“We really want to create something that enriches the livelihoods of the Filipino artists that make our products by directly connecting Filipinos in the diaspora – and Filipinos like myself who grew up outside of the Philippines – to our shared heritage.”

Toronto-based entrepinay Gelaine Santiago – who will be leading a workshop on social impact of small business at the 2019 Entrepinays summit – stresses integrity in entrepreneurship. It’s an ethos that provides crucial insights into healthier, more grounded ways of doing business, and living, that support both community and individual success. 

Her main project is Cambio & Co. – what she describes as a storytelling platform ‘for Filipinos, by Filipinos’ – though she leads a carousel of other endeavors, all centered on maximizing conscientious, targeted social impact – the kind that, as Gelaine sees it, small businesses are uniquely positioned to provide.

“I really stress the power of saying ‘no,’ because it can free you up to do really great things. For me, I decided to say ‘No,’ to products that were not made in the Philippines. It was a really tough decision. But it was a matter of having the conviction to say, ‘Look, this is the kind of business we want. We want to make people feel really proud. We want to change how people perceive the Philippines, and craftsmanship from the Philippines.’ If that means losing a percentage of the market – if it means saying goodbye to a partner in India who is generating 80% of our revenue at the time – then so be it. It’s about consciously choosing not to stay in your lane – consciously choosing to go a route that not a lot of people have gone, consciously choosing where you place your intentions. It has been a really big challenge – but it really comes down to asking yourself: ‘Why did we create this business?’”

By practicing such careful consideration of every step that Cambio & Co. takes, Gelaine can confidently make principled business decisions that produce real impact for real people – a strategy she plans to share and explore at this year’s Entrepinays summit.

“The workshop is about social impact and social enterprise – specifically for entrepreneurs who are really passionate about integrating social impact and incorporating social purpose into a business model itself – how people can balance profit and purpose in a social enterprise model, what it is to have a socially responsible business, and what that really looks like when it’s applied. It’s really glamorous for people to be able to say that their business gives back and that they help communities and such – but what does that actually look like in concrete terms? How can we actually make sure that that the businesses that we are creating are really creating sustainable change and creating a positive impact for the communities that we want to serve?”

In turn, Gelaine also notes the special positionality that Northern California Filipino community enjoys, and points to the significance of history and place in the formation and sustainability of cultural momentum.

“The Bay Area is really unique. Honestly, it’s been really amazing and that’s one of the things I loved so much these past few years is just getting to know the West Coast Community. It’s so energizing to see the amazing things happening in SOMA Pilipinas that are just really incredible initiatives and movements – and the fact that the Entrepinay’s summit is in San Francisco makes so much sense. Not just because of the sheer number of people there, but also the level of awareness and conviction in the community about their stories. I think that’s just very strong and very unique and gives the people in that community so much power.”

Leveraging that type power in ways that are purposeful and loving is the center of what Gelaine does at Cambio & Co. and her new business, Sinta & Co. By sharing her spirit and knowledge at the 2019 Entrepinays summit, Gelaine hopes to help others in similar spaces deepen the connections between their business endeavors and the people around them.

“There’s no such thing as an individual business decision that perfectly balances profit and purpose; each one favors one or the other, and at the end of the day, you hope it evens out. That’s why it’s always important to go back to knowing who you want to serve at the end of the day.”

Written by Paul Barrera, photos from Cambio & Co. Instagram