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Messy Bessy's Krie Lopez Delivers the Commencement Speech During Graduation
The Beacon Academy was honored to have as our commencement speaker this year, Ms. Kristine “Krie” Reyes-Lopez, founder and executive director of Messy Bessy, Inc., environmentalist and social entrepreneur. Here is Krie's inspiring speech to our graduating cohort:
"Good morning Ms. Rica Davila, president of the board of trustees of the Beacon Academy, Members of the Board of Trustees, Marc Escaler, the Beacon Academy Faculty, Administrators, Staff, parents, grandparents, siblings, and of course the Members of the graduating class of 2016!
20 years ago, I was sitting where you’re sitting now… bright eyed, uncertain and yes, a little bit – or maybe more like very -- insecure. See, apart from worrying about my body, my skin, my hair, the boys who liked me and the boys who didn’t like me, I had no clue on what I wanted to be when I grow up… So the easy path, I thought, was to go to a well-respected University to take up a tough-to-get-into-and-stay-in course.
With this kind of decision making process, it’s no surprise that I didn’t enjoy most of my college education. I thought my course, Management Engineering was a bit too tedious and cerebral for my liking. Sadly, I wasn’t brave enough to shift to a course that I thought was more enjoyable – like maybe communication or philosophy. I gave in, instead to expectations, and stayed the course (no pun intended) – and back then, anything other than business, law or medicine was frowned upon by many, including my parents.
Even if I dragged my feet through endless calculus classes, I still gave it my all, and ended up on the Dean’s List a number of times. Steve Jobs said it best, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” My college course was this dot, and I didn’t really know why I needed to go through that until I realized later on how Management Engineering was critical in instilling in me discipline and analytical thinking. Nerds rule!
At the end of the 4 grueling years, I found myself in front of my college professor for my exit interview.
“Tell me,” he asked, “what do you want to do after graduating?”
I hesitated and told him what was always in my heart “I want to be in social development”
He was, for the most part, pretty perplexed. I was, after all, the only one in the whole class of over 100 would-be nerdy technocrats who said such a thing.
That shock, combined with my parents’ dreams for me, compelled me to take on a path that was expected of me: the corporate world. A world that I’ve grown not to despise but to deeply respect.
So here I was, yet in another dot in my life. And once again, even if I was in a place where I didn’t feel like I belonged completely, I gave it my all. I started out as a financial analyst, then moved from job to job, department to department – finance, supply chain, merchandising, marketing, and finally to what I thought was my true calling – corporate social responsibility.
My job as Corporate Social Responsibility head, though, turned as quickly as I had taken it. My supposed “dream job” quickly became for me, exhausting and uninspiring. This, I thought, relies way too heavily on other people’s money to get things moving.
So here I was, 10 years out of college, and still as uncertain as I was when I finished. Where was the exit interview when I needed it? Funnily enough, I think I would have had the same answer.
Yes, professor, I want to be in social development.
Saying that it was because of my professor or my parents that I didn’t go this path is, frankly, a cop out.
It was always my choice. Why didn’t I choose this path from the get go? Because being in social development is for the most part, kinda uncool. I’ve always secretly wished, and maybe I still do, to yearn for a shinier career like in fashion, banking or advertising.
Nobody likes a do-gooder. And helping others, or dare I say it – “making a difference”, has a holier-than-thou, cringe-worthy ring to it. I didn’t want to be that Debbie downer in the party, whose conversation topics included social inequality and injustices.
The good news is, if you play your cards right, insecurity diminishes with age… More and more, you’ll care less about what other people think of you. And so, at 30, I gave into that nagging inner voice.
It was around this time when I came across the term “social entrepreneurship”. This, I thought, was exactly what I wanted – to marry the excitement of creating businesses, with my passion of helping others who are not as fortunate as I am.
My first attempt was a failure. I put up some sort of employment agency for the sexually abused, only to learn that placing troubled teens in random jobs wasn’t exactly the best idea. They would not show up at work for reasons ranging from being too upset over losing a bracelet -- true story, or fighting with a boyfriend -- true story.
That’s when I said, okay let me think of a business where we can hone these young adults in a controlled environment and then eventually let them go when they’re ready. And that’s how Messy Bessy started.
