How starting my own business has made me a better person

How starting my own business has made me a better person

Now that it’s been a bit more than a month since I quit my 9-to-5 job to start my own business Cambio Market, I’ve had time to reflect on what being an entrepreneur really means and how it’s impacted my life beyond the typical “work for yourself” mantra.

For some context, Cambio Market is an online marketplace to connect consumers with socially responsible products and responsible businesses. Every purchase from our store directly gives back to a meaningful cause and helps socially responsible businesses grow. For those of you familiar with the concept of social enterprise, we are one. We just launched last week.

What I realize is I really do like myself more these days than before. That may be a weird thing to say, but I have to admit I think I’m a much better person. Here’s why:

1.  I’m much more informed. We research each of our partner suppliers to ensure their products are up to par and their social impact is real, positive, and authentic. As a result, I’ve been learning so much about business, international development, and the social issues facing different communities around the world as well as the creative ways social organizations attempt to address them. Being a business owner also means understanding how government policy, local, national, and international issues impact how we operate so I pay attention to the news and Reddit much more. I’m still not as informed as I’d like to be, but my knowledge has definitely improved over the past four weeks.

A photo from our Instagram account @Cambio_Market. For every selfie taken with hashtag #DrinkGoodDoGood, Naked Juice company will donate 10 lbs. of produce to help communities in need.
A photo from our Instagram account @Cambio_Market. For every selfie taken with hashtag #DrinkGoodDoGood, Naked Juice company will donate 10 lbs. of produce to help communities in need.

2.  I’m much more connected. I barely used Facebook in the past and my friends used to have to text me reminders to check my Facebook messages (everyone has a friend like that, right?). These days I manage all the marketing and social media for Cambio Market, which means I’m constantly on social media. Not surprisingly, I’ve been much more up to date as a result and know more about what’s happening in my friend’s and family’s lives. This has significantly improved my personal relationships.

I also occasionally publish updates about Cambio Market, which has prompted several of my long lost friends to reach out to me and see how things are going. In the past month, I’ve been able to re-connect with at least four friends I haven’t seen in years. I’ve also forced myself to reach out to people and ask for their help (something I was always scared to do before). This has unexpectedly opened up amazing opportunities to re-connect with good friends and learn from them.

3.  I can have more meaningful conversations. When I was working in corporate, it felt like my conversation skills were going down the drain. Office talk always centres around plans for the weekend, what you did last night, what you ate (though 80% of my conversations are still about this :D), and plans for the holidays. These days, I’m catching up with old friends or meeting new people in the community which opens up opportunities for much more meaningful conversations. It’s been awesome.

Me at last night’s We Are Cities roundtable to discuss issues facing our city and how they can be addressed from a youth perspective.

4.  I’m more in touch with my creative side. Sometimes I forget how artsy I used to be as a kid. I used to take art classes on the weekends and would spend hours drawing. I even still have some of my old sketchbooks. It’s been about ten years since I’ve drawn something, so I’ve loved the opportunity to do all the creative work for Cambio Market. We’re literally just two people in our team and Jérôme is more on the technical side handling our IT, business compliance, shipping and logistics, so I do everything else. I designed our logo, create the creatives for our social media, write all our content, and even spent hours doing arts and crafts to package our orders. I love how I’ve been able to re-connect with that part of myself.

I spent hours doing arts and crafts to come up with our finalized packaging for Cambio Market!
I spent hours doing arts and crafts to come up with our finalized packaging for Cambio Market!

5.  I’ve been able to meet people outside of my regular circles. Networking is always important, regardless of your stage of life. As a social entrepreneur, it’s crucial. I’ve actively forced myself to attend various events in the city and meet new people. Last month, I attended a Creative Mornings Toronto event, a free speakers series in Toronto geared towards the creative community. Last night, I participated in a youth roundtable through We Are Cities to discuss issues facing our city and how these can be addressed through a youth perspective. I was definitely outside of my comfort zone for both events and some were better than others, but I’ve learned a lot from every single event I’ve attended and person I’ve met. It’s been awesome and I’ve become more aware of issues facing my community.

6. Last but not least, I’m happier. Not to say that happy people are necessarily better people, but I’m generally more optimistic than before and willing to fight for things I care about. It’s empowering.

If you’ve had a similar experience or thoughts to share, I’d love to hear them! 🙂 

Photo credit Bruno Ramos: http://brunoramos.es/puesta-de-sol/

Life Updates Over Coffee

Life Updates Over Coffee

If we were having coffee right now, I would greet you with a warm hug and exclaim how long it’s been since we last saw each other. I would ask what you’ve been up to, how your husband and parents are, how work is going, and comment on how adorable you look in your outfit and matching headscarf.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you how blissfully happy and excited I am for the future, so much that these days I can’t focus because I’m going to burst like a piñata full of sprinkles and colourful candy. I would pause to take a sip of my coffee (slightly too hot), and excitedly tell you about my new venture. It’s called Cambio Market and will be an online boutique specialized in socially responsible and unique products sourced from social enterprises around the world. You would ask me to remind you what that means – social enterprise. I would explain that it’s a business – so it sells products and services like a business – except that it prioritizes positive social impact above profit. Your eyes would light up with excitement and you would exclaim, “that’s perfect for you!” I would enthusiastically nod my head in agreement.

