Last year, almost to this day, we launched Cambio Market. It’s hard to believe this living, breathing business of ours barely existed a year before, and yet here we are. Life is a little crazy, don’t you think?
I still recall that night when we were sitting up in bed and tossing names around. Shop Social? Social Good Market? Change Market?
What about Cambio Market? I asked. We had both studied Spanish fervently during our travels after university and loved the language and latino culture. Cambio (pronounced Cam-bee-oh) in Spanish means “change”. Be the change. Change how people shop, change how businesses do business, change lives. Cambio Market. We had a winner.
It’s alive!!! Cambio Market’s initial website. We only had greeting cards and scrunchies when we first launched. Random, right?
Jerome quit his job in June and I left mine in August. We both quit before Cambio Market was even an idea – we just knew we were unhappy and something needed to change.
In mid-September, we made the actual decision to launch Cambio Market. Once we decided, things went into hyper mode. Neither of us had experience in retail or ecommerce or importing or shipping, so we had to research everything. Jerome began researching logistics, shipping, importing, and e-commerce. I began looking into products, competitors, and marketing…
By the end of September, our website was up, we were active on social media, and already had two partners. To be honest, neither of us knew how serious things would get. Our approach was, “well, let’s try it and see what happens.”
Somehow, things got ahead of us, as life sometimes does. Despite being in business (purely online) for less than two months, our Christmas season was surprisingly successful. We quickly added five additional partners and expanded to multiple product categories from October to December. December was probably one of the most busy and stressful times the two of us have ever been through.
We travelled to Philippines for two months to meet with our partners, visit the artisans, source new products, and learn more about the ethical business scene in the Philippines.
Jerome and I seem to be poor planners. This is the only explanation for why we would ever think getting on a plane on Christmas Eve to start our two-month trip to Philippines was a good idea. Christmas Eve, we worked all day sending out orders and packaging items, cooking a meal for my parents’ Christmas party, and packing our bags on that same day. We went to my parents’ home, had a lovely meal and exchanged gifts, and then left right away for the airport. At that point, we were pretty burned out and definitely not in the right mindset for travelling.
But travel can do wonders, especially when you’re surrounded with people who inspire you. We met Tony Meloto, a world-famous entrepreneur who created the country’s largest platform to end poverty in the Philippines. We also attended a Global Social Business Summit which featured socially responsible entrepreneurs from around the world, and met with various partners and communities. It was here we visited our partner Olivia & Diego and met Yana the founder, as well as Benj, one of the key people behind our Good Paper Cards. We also met EJ Mariano and discovered AKABA for the first time.
The most amazing part of our trip was meeting the artisans and visiting the communities on the ground. Seeing the impact of Cambio Market in person and hearing their stories completely re-energize us. After two months, we were ready to get back to work.
We start our monthly meetup Toronto Entrepreneurs For Social Change, a monthly networking event for ethical entrepreneurs to meet and support one another (formerly known as Social Entrepreneurs of Toronto Meetup).
During our travels, it was easy to meet people. The community of ethical entrepreneurs in the Philippines was very tight-knit, and no matter which city we travelled to, we easily felt at home. Coming back to Toronto, however, we realized how disjointed the ethical business community was, and how difficult it was to find a support network for ethical entrepreneurs.
So we created our monthly meetup. We wanted to help build the ethical startup community in Toronto, and provide a safe space for ethical entrepreneurs to support one another. What once was a casual networking event has now become a series of table talks highlighting various ethical businesses and entrepreneurs in Toronto. We’re also super happy to report that our meetup has more than doubled in size since we started, and we now even have waiting lists for our events!
April marked the first time we began doing flea markets and in-person events. We dipped our toes in by doing the Social Enterprise Toronto