enabling them to refine their ideas and make necessary adjustments. Consequently, despite operating with limited resources, they observed consistent growth and ongoing progress.
As an illustrative example of their dedication to innovation, they elevated sustainability from a peripheral concern to a central and integral focus within their startup framework.
What’s next for Ria and Panublix?
Ria says that since it began, Panublix has grown by enabling designers to ethically source and showcase local textiles, fostering sustainability and celebrating cultural legacy. In 2022, according to the Panublix website, the platform was responsible for:
80 brands, designers and crafters adopting tropical textiles
190 crafters, weavers and designers learning about sustainable sourcing and design
542kg of tropical yarns sold, replacing polyester-based fibres
$113K raised for the economic development of artisan enterprises.
Ria recently received a research and development grant from the University of the Arts London’s Fashion, Textiles, and Technology Institute (FTTI), in partnership with the British Council, in recognition of these achievements.
With this grant, Ria will launch a scoping project to map key stakeholders within the weaving industry in both the UK and the Philippines, while also identifying and analysing the existing growth impediments within this sector.
"This R&D grant is a pivotal milestone for Panublix and my personal growth," Ria says.
"It not only validates the significance of our mission. It equips us with the necessary resources and support to enhance and refine our work."
"As an international research grant, it has expanded our horizons. It helps to facilitate valuable opportunities for collaborations and networks and enhancing the overall growth and credibility of Panublix."
There’s no doubt that Ria will continue to draw on her education to push for positive change.
"One of the aspects I truly cherish about my work and career is the ability to pursue what I am truly passionate about – innovation, tech4good, and women’s economic empowerment," she says.
"Working on projects and initiatives that align with my values and interests gives me a sense of purpose and fulfilment. It allows me to channel my enthusiasm and dedication into making a tangible impact in areas that matter to me."
"I want to contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive future by harnessing technology and entrepreneurship to benefit everyone."
Are you considering a Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation?
Here’s Ria’s advice:
Adopt a growth mindset to embrace learning and take risks.
Engage in practical experiences such as joining venture programs to apply your knowledge and build connections.
Network with peers and industry professionals to broaden your perspective and create opportunities for collaboration and mentorship.