Discovering one’s passion through social entrepreneurship

After college, I knew that I needed to find a job to help my younger sister in her studies. While awaiting our graduation, my college friends and I started to submit our resumés to known companies in the country. As a fresh graduate, I must admit I was disheartened by the level of competition among those seeking employment. 

While I wanted to work in the city and live with my family, I found myself sending an application letter for a teaching post in a university in the Visayas, through a referral. The department where I applied was looking for a UP graduate, so I took the opportunity and was hired as an instructor. 

Never did I imagine myself becoming part of academia. After my first semester in the university, I found myself loving my job. Discovering my passion for teaching did not happen overnight, though. My experience made me believe that if one is destined to do something, one will find that passion to pursue it.

I will not be surprised if this is the case for social entrepreneurs, who are among those so passionate about what they do. I was privileged to learn the stories of some of them through a study that I conducted for my doctoral class. Let me share their stories with you.

Cherrys “Che” Abrigo is the owner and founder of Sierreza, a zero-waste retail and convenience store, advocacy business, and café & restaurant. As a social enterprise that advocates fair trade, it aims to provide a stable market for the organic produce of indigenous people (IP) farming communities. 

Having gained so much experience from her volunteer work during her college days and from her exposure in the corporate world, she came to a realization that sparked her desire to make a change. Having been convinced that doleouts did not to change the lives of the people in beneficiary communities, but developed an attitude of “dependence” on their benefactors, Abrigo devised a different concept of helping the IP farming communities. 

Aided by a grant, she came up with a farm-to-market project that linked farmers directly to the market. When the project aid ended, Abrigo established Sierreza, a store that serves as an outlet for various organic products of IP farmers, allowing them to earn a substantial income from their produce.

Messy Bessy, which is engaged in the manufacturing of natural, biodegradable, non-toxic home and personal care product, is a home-grown Filipino business founded by Kristine “Krie” Reyes-Lopez. Its social mission is to provide education, employment and rehabilitation for at-risk young adults. 

Reyes-Lopez joined the corporate world and headed the corporate social responsibility (CSR) program of the company she worked for. In the course of her CSR work, she often felt the need to do more and perhaps do something on her own, not wanting to rely on other people’s money in order to continuously create positive change. 

During her visit to Delancey Street Foundation, she realized “businesses can empower disadvantaged members of society.” Using this as a template, she established Messy Bessy, which provided not only employment but also education and training to members of its target community. 

First Harvest is a growing household brand of peanut butter and other spreads. It promotes heritage recipes and the indigenous talents of the women that produced these products. 

Based in Gawad Kalinga (GK) Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan, First Harvest was founded by Tajen Sui, Catherine Patacsil and Nico Encarnacion, along with two women based in the GK community. The enterprise aims to provide dignified job opportunities to the people they are working with by creating a replicable template for a community-based enterprise, which utilizes indigenous raw materials and local talent.

Common to the owners of these social enterprise is the passion to do something different that might make an impact on society. Their journey in growing their social enterprises is not devoid of challenges. Specifically, finding the manpower needed for their enterprises was a concern. 

All three social enterprises utilized the sub-stream recruitment channels—they reached out to their network for referrals, instituted internship programs and hired from their beneficiary communities to fill manpower needs. 

The choice of the recruitment channel provided the owners some assurance that the recruits are not just joining the enterprise to earn a salary but have in themselves the same passion the owners possess.

For young people actively seeking a meaningful existence, reaching out to social enterprise owners might just open the doors for them to discover their passion in life.

Joviel R. Teves is a Doctor of Business Administration student of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, and is an assistant professor at the Department of Business Management of the Visayas State University in Leyte. Her research interests are social entrepreneurship and financial markets. She can be reached at [email protected] The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.

Topics: Green Light , social entrepreneurship
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