ANTHILL (Alternative Nest and Trading/Training Hub for Indigenous/Ingenious Little Livelihood seekers) is a social and cultural enterprise based in Cebu, Philippines. It supports cultural preservation and sustainable livelihood through community enterprise building among its partner artisan communities.
We chat with ANTHILL founder, Anya Lim, to learn more about this inspiring movement.
How are you? Tell us about what's been keeping you busy lately.
I'm honestly a bit overwhelmed these days as there are so many changes happening and so many changes that need to happen. What's keeping me busy is juggling the demands of day-to-day operations to ensure we're keeping things afloat – and balancing that with being able to prepare for our pivot to keep the continuity of the business.
Please share how you came up with the idea for ANTHILL. What was the lightbulb moment and how did you go about bringing it to life?
ANTHILL is an acronym for Alternative Nest and Trading/Training Hub for Indigenous/Ingenious Little Livelihood seekers.
I co-founded it with my mother, who has had such a huge influence on me in my appreciation of our indigenous and weaving culture. We established ANTHILL to address the gap in cultural continuity among weaving communities and the poverty of identity among the younger generation of Filipinos.
We want weave-wearing to be relevant again. For young people to wear and young people to weave. It was a very slow and organic process and the first step was really immersing ourselves on the ground and spending a lot of time on field with our partner artisan communities to nurture relationships and build trust.
What were the early months/years of Anthill like?
Bootstrapping 24/7. It is very much like how it is now where everyone is dealing with change every day and juggling multiple hats. I didn't have so much confidence then as an entrepreneur. We were still establishing our partners, our programs, our value chain, etc. The first few months and years were a lot of experimentation and developing a business model that works.
Currently, how many weavers and communities do you work with in the Philippines?
We directly work with 5 artisan partners that benefit from our Community Enterprise Development Program, 13 Textile Partners Communities around the country and 5-6 Production Partners.
How do you continue developing and growing relationships with the weavers?
We do this through open and participatory communication. Pre-Covid, this was easier to facilitate as we get to visit them every quarter and run our capacity building programs.
Now, we have to rely on technology to keep in touch with them. We always make sure we connect our artisans to our customers and use our platforms to put them in the spotlight as they really are the frontliners in the work we do.
How do you continue growing ANTHILL and the managing team?
With A LOT of patience and trust. I have a very young team and what really keeps me motivated is seeing them grow in their power and discover their full potential through their work in ANTHILL.
What inspires you?
What greatly inspires me is how we have a space that allows us to explore, learn, collaborate, create, innovate, and work together. What inspires me is action and impact which I experience and witness day to day.
What's on the horizon for ANTHILL?
We are creating big shifts in our business model, in the way we work, and very slowly transitioning to using technology to expand our markets. We want to streamline the activities in ANTHILL and only focus on what we are good at. Follow our trail for exciting things to come.
And finally, what ANTHILL weave or product holds the most sentimental value for you and why?
My favorite weave would be Binakol, handwoven in Abra. Apart from piña, it’s one of the first weaves I’ve worn. I’m also fascinated how the Binakol has different variations in terms of patterns (kusikos, pamaypay, etc.) but follow the same technique.
Binakol is a Filipino textile pattern indigenous to the Ilocanos and Itneg communities of the Ilocos and Cordillera region in the Philippines. It’s woven in two colors, forming geometric patterns that give an optical illusion of spiraling circles resembling that of whirlwinds (alipugpog), whirlpool (kurikos), and fans (pinalpal-id). This creates a dizzying effect that is said to drive away bad spirits.
Traditionally, the Binakol is a ceremonial cloth for protection and was also used as sail on boats to calm the wind and water seeking safety from the spirits.
all photos courtesy of ANTHILL