Creating a new world order
ORGANIC duck eggs. Organic pork sausages. Organic tea. These are just some of the new products produced under the care of new entrepreneurs assisted by the Center for Social Innovation (CSI) of Gawad Kalinga (GK). GK now believes in creating new social enterprises using the grey matter of young entrepreneurs who believe in organic food production, among other social enterprise examples. How does one become a social entrepreneur? Simply by considering a business with a social dimension.
I recently attended two CSI orientation lectures at the De La Salle University and the Ateneo de Manila, and what inspired me is the wealth of ideas the young college students have about using natural sources for food and lifestyle products. Tony Meloto was on hand at the Ateneo session, where I shared my experience as a social entrepreneur through ECHOstore, Le Bistro Vert and our new start-ups.
ECHOstore became the launching pad for Theo & Philo, an artisan-produced local chocolate that now has exciting flavors like Pinipig (toasted rice), Labuyo (chili pepper), Kalamansi (local lime) and even Pandesal (salted bread). Le Bistro Vert will soon be launching organic pork sausages and ham, also courtesy of this new breed of entrepreneurs. I need not worry about a continuous supply of new organic and natural products, thanks to these young minds who have combined their new ideas with giving farm jobs to the GK communities.
Even the bucolic ginger tea or Salabat has re-emerged as Enchantea (I also like their first brand Felici-tea), and if I heard it right will soon be launched at a popular gas station’s convenience stores. The GK CSI is the new order for business. Using young minds to brand and package the products, of what otherwise would just be another commodity that is subject to price volatility (making farmers think twice about planting them), the GK CSI explores a whole new world of possibilities. These college kids are exposed to the global lifestyle product landscape, and are also exposed to the realities of farming lemongrass, ginger, etc., which sometimes have no defined markets. So the young social entrepreneurs think of new ways to use and market the usual farm products.
There are also new ideas to market bamboo, the world’s most sustainable grass under the Blue Bamboo brand. The curtains in GK homes are supplied by Red Carpet using katcha or cheesecloth/canvas. There is Organika, a new company marketing muscovado sugar. There is the Business in Development (BiD) winner Jacinto and Lirio for fashion bags made from organic and natural materials. Old materials find new ways to reach markets.
The fire and passion of these young adventurous souls permeated the room. You could feel the energy as each social entrepreneur presented his/her product, a new take on an old farm produce, a new emerging market listening to each bright idea. And these college guys have their numbers in place. They can make projections way into the future like any business graduate can, and they also have the convenience of launching products on the internet, today’s equalizer as far as marketing new products is concerned.
The names of their new companies are also worth mentioning: Hamlet for organic pork sausages; Happy Green for the organic teas; Golden Egg for organic duck eggs and salted eggs; Gourmet Keso (a take on the popular GK monicker), Organika for muscovado sugar. The names are a departure from the usual Aling Ludy’s peanut brittle or Crising’s salabat. Branding is definitely understood by these young entreps. And packaging, too.
Most of them look at the GK mega project called Enchanted Farms in Angat, Bulacan as their source of materials where farmers who are experts in agriculture will now partner with these well-travelled youth, and produce a globally-competitive product employing hundreds of farmhands, if not thousands in the near future. It is a unique union, a marriage made in heaven for both parties. In the process, they both take care of the environment by growing things naturally, and giving farmers a chance to level up by branding their own products and not merely supplying big companies, subject to market price volatility. It is a value-chain approach that most NGOs (like GK) now engage in.
In October, we will get the rest of the big organizations in civil society thinking this way, too. Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF), now celebrating its 10th year of helping alleviate poverty with like-minded partners such as: Management Assn of the Phils. (MAP), League of Corporate Foundations (LCF), Philippine Business for Social progress (PBSP), and PinoyME Foundation will organize a Social Entrepreneurship Conference to advocate a healthy business environment where socially-responsive sustainable enterprises can be promoted. It may also give big companies the idea to switch to being more socially-relevant whilst helping protect the environment.
What is your idea for a new social enterprise?
Chit Juan is an owner and co-founder of ECHOstore sustainable lifestyle at the Serendra and Podium malls. She also heads the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines (www.wbcp.ph) and the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (www.philcoffeeboard.com ). She often speaks to the youth and corporate groups on Social Entrepreneurship, Women’s Empowerment through business and Sustainability. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on www.twitter.com/chitjuan.