On the surface, Messy Bessy is a manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer of all-natural home and personal care products. It’s a bustling business that has thrived over the past 8 years, enjoying at least a 40% growth year on year.
I can attribute this growth first and foremost to my years of experience in the corporate world.
Goes to show that Steve Jobs was right… even if you’re somewhere uncomfortable, sooner or later you’ll find out what you were meant to learn while you were there.
Messy Bessy has also thrived I think because we’ve managed to stay true to our core: the young adults in our program. Today, 70% of our team is made up of the young adults. This means that our company is run by previous school dropouts who now, through their work in the supply chain, sales, accounting and HR, are helping themselves rise out of poverty.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and through the years we’ve learned that these young adults who’ve experienced harrowing childhoods – from trafficking, incarceration, poverty… they didn’t have that village. And so, In Messy Bessy, we’ve somehow recreated the village – we provide values formation, financial literacy, sexual health education, guidance counseling and formal education.
Recreating the village took us years, and we’re still working on it. To have a heart for the marginalized is pretty easy, but to have the mind for it – that is the challenge.
Our goal is for each young adult to earn a college diploma and consequently, a secure job of his or her choice. In our country where only 14 out of 100 students graduate from college, the future for millions look bleak.
But there’s a glimmer of hope: Last October, we had our first college graduate, Angiela. Yes just one – but it is an indicator that somehow, our little model works.
We’ve somehow figured out a way for at-risk young adults to help themselves, to earn their way through school, to empower them, to re-parent them, through a for-profit business.
The Messy Bessy model of course is pretty radical – with majority of our workforce made up of these young adults. But what about bigger companies taking in just 2 or 10 young adults into their workforce of thousands?
Imagine a world, not a country, but a world --where it becomes a norm for for-profit companies to take in these young adults, to provide them with a way to help themselves and put themselves through school, then won’t we maybe be a little bit closer to breaking the cycle of poverty?
Maybe, or maybe not. But I, for now, will not stop working on it.
It took me over 10 years to figure out that this is what I enjoy doing. So don’t worry if you don’t know what you will want to do – it will take time. For some people, it takes a lifetime.
And anyway it’s always better to dive into something when you’re more prepared and more equipped. Even Mark Zuckerberg was technically already programming for 10 years before he started up FaceBook at the age of 19.
The important thing is that you always have your eye on the ball – on what makes you tick.
Looking for what makes you tick is kind of like falling in love. It’s like looking for “the one”. At one point, you will fall in love with your work, and the ugly stuff – the paperwork, the long hours, the daily grind – you’ll be able to see past that just like you can see past your partner’s annoying voice and imperfect face. Don’t get lost in finding the perfect career – there is no such thing – and there’s no perfect guy either. Just don’t lose hope, keep at it, always give it your all, and keep dating – wait, what? All I’m saying is keep looking until you are genuinely and madly in love… with your work.
I love what I do.
And come to think of it, maybe what I’m doing is not so uncool… because here I am, speaking in front of some of the coolest kids in Manila.
You guys are easily the envy of your peers. Your resources, your opportunities, your blessings are, if you don’t already know, limitless.
The pressure on you, you see, is not for you to get into the best schools, or to get the highest grades, but it is to find what it is that makes you truly happy, not cool, but happy. The next years will not just be about soaking it all in… it’s about beginning to seriously figure out what makes you tick, what makes you happy.
Ironically, the problems that surround you today, are just as countless as your blessings are countless. We live in a country where millions of parents are forced to work and live miles away from their children, where corruption and greed have become the rule more than the exception, where our natural resources are on the brink of irreversible damage…. The list goes on and on.
It is my personal hope that your happiness will somehow include trying to solve one of these pressing issues. My hope is that you will be able to harness all the creativity and opportunities around you to develop out-of-the-box mind-blowing solutions to today’s problems. I hope for each of you to not only have a heart for humanity, but a bright mind to create innovations for the challenges we face.
In the meantime, enjoy your dots, give it your all, keep searching for happiness, and when your heart is in the right place, fall madly and deeply in love with life.
Thank you and congratulations to the class of 2016!"