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A.T.E. Atelier – 1 Textile Business Empowering Women

What better way to order custom-made home goods than from a nonprofit organization that empowers women? One of the businesses that seek to empower women in the Philippines is the A.T.E. Atelier.

A.T.E. Sewing Atelier

A.T.E. is a Recycling Arts Studio, founded by Nature Kids of Siargao (N.K.o.S.). This is not just any usual charity organization. It is a platform that seeks to help the kids of Siargao and their families a chance to live a better, sustainable life for themselves while taking care of the environment.

In 2018, N.K.o.S. opened A.T.E. Atelier in General Luna, Siargao. This recycling studio accepts trash donations then turns them into sustainable products. A.T.E. works to help make waste management more efficient to avoid trash ending up in landfills or the ocean.

A.T.E. Atelier is a community sewing business that seeks to empower the local women of Siargao by offering free training in needlework. They also provide a fair and prosperous workspace where each individual can grow. They create amazing custom-made products for your textile needs.

Nature Kids of Siargao was founded when Sanne “Sunny” Sevig and co-founder Cocoy reached out to local families in need. They started educating their neighbors on the importance of not littering. Today N.K.o.S. is a SEC registered, non-profit association that helps more than 1700 kids and their families.

NKOS, especially A.T.E., educates the children of Siargao on the effects of pollution and trash on the environment, and why reducing waste is so important! A.T.E. especially believes, “By working with future generations, we can bring real, long-term change to protect our beautiful island.”

I interviewed Sanne Sevig, founder of A.T.E., who started this recycling project to help tackle both the waste issue and the poverty issues in Siargao. She talks about her advocacy in helping women earn sustainably through sewing. She also shares her passion for developing a profitable community with local talents and eco-friendly business models. Get inspired by A.T.E.’s zero waste business model and learn how to shop or sell with sustainability in mind.

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I am Sanne, often called Sunny. I work and live at Siargao Island, running our charity organization called ‘Nature Kids of Siargao’.

2. What does “plastic recycling” mean for you?

A.T.E. production

For me it means saving “waste” that should have ended up in landfills or in the ocean and turn it into new, useful and durable products.

3. What is ATE Atelier?

A.T.E. tailor

A.T.E. stands for A Textile Empowering, meaning we aim to strengthen women and our community when practicing the art of needlework.

4. Why and how did you start A.T.E? 

I am a third generation sewing lady and my dream has always been to find a sustainable way to help women, so when combining those two, me and my mother started A.T.E. This is one of several on-going projects via ‘Nature Kids of Siargao’.

5. What are selling points of A.T.E. products?

We create 1) products that can host “eco-filling” from Siargao Recycling Art Studio (up-cycled soft plastic and styrofoam), and 2) a big mix of reusable products that can replace single-use items.

6. What are your bestselling products?

Our re-usable women sanitary pads and our water-resistant zipper pouches with up-cycled tarp on the inside.

7. What goes on in the production process of every A.T.E. product?

A.T.E. process

A.T.E. Recycling Art Studio accepts soft plastic and Styrofoam donations from locals and businesses. They upcycle the plastic into different products such as bean bags, pillows and flower pots which are sold in Siargao. Every month, A.T.E. transforms about 1000 KG of plastic into useful new plastic.

We always aim to use second hand fabric being donated by us, or if not, scrap fabric from previous orders.

We have created a workspace that we are super proud of, where each woman can flex their time, continuously learn new skills, and be paid fairly. We hope and aim for each of our products to have that vibe and love into it.

8. How is your business helping Siargao and its environment? 

Together with our sister projects at NKOS, we upcycled around 1 ton of plastic and waste fabric each month.

9. What is your advocacy as an entrepreneur?

Perhaps not as an entrepreneur but as a leader for our organization, my goal is always to lead each project and its team members to a point where I am no longer needed, that is my highest form of success. Knowing I can leave, but the successful and profitable community business we set up will continue to nurture and grow with competent local talents.

10. What tips can you give to those who want to start buying sustainable items? 

Look as close to you as possible, does anyone create something in your neighbourhood? In your town?

If buying from further away, is the company a non-profit or at least a social enterprise (50 % of income goes to charity)?

A lot of big companies are doing “greenwashing” for their own profit and credibility but in the long run, they care mostly for themselves. It is better to invest in a few good items, priced higher than to buy 10 pairs of pants each year.

11. What is your vision for the future of A.T.E.?

Our goal is to hire and train more local residents. My dream is to use our venue to host educational evening classes in business, budget, women’s rights, etc as well. One day I hope A.T.E. will be the number one choice for all businesses and households when sourcing their textile needs in Siargao so that we can become a big platform for all women who want to sew. 

12. Aside from running A.T.E., what other eco-friendly habits do you practice in your daily routine?

Our family always segregates all our trash, we aim to buy refill products for what is possible and I’m trying not to shop for the feeling of the thrill, instead, buy things/clothes I really need if I cannot swap it from friends.

13. What advice can you give to people who want to sell products made from recycled materials successfully?

Start with a few products and continue to develop them to excellence. Launch a first batch and ask for feedback, it doesn’t have to perfect that first, second or even third time around.

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