The woman who went looking for tips and inherited a business

Before expat partner Martine de Leeuw moved to Manila, she went to see what information the expatriating company’s community could provide. Little did she realise what would happen next.

Testing the waters

“After reaching out to the company’s network of expats in Manila, I connected with Martha Westpalm van Hoorn, who had been living there for three years, and gave me some great advice. We seemed to click well and our conversations soon went beyond general expat life in Manila,” says Martine, who had worked as a PR and marketing communications professional for over 10 years in the Netherlands.

A desire to make an impact

“I told Martha I was hoping to make some kind of social impact while living in the Philippines. In turn, she told me she’d been running a social enterprise called Not a Daydream, which trains mothers in an impoverished neighbourhood to make bags with handwoven textiles. Basically, the objective is to help these women earn a sustainable income so they can afford to send their children to school,” says Martine, who has two young kids of her own.

Taking over the business

“As Martha was set to repatriate, she asked if I’d be interested in learning more about the foundation with a view to possibly taking it over,” says Martine, who had lived as an expat partner for a year in São Paulo in 2011. “Martha felt I’d be a good fit and I was definitely curious. So, besides looking at housing and schooling options on our pre-visit, I also visited the Not a Daydream workspace and Martha introduced me to all of these amazing local women that are striving for a better life. I was really motivated by the experience and I also saw plenty of potential, so I told Martha I was keen.”

Trusting her instincts

“My only concern was time, as I have two kids, and obviously I was new to Manila, so Martha used her matchmaking skills to find a willing co-owner, Sheri Scott-De Leon, who is a Canadian expat partner with a background in fashion design. We bring different skills to the business and we’re a great match,” says Martine, who admits some of her friends cautioned against wanting to work immediately. “In the end, you have to trust your instinct! I feel this is the right move for me and, along with Sheri, I’m really excited to take Not a Daydream to the next level.”

Photo: Martine (top centre) and Sheri hanging out with all of the women employed by Not a Daydream, pre-Covid-19

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