If we were having coffee right now, I would recount what he and I have been doing these days. How I wake up in the mornings, lay around in bed reading Twitter and Reddit for an hour, then get up to make my coffee. I draw apart the curtains and look outside, breathing in distant sounds of cars and people driving past – sounds which have served as the backdrop to my inspiration. I spend an hour writing a blog post about, well, anything, and then I get back up to start my day. I research and meet with social enterprises and potential suppliers, spend hours on social media (sometimes productively), contact partners, and write.

If we were having coffee right now, you would ask me what it’s like to start a business with him, if it’s impacted our relationship in some way. I would pause for a moment and reflect, and then I would coyly respond with a “yes and no.” I would explain it all to you and you would listen with understanding and compassion. I feel immediately thankful to call you my friend.

If we were having coffee right now, I would confide how terror and excitement seem to go hand in hand, and that I am downright terrified of failure. You would listen and then tell me not to be afraid, I am going to be fine because you believe I can do it. I am comforted but almost immediately anxious at the same time.

If we were having coffee right now, you would tell me how unhappy you are at your job. You wish there was something more. You want to travel, to see the world, to be the person that can change things. I tell you, you can. I tell you to take the time you need to wrap your head around it and build up your confidence, but you can do it because I believe in you. You thank me and smile, but I know you don’t believe me.

If we were having coffee right now, at this point we both look down and realize it’s been three hours since we began talking. You have to get home and cook. I have to go home and get some work done. We hug and promise to see each other soon, both reassuring each other that everything is going to be alright.

This is a post inspired from Day 10 of course Writing 101: Update Your Readers Over a Cup of Coffee through Blogging U

Life and Happiness Online

Life and Happiness Online

I read a post from A Good Blog is Hard to Find about the reasons people blog and how everyone’s goals and writing styles are different. If you haven’t already, check it out. I commented to the author on how his genuine and simple writing style made me reflect on my own goals and authenticity.

I began writing because I was looking for a space to share my thoughts and ideas. If with no one else, then at least writing would let me vent out all the craziness from inside my head and let it diffuse out into the blogosphere. I’ve been able to do that to an extent, but once you’re online and reading and following these amazing blogs, and seeing 100+ comments and follows on other people’s posts, you start to get insecure and wonder about your inadequacies.

This is especially true when you’re venturing into business and social entrepreneurship. The questions can drive. you. mad. How come my blog post only got 20 views? Why are my Facebook posts not being shared? Why can’t I be a better writer? Will we ever make any money, ever? What makes charity: water so great, anyway? (hint: they are actually awesome).

My point is that it’s easy to get caught up in other people’s visions (including your own): visions of what a blog should look like, what “authentic” writing is, how many followers you should have, how outgoing you should be, what a “successful” entrepreneurial lifestyle should look like. No one ever talks about the dark stuff, or they gloss over it and say, “yes, I went through a really tough time but I overcame it and now I’m a hugely successful business owner.”

How about days like the past Monday when you’re too depressed and discouraged to even get out of bed? When you do nothing productive at all because you just can’t stop crying? When you put all your fucking heart and soul into something and it still turns to shit, and then you have to get up the next day and just keep going? What about those moments? Would you like to hear about them?

I sure would.

Food, start-ups, and social enterprise: The story of a Filipino outsider

This is a post that I originally wrote for international organization NextDayBetter. It was then reblogged on ChooseSocial.PH. I’m re-posting it here on my personal blog because it was a very personal post that means a lot to me, so I want to share it with you as well.

We're bringing social enterprises into the mainstream

This blog post was originally published on NextDayBetter’s blog by our co-founder Gelaine as part of our content partnership with them. 

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I’m not your definition of a Filipina role model. I understand but don’t speak Tagalog. I was born in Philippines but couldn’t tell you much about life in the country. I grew up eating ‘adobo,” palabok,’ and ‘pancit,’ but only recently learned the difference between ‘lechon’ and ‘lechon kawali.’ I’ve lived most of my life in Canada where I was raised to believe that Philippine-made meant cheap, and “opportunity” was always paired with “abroad”.

So, it must be a surprise that here I am – co-founder of ChooseSocial.PH, an organization that aims to connect and educate people about social enterprises in the Philippines and the work of Filipino social entrepreneurs. It’s a surprise but an honour to be part of an organization that proudly showcases the work, impact…

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