Anna Meloto-Wilk, founder of Human Heart Nature, the Philippines all organic cosmetics company stands true to the company’s three core principles: Pro-Philippines, Pro-Poor and Pro-Environment. Her strong advocacy in empowering and helping build a better Filipino society is such a testament to the company she founded with her British husband, Dylan and sister Camille in 2007.
Five years later Human Heart Nature continues to expand its product lines and its mission to sustain a business that primarily benefits the Philippines.
Anna, who is now a mother to three beautiful children continues to inspire every Filipino who is seeking to better themselves. She shares with us her thoughts on growing up with various people of different background and having an ultra successful father Tony Meloto, the founder of the Philippines’ Gawad Kalinga helped her become who is she today.
This is her inspiring success story:
AMS: Tell us your background: education, training and community involvement.
Anna: My father grew up poor among the sacadas in Negros but because of his intelligence, he was granted a scholarship to have his senior year in high school in the US and after that he was accepted as a full scholar in Ateneo.
Many opportunities opened up for him after that — working in a multi-national company and a successful printing business. But he never forgot his roots and he always had a soft spot for the poor in the Philippines. He always felt that he was one of the lucky ones but for every
lucky person who gets out of poverty, there are thousands more that are left behind. He felt the weight of the responsibility in his shoulders to somehow do something to level the playing field and provide more opportunities for the poor. I grew up in a village where the middle class and the poor were neighbors. By any measure, we weren’t rich but we had enough — food on the
table, a house, education — all the basics for a dignified life. Just across our street was a big warehouse for a fairly large-scale recycling business with high walls and hundreds of workers and behind our house were shanties of some families squatting in an empty lot. So we were exposed to the realities of poverty and inequality in thePhilippines at a fairly young age. The children of the squatter families were our playmates and they were welcome in our house in the same way that we were welcome in their homes.
My father would often drive us around the neighborhood and his friends were the tricycle drivers and the sabungeros (cockfighters). On hindsight, this really shaped our values and taught my siblings and I how to interact with people from all walks of life and treat everyone with dignity and respect.
In my freshman year, my dad brought me to Bagong Silang, the biggest squatters’ re-location site in Metro Manila. Some would say that Ateneo is one of the most exclusive universities; Bagong Silang was notorious for being a training ground for criminals. My father had organized a youth camp for gang members and drug addicts to try to reach out to them and understandthe root causes of poverty in our country. Bringing me there was a risk and at the same time a peace offering. It was a gesture to show that he regarded these forgotten youth, that he considered them to be part of his family in the same way that he loved his daughter.
Needless to say, it was a life-changing moment for me and also for the young people that I met there. It was like, my father imprinted in me a desire to always live a more meaningful life beyond personal interests. I would still go through my own journey of discovery and I would take many detours before I found my true calling but that experience gave me an inner compass that would always draw me to the right direction even when I strayed.
After college, I defied many expectations when I decided to enter the corporate world instead of joining Gawad Kalinga, the movement that my father founded to help rid thePhilippines of poverty. This was one of the major detours that I was talking about. I felt like I needed to find my own path and step out of my father’s shadow. I also fell in love with the art of brand-building and communications and set my career on this path. I worked in media, advertising and eventually a multinational food brand where I learned many skills that I now find very useful in leading Human Nature.
My romance with the corporate world lasted 4 years after which my inner compass started pulling me back to Gawad Kalinga. I left the corporate world and joined Gawad Kalinga armed with my experience in communications and brand-building.
It was also around this time when I met my husband, Dylan Wilk, a young, successful British entrepreneur who came to the Philippinesin search for his own purpose in life. He fell in love with the Philippinesand the work of GK at the same time that I was having my own epiphany. Our shared values and purpose brought us together and we were married in 2004. We have been serving and working together ever since.
AMS: What are you currently involved in?
Anna: I’m currently the President of Gandang Kalikasan, Inc., makers of the brand Human Nature, a brand of natural personal care and cosmetic products founded on the values of being Pro-Philippines, Pro-Poor and Pro- Environment. My involvement is mostly in new product development, promotion of social entreprenuership and Gawad Kalinga partnerships.
AMS: What made you,your sister and your husband start Human Heart Nature?
