In the little island archipelago of Philippines in Southeast Asia—millennials are driving a dynamic economic transformation. Over 50% of the working-age population belong to the millennial generation, most of which is being absorbed by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), accounting for more than 99% of enterprises in the Philippines.
Despite a boost in economic productivity driven by the information technology and business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) sector, the country’s social challenges still abound – excessive corruption, high unemployment rates, and a quarter of the population living below the poverty line. Since economic growth has failed to extend to all corners of society, especially the poorest of the poor, millennials are increasingly taking up roles in helping their communities lift themselves out of poverty.
Despite Philippines’ social issues, Philippines’ Generation Y is reported to be the happiest in Asia and least stressed among 32 countries surveyed by Viacom. They are also known to be motivated by purpose. They are creating a tremendous impact not only in the labor pool but also in solving social challenges and getting involved in the development of their communities. Today, Pinoy millennials are leading the growth of impact-driven entrepreneurship, creating wealth and jobs, driving innovation and engendering social empowerment.
Here, we feature three of Philippines’ millennial entrepreneurs whom we have worked with. These disruptors persistently strive to challenge conventions and create new paradigms that lead to social and economic development.
Anya Lim, Founder of ANTHILL Fabric Gallery
When 30-year-old Anya Lim travelled to Abra with her mother in 2009, they observed that the majority of fabric weavers were old. Weaving was becoming a dying tradition, as the younger generation were abandoning traditional craft and migrating to cities for better economic security.
Growing up in her family’s fabric business, Anya grew concerned about how weaving as a tradition and art was fast becoming lost. Its product – handwoven fabric – was becoming outdated and an undervalued.
These experiences inspired the millennial to create her own enterprise.
Based in Cebu, ANTHILL’s core business is to promote traditional weaving as a viable commercial activity by establishing and supporting community enterprises. It converges various groups of weavers, sewers, signers, fabric communities, and designers where Filipino hand woven fabrics are turned into contemporary apparel and non-apparel items. For more than 3 years now, ANTHILL’s activities have supported 3 partner communities, and impacted over 100 young females, who are now able to weave for an income to support their families.
To ensure ANTHILL’s sustainability and growth, Anya applied to IIX’s Impact Accelerator in 2015 and was 1 of 4 finalists who received technical assistance and connection to potential investors. ANTHILL is now raising capital for growth. Through the Shujog ACTS Program, the organisation received complimentary Impact Assessment and is en route to magnifying her impact with a growing business.
Just recently, Anya was recognized as the 2016 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) during the Grand Chamber Awards (GCA) in Cebu, Philippines. ANTHILL’s co-founder also received another special prize from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Efficiency and Success Target Awards in Lima, Peru last June. The award aims to recognize the next generation of women entrepreneurs.
Zhihan Lee, Co-Founder of Bagosphere
At college, Zhihan led student teams to community service projects in rural villages and schools in Laos and Thailand. Travelling extensively, Zhihan witnessed rural poverty, and wanted to use his skills and knowledge to contribute to long-term solutions. But he didn’t know how. Through his internship experiences in Stockholm and India, Zhihan was exposed to social entrepreneurs who were working to solve development challenges through sound business models.
In late 2010, Zhihan met like-minded friends Ivan and Ellwyn, and began working on a business plan together. After conducting a market study, talking to a few call centers, and discussing their plans with the local government, they co-founded Bagosphere, a vocational training school to help out-of-school youths gain fast employment in the burgeoning IT-BPO sector. Currently, revenues in this sector stand at $18.9 billion, growing 24% in 2014 and are expected to sustain at an annual rate of 15 – 18%, according to IT-Business Process Association of the Philippines (IT-BPAP).
In 2012, with assistance from IIX, Bagosphere raised a seed round of capital with Kickstart Ventures and other impact investors from Singapore and Manila.
Jamir Ocampo, Founder of Kapwa Greens
Jamir Ocampo was growing restless with the seemingly intractable issues of displaced, urban poor communities. One of them – the National Housing Authority (NHA) Site 2 – was a ghost town of neglected children and women. Their husbands lived and worked in cities far away in order to provide for the family. In the meantime, women who had skills sets suited for urban factories and workplaces stayed unproductive.
Wanting to provide a solution, Jamir partnered with the community’s caretakers, the Don Bosco Fathers and the Ayala Foundation. Together, they transformed three housing units into a tea processing plant. Through this, Kapwa Greens was founded as an impact enterprise that produces premium tea collections that are uniquely Filipino, using organic, local herbs, fruits, and spices.
In 2014, he introduced what he and his community of mothers have been tending to at their herbal garden in Laguna for the past years: the Tsaa Laya, exquisite tea collections of the Philippines.
In 2015, Kapwa Greens won its finalist position with IIX’s Impact Accelerator, which helped him to further expand the business and its positive social influence in the local communities.
Just like Philippines’ demographic, impact entrepreneurship is still young in the country but the awareness of enterprise is now vibrant and gradually growing. With the involvement of passionate and brave young people in bringing innovative solutions to social problems, the impact enterprise sector is leading the country to sustainable and long-term development by creating more jobs, empowering people and giving them access to better lives.
Jinky Tuliao, Advocacy
Zen Bin, Corporate Finance
Vivienne Zerrudo, Research & Programs