It’s been almost a year since Jérôme and I first launched ChooseSocial.PH. Time flies, and neither of us could have imagined where our journey would take us. Since we launched our online directory of social enterprises in the Philippines, we’ve grown it from zero to more than 80 social enterprises, were speakers at the NextDayBetter event in Toronto earlier this year, and were featured on Rappler, one of the biggest publications in the Philippines. We both also quit our day jobs to work on our latest venture (but more on that in a bit!). Life really is full of surprises.

It’s also full of opportunities. When we initially launched ChooseSocial.PH, it was just a passion project we worked on for fun. When people began asking us where they could buy these social enterprise products in North America, we had our aha! moment. Why stop at awareness and education? What if we could tangibly help these social enterprises scale their impact and become financially sustainable? What if we could get their products in front of more people? Imagine the impact that could have.

 

Jérôme and I were invited to speak at the NextDayBetter in Toronto earlier this year.

Jérôme and I were invited to speak at the NextDayBetter in Toronto earlier this year.

Enter Cambio Market, Jérôme and mine’s latest venture. We help grow socially responsible businesses in the Philippines and around the world by helping them reach a wider market. Every product in our store is handcrafted, ethically sourced, and linked to a social cause. Currently we have community partners in North America like Purpose Jewelry (jewelry handcrafted by victims of modern-day slavery rescued in India and California) and Ezzy Lynn (handmade hair accessories that help species at risk). We also support Filipino social enterprises like the benevolent Olivia & Diego (eco-ethical and sustainable jewelry made from upcycled materials) and The Paper Project (handcrafted greeting cards made by survivors of sex trafficking). Being able to work with and support our community partners is so humbling and exciting, but we also love the part where we can connect people like you to causes you genuinely care about.

That’s actually why we started ChooseSocial.PH in the first place. We wanted to inspire people to choose social – to choose to live consciously, support impactful organizations, and enact social change in ways both big and small. Cambio Market was a natural next step for us to take our mission further.

Cambio is the Spanish word for change. We want to change communities (and individuals) for the better. We want to change how traditional businesses operate, how people perceive “giving back” and living ethically, how people shop and where they shop. That’s why every single purchase you make at Cambio Market creates positive change: that upcycled necklace you just bought means less waste in the landfill and fair wages for the artisans who made it, the birthday card you gave your friend is helping a former victim of sex trafficking find dignified work to support her family, and the earrings you’re wearing help a former child slave get a quality education. Your choices, your actions, and your impact – Jérôme and I are just here to provide the means to do it.

So what’s coming next? We have a lot of work to do when it comes to raising awareness. We need to grow our revenue in order to raise our ability to support our existing partners and our capacity to take on new ones. The two of us are taking an extended trip to the Philippines this winter to meet with suppliers in person and foster stronger connections with the amazing social entrepreneurs we’ve met (online) this past year. With all this, ChooseSocial.PH will have to take a backseat for now as we focus on growing Cambio Market, but we’ll still be around and will continue growing our directory (fingers crossed!).

Just like we could never have imagined we would be here a year ago, neither of us have a clue where any of this will be in the next year (or even in the next few months). But the only thing we do know with certainty is that change is afoot, and to us, that’s a wonderful thing.

Are you also passionate about ethical living, sustainable fashion, and giving back? Pay us a visit at www.cambio.market and help us spread the word. Together, we can have a real and meaningful impact.

Gelaine Santiago: Gelaine, a Filipino-Canadian, is co-founder of ChooseSocial.PH – the go-to resource to learn about the social enterprise scene in the Philippines. She is also co-founder of the social enterprise startup Cambio Market – an online shop for handcrafted, ethical products that give back. She’s pretty nerdy and loves to talk about all things social enterprises, entrepreneurship, travel, start-ups, and food (of course).

About NextDayBetter | NextDayBetter is a speaker and food series for diaspora communities. Its global events in nine cities celebrate the stories of changemakers from untapped global migrant communities and call them to action. It believes that diasporas like the Filipino Asian Pacific Islander global communities are hubs and inspirations for world changing ideas. Learn more at nextdaybetter.com.

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