Member Spotlight: Tessa Yutadco
City of residence: San Diego, CA
Occupation: Founder, My Prime, a skin care line launched in 2012
How long have you been involved with Best Buddies?
I first became involved as a part of Team Maria 2012. I ran the 5-K at the Challenge, and My Prime was a Team Maria sponsor. By donating proceeds from all online sales leading up to the Challenge, My Prime raised $10,000 for Team Maria. We will have the same program between August 12 and August 18 of this year for sales made at www.makemyyours.com. We hope to meet our goal of exceeding last year’s donations, so please spread the word!
What inspired you to join Team Maria and take on the Challenge?
My late sister, Chiqui, had cerebral palsy and passed away when was only four years old in the early seventies. At the time, my family lived in our home country of the Philippines, where resources and programs for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities were limited to non-existent.
I learned about Best Buddies and Team Maria when I was researching organizations that My Prime could support. When I first read about Best Buddies, it immediately struck a chord with me. I recognized the immense positive impact its programs have on persons with IDD and how much Chiqui would have benefited from Best Buddies. Through Team Maria, My Prime can both support Best Buddies and promote another mission we share with Maria Shriver —empowering women.
What is the most rewarding part of the Challenge for you?
Seeing first-hand how Best Buddies has such a powerful impact on the lives of people with IDD and their Buddies. I spent an evening with a group of college students who are pursuing their educational and professional dreams, which they attribute to Best Buddies. I saw how the Challenge promotes physical fitness among young adults. And, I loved the celebration of the joy the Buddies share with each other.
Read below to learn more about Tessa’s mission to empower women and support Team Maria!
Unleashing The Economic Potential of Women Worldwide
By Tessa Yutadco, Founder & CEO, My Prime
Almost a year ago, I viewed the documentary “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.” It chronicles the harrowing abuses and oppression women and girls suffer around the world and, equally important, the courageous women who are breaking the cycle by rescuing and empowering the victims and survivors.
Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s 2009 best-selling book, the documentary features organizations tackling gender-based violence in Sierra Leone (International Rescue Committee), sex trafficking in Cambodia (Somaly Mam Foundation), education in Vietnam (Room to Read), maternal mortality in Somaliland (Edna Adan Maternity Hospital), intergenerational prostitution in India (New Light), and economic empowerment in Kenya (Jamii Bora).
The Half the Sky team sheds an important light on women’s oppression, encouraging all to look for opportunities to join the cause. As Sheryl WuDunn said, “[t]he message I want people to take away is that they don’t have to dedicate their lives to this, but if they dedicate a tiny piece of their lives, a little bit of their skill, then they can actually become part of the movement.”
Together with concrete action, I think it is essential that we continue the conversation started in Half the Sky by sharing the work we are doing to combat women’s oppression and economically empower them. By understanding what work is being done now, we can learn, inspire and support each other. For me, hearing about the work others are doing—as in Half the Sky—helps keep me focused and motivated in my own work.
In the spirit of contributing, I will share the work I have been doing over the past several years in an effort to unleash the economic potential of women in the Bicol region of the Philippines as well as women in the United States with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In 2009, I started My Prime a skin care company that combines natural ingredients with the latest innovations in skin care science. Social responsibility is one of My Prime’s founding pillars. As a small company, I was challenged to find programs that were manageable financially and operationally and which were consistent with My Prime’s goal of empowering women.
A key ingredient in My Prime’s products is Pili oil, which is sourced from the Bicol region of the Philippines. Bicol is an economically poor region, where many women live on less than $5.00 per day. As I would come to learn, however, the women are rich in the desire to be economically independent.
It was thus a natural fit for My Prime to focus on implementing programs in Bicol that had the goal of economically empowering women farmers by providing them with resources and training in harvesting Pili trees and assisting them in creating a sustainable income for themselves and their families.
To date, My Prime’s program has provided approximately 30 women with Pili seedlings and ongoing training on how to plant and harvest the Pili trees in a sustainable manner. We also are working to create a market for the farmers’ Pili oil. The goal being that the Pili oil used in My Prime’s skin care products will one day be just a fraction of this market.
One story in Half the Sky particularly resonated with me, as it showed me what My Prime’s program in Bicol can turn into for each of the women. Kabeh S. Sumbo sells Palm oil in Kenya. She started with a gallon of Palm oil, received a microfinance loan, and now has several warehouses, seven employees and provides incomes to more than 65 people. She has sent her kids to school and owns her own house.
Kabeh’s story furthers my resolve to help empower women in Bicol and underscores the importance of sharing our stories with each other.
While Half the Sky focuses on programs abroad, no one would disagree that domestic programs are equally important. As my late sister, Chiqui, had cerebral palsy, another cause very close to me is the advancement of women and girls with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Fortunately, I discovered Best Buddies, a non-profit founded by Anthony Shriver that is dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
As I looked into Best Buddies further, I found Team Maria—Maria Shriver’s bicycling team that participates in the Best Buddies Challenge Hearst Castle. Partnering with Team Maria would achieve two goals important to me—honoring Chiqui’s memory and empowering women. In 2012, My Prime donated to Team Maria 50% of all of the proceeds from its sales on My Prime’s website leading up to the 2012 Best Buddies Challenge.
My Prime will do the same this year for all purchase made on our website, www.makemyyours.com, between August 12 and August 18.
Two years ago, I would have never dreamed our small company could be involved in these life-changing programs. My biggest piece of advice is to always be on the look-out for how you can help.
As Somaly Mam, the Co-Founder & President of the Somaly Mam Foundation in Cambodia, and herself a survivor of sexual violence, said, “Sometimes, the people, they feel they just want to do too much, and they do nothing. Sometimes they feel like I can’t help you, I cannot. Everyone can help. Everyone can do one thing. Start by your heart, what it wants.”
These certainly are words to live by.
And, I’m sure we’d all love to hear other stories of empowering women around the world.