Anna: In 2005, my passion for the environment blossomed after the birth of my first child. My husband Dylan and myself, decided to use cloth diapers after reading that disposable diapers contain toxic chemicals and take 500 years to deteriorate. During that time, my sister Camille who is passionate about make up and cosmetics felt that her other mission in life, which is to help the country was still unfulfilled. In 2007, when we lived in the United States I noticed that there was a growing number of affordable organic products that were being marketed in the supermarkets that were not easily available before. It was at that time that my sister joined us in theUS and we began our research work on organic products and we brought them to thePhilippines. In November 2008, after doing more extensive research with my sister on organic products, we finally launched our first store at the Blue Leaf Fort, Bonifacio,Manila.
Anna: Our vision was to create a company that could provide sustainable livelihood for many of our poor farming communities by using locally available natural ingredients such as citronella, lemongrass, virgin coconut oil, sunflower oil and many more undiscovered or under-utilized botanicals for cosmetic products. We invest in communities by paying fair trade prices and providing processing equipment to farmers that will allow them to sell their produce at a much higher price. In our main office, a third of our more than 100 employees hail from Gawad Kalinga sites. We deliberately work with local community organizers to recruit from the poor who receive proper training, higher than minimum wage salaries and full company benefits. Our final advocacy is on the environment. All our products contain no harmful chemicals, are biodegradable and between 96-100% natural in terms of ingredients. We believe that the Philippines is in a position to be a globally competitive supplier of natural products and raw materials and we are capable of building a world-class brand that all Filipinos can be proud
of. You can learn more about our company and our advocacies through our website: http://humanheartnature.com/usa/index.html
AMS: I understand your father, Tony Meloto is very influential, how was his influence impacted you in your life and in your business venture?
Anna: My father raised us regard each person as our equal and to treat them with dignity and respect. That is the most basic foundation of everything that we do. The kids in Bagong Silang have the same intelligence as the kids in Ateneo or in Harvard; the only difference is the opportunities that are available to them. My father and Gawad Kalinga constantly inspire and
motivate us to conduct our business differently. We are challenged to build a business that is profitable and competitive but just and caring at the same time.
Anna: To remind us everyday of our purpose and our mission, that our business exists to build a beautiful society.
AMS: How do you see yourself with HumanHeartNature in the future?
Anna: We are working to build a global brand, to put thePhilippines on the map as a source of world-class all natural products. We want to change how business works, that its sole purpose is not only to make profit but to create value for everyone. As I said, we believe that the role of business is to create a beautiful society for all.
AMS: As a Mom and the founder of HHN, what do you think is the most important skill one must possess in order to become successful.
Anna: Trusting in God’s plan for our life and our future.
AMS: For a follow up question, what motivates you to do what you do?
Anna: To fulfill God’s purpose for my life. To bring up my children to be caring, compassionate and competitive in this changing world.
AMS: Were there any obstacles you met while establishing HHN? and how did you overcome them?
Anna: Overcoming mindsets about natural products, locally made goods and misconceptions about the poor. People still think that imported products are better and that the poor should be treated differently from the rich. It’s a daily struggle but we just try to influence people by example.
AMS: Apart from your family who are your inspiration? Can you please cite an example when they were the most influential to you.
Anna: Gawad Kalinga. Every year, we send some of our employees to the GK Bayani Challenge where they stay in the communities for one whole week and build and serve the poor. We want them to be constantly be in touch with the work on the ground and not be eaten up by the daily grind of office work. We need to always connect with the bigger vision of GK so we also know how our business can contribute to alleviating poverty in thePhilippines.
AMS: What do you think of the future of the “organic industry”? What would you like for people,to be more aware of when purchasing household items, etc that are not organically produced?
Anna: I think that ordinary people need to start thinking about the future and the sustainability of our daily practices over convenience. We need to invest in our future by changing the way we do things now. For example, that bottle of shampoo might give you long lustrous and fragrant locks but is it going to dry out your hair and pollute the oceans in the long run? I’d rather have
healthy hair (though not as perfect looking as the models you see on TV) for 20 years rather than have Hollywood-perfect hair today and then be go bald in just 5 years because of all the toxic stuff in the products that are most commonly used.
You can also learn more about our natural products in this link.
AMS: Finally, what is your definition of success?
Anna: Success is fulfilling God’s purpose for my life.
About the Author: Alpha Miguel-Sanford, is the founder and editor of Aspire.Motivate.Succeed, a personal development website, with the vision of educating and inspiring individuals in their pursuit of happiness and success. You can contact her at email@example.com, follow and like her on Facebook Page AMSDaily and be friends with her on Twitter @identitysolved.