Route +63: it's better fun in the Philippines
When you think of social entrepreneurship some of countries that come to mind are the US, UK, India and South Korea. What about tiny Philippines? Probably not. But you’d be surprised to find that there’s plenty brewing there. And to prove our point, and in order to show you the country’s hidden social enterprise scene, over the next few weeks we will bring you a series of social stories from there.
The Philippines is considered the next Asian tiger. The GDP is growing on a rate of 6,6% and is estimated to be the 16th economy in the world by 2050 by HSBC. One of the drivers of this growth is the tourism sector, which thanks to the marketing campaign “It’s more fun in the Philippines” is growing by leaps and bounds. With 7,107 islands, beautiful beaches, incredible parties, mixed culture and a rich biodiversity this unforgettable is an country.
The social entrepreneur we are profiling in this post decided to show that is not just more fun in the Philippines, but can be also lead to social impact. 23-year old, Cherryl Si graduated from Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) was always passionate about travel and community development. After graduating from ADMU she joined SEDPI (Social Enterprise Development Partnership Inc.) where she worked as a consultant in the social enterprise sector. “I studied development and working in the social enterprise sector was the perfect career for me,” says Cherryl. A year ago her passion for travels and for social entrepreneurship started to merge and to gave her the idea to start Route +63. The company organizes cultural, environmental, volunteer and agricultural trips around the Philippines with the aim to boost local economic activities in the place visited. “I believe that every social entrepreneur should start a business on something they are passionate about,” tells Cherryl.
The idea behind Route +63 is very simple: every traveler pays a fee, as in a normal travel agency, Route +63 utilizes some of the funds for the development of the local community. “We work with local suppliers in order to ensure economic growth in the areas we travel. We are also organizing tours for people interested in investing in particular sectors in the Philippines. The idea is also to create a networking opportunity for those people,” says Cherryl.
Route +63 is starting to achieve interesting results. In the last six months 200 people decided to travel with them and among those 85% are from the Philippines “We didn’t start an international marketing campaign, but that’s something we are going to do soon,” says Cherryl. In the last six months, local community impacted by Route +63 earned 800,000 pesos (11 lakhs in Indian Rupees) thanks to their travel. “People that travel with us get to know also different opportunities in the Philippines. We are currently promoting agriculture and other selected industries (as coffee or chocolate) in line with Government plans,” tells Cherryl.
Running the operations is not so easy considering that they are often working with rural villages “We faced a lot of difficulties in working in different destinations. In some areas tourism infrastructures are not that great; roads have problems and hotels are not well equipped,” shares Cherryl.
Cherryl won the British Council “I’m a Changemaker” Social Enterprise Innovation Camp and she is happy about making the choice to become an entrepreneur but feels that she could have taken more time to understand the industry and to better plan the business. Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is: “Follow your passion. Don’t choose to open a business in a sector just cause there is an opportunity there. You need to be passionate about your enterprise: there will be so many tough moments and without passion, you cannot go through it”.