Gelaine and Jérôme are the founders of Cambio Market, an online marketplace full of handcrafted items made by social enterprises and social causes around the globe. By shopping on Cambio Market, you can become part of the global movement to use business for good. The online market carries everything from handcrafted cards made by women who have escaped sex trafficking in the Philippines, to hair accessories that symbolically adopt Grey Canadian Wolves from World Wildlife Fund.
No matter what type of gift or trinket you are on the hunt for, Cambio Market makes it easy for you to impact the globe even when you can’t be out volunteering and traveling around the world.
I was very fortunate to catch up with Gelaine, during the couple’s current travels in the Philippines, to learn more about their beginnings and upcoming plans for Cambio Market. Let’s hear more Gelaine:
Take us back to when the two of you first met! What was it that connected the two of you?
When we met in 2010, I was a member of AIESEC (an organization that activates the leadership potential of young people) at the University of Guelph in Ontario and Jérôme had just graduated from the University of Laval in Quebec City. Following graduation, he moved to Toronto to be part of the national team of AIESEC Canada, and was fortuitously assigned to be the national coach for my AIESEC chapter. We often met at committee meetings, coaching sessions, and student parties where we became friends first and eventually more (the dollar beer nights at our local pub probably helped with that transition:)
AIESEC was how we met, but what truly connected us was our shared understanding of the world and our passion for travel. Despite us coming from two different cultures (he grew up in Quebec in a traditionally French Canadian family, and I grew up in Toronto as a child of Filipino immigrants), our dreams and values were so aligned. This is why we have had so much success working together, first with ChooseSocial.PH and now with Cambio Market. I think our previous travel experiences really had something to do with that.
Out of the 25 countries you have both traveled too, which one has had the most impact on you personally so far?
The Philippines, hands down, has had the biggest impact on me. This country is where I have been most inspired and also most challenged. I’m a Filipina and was born in the Philippines, but I moved to Canada when I was very young, although most of my family is still there. As a result, I grew up with western values which are often in direct contrast to Filipino culture. The thing is – it’s one thing to witness cycles of poverty, discrimination, and sexism in a country with complete strangers, and it’s another to witness those same things in your own family and cultural roots. It’s during those moments when my personal values clash with the traditional values of my heritage when I’ve been most challenged.
On the positive side, I have been so inspired by the Filipino social enterprise landscape. I’ve always been an avid supporter of socially responsible businesses, which lead to the launch of our social enterprise Cambio Market in Canada, but what’s happening here in the Philippines is on a totally different level. The Philippines has one of the most active social enterprise communities in the world (they call themselves the “Silicon Valley of social enterprises” and the name is totally warranted). Social enterprises here are tackling big problems like poverty, environmental degradation, and loss of cultural identity and they are doing so in ingenious ways. When I meet other Filipino social entrepreneurs, I am always so inspired by their ability to dream big. The older generation is much more skeptical, but the younger Filipinos aspire to create change and truly believe they can fix some of the country’s biggest problems within their lifetime. This makes me so proud of where I’m from.
As we speak,you are in the Philippines scoping out new social enterprise partners for Cambio Market – how has the trip been going?!
Initially, we did hope to use some of the hospitality companies that we feature on ChooseSocial.PH, but our schedule has been so hectic with meetings and work that we’ve barely had time for anything touristy! Despite this, we’re very committed to traveling ethically and supporting social enterprises. So far during our trip, we’ve been fortunate in that we’ve mostly done homestays with friends and family. As a result, we’ve been able to learn so much more about Filipino culture and daily life than if we had stayed at hostels or resorts. We also visited the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm (the “Silicon Valley of social enterprises in the Philippines”) and attended the Gawad Kalinga Social Business Summit last week where we met locals and foreigners alike who are committed to ending poverty in the Philippines.
Jérôme and I have also been staking out handmade products and suppliers, so we’ve had so much fun visiting the local markets and social enterprise shops like the ECHOstore in Manila and the Anthill Fabric Gallery in Cebu. In short, we’ve had to be our own “tour guides” during this trip, but we would have loved to try social tourism companies like Route+63 and Trail Adventours!
Meeting with our suppliers has been the best part of our trip by far. The Paper Project is one of our current partners and they produce fair trade and recycled greeting cards, all handmade by women who are former victims of sex trafficking. During our visit in Manila, we were able to talk in depth with one of the founders and actually got to meet some of the women who make their cards. We do a lot of research on our partners ahead of time, but reading about sex trafficking in the Philippines is totally different from meeting someone who has actually experienced it. Suddenly, it puts our work in a whole new context and lends us a new sense of urgency and drive to succeed.
We’ve also met with potential suppliers like GKonomics, Gifts & Graces Foundation, and Anthill Fabric Gallery. Next week, we have a trip to Davao City planned so we can visit our partner Olivia & Diego and meet their artisans. We’re working on a few blog posts to share what we’ve learned, so keep an eye out!
You can follow along with Gelaine and Jérôme’s journey through the Philippines over on the Cambio Market blog. You can also follow along on Instagram. To shop their curated online market of social enterprise goodies, visit www.cambio.market