Stride Collective: Empowering Local Entrepreneurs and Artisans

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step — which may be the literal case for our friend Tal de Guzman. As an entrepreneur, designer of artisanal footwear, and even shoe- and sandal-making workshop instructor, Tal has had plenty to contribute to the immense and ever-growing shoe and crafting communities in the Philippines.

(Above: Tal de Guzman, guest facilitator at Soul Flower, Co.)

Tal is Chief Shoepreneur at Risqué Designs and co-founder at Stride Collective PH. She is also an instructor at Workshops by Tal and the SoFa Design Institute.

(Above: Handcrafted shoes by Risqué Designs.)

Can you tell us about your background and how you eventually found your passion in the shoe business?
I started in 2012 for Risque Designs. I just wanted to create footwear using local materials. In 2015, I opened my own shoe manufacturing, which I eventually opened up for other shoe entrepreneurs (shoepreneurs). Now, we manufacture for about 30 local brands, mostly consisting of shoepreneurs.

What is Stride Collective and how did it start?
When I started building Risque's manufacturing capacity, I really wanted to be able to create a community of sharing, amongst shoepreneurs. I wanted entrepreneurs to collaborate, rather than compete, by sharing resources and knowledge about the industry. I also wanted to work with those that aligned in my vision in creating sustainable livelihood for our shoemakers and partner communities. It also helped a lot that I was conducting shoe-related workshops through Soul Flower and other studios and schools that I worked with. It boosted the number of brands that started working with us, majority of those we help start from scratch.

Stride began in late 2018, when I was thinking of formalizing a group amongst the brands we manufacture for. Eventually, I invited into the core team of Stride the most active brand owners and our then marketing head of Risque. So far since giving birth to the idea late last year, we have now opened our shop in Marikina and joined both Artefino and Manila FAME.

(Above: Ethically handmade shoes on display at Stride Collective PH.)

You seem like you have a lot on your plate handling your own brand, manufacturing for other brands, and leading your own team of shoe makers. How do you manage your roles?  
I think it all really boils down to scheduling everything well. I have a very funny calendar, not an actual calendar on my phone, but just the notepad on my phone that has a list of dates, schedules and names. I needed to simplify things, in so many ways, so I can do a lot. With the brands I manage, plus the workshops, trainings for communities and also while currently taking my masters degree, I really needed to be able to manage my time well. I really worked on building my team and capacitating them, so that I am able to multiply myself (probably not completely, but parts of me). I like training people from ground up. It doesn't matter to me that they probably don't have the right background, they just need to be hardworking and willing to learn.

I also believe in making sure that communication lines are clear and transparent. With all the brands I work with, I just use a simple tool, we have a group chat on FB messenger for each brand, that loops in the brand owners and our team. This way, I am able to stay on top of things, while making sure that all instructions are documented.

(Above: The Shoepreneurship 101 Workshop and Sandal Making Workshop with Workshops by Tal.)

How has Stride Collective impacted local entreps and artisans thus far?
Stride Collective is a community. We have created this healthy environment where brand owners can come together, work with our artisans, without needing to feel threatened by each other. We try to foster as much transparency as we can, and in the process, building trust and camaraderie. Our artisans also appreciate that these entrepreneurs that we work with are also the nicest and most supportive ones. I think bridging our artisans and shoepreneurs really help create a good synergy and eventually makes everything a lot easier and running more effectively.

What is the future for Stride Collective?  
I guess it will be an evolving future for us. We are entrepreneurs that are creative, resilient and open to change. We see opportunities and we seize them. What will remain constant, hopefully, is that we will be a community of shoepreneurs with a good sense of responsibility for the lives of the people that we envision to impact.

This short interview gives us but a glimpse into the busy life of a passionate visionary. And after all that, we can say we've had this small chance to step into her stylish, ethically-made, and well-crafted shoes for a moment or two.

If you want to walk your own path in shoes you made yourself, we're bringing back one more schedule for Tal's Crafting Leather Sandals Workshop this 2019!

Chuu Diaz

Chuu is an illustrator and graphic designer who loves drawing food and plants. She enjoys trying out new art styles and likes the color pink a bit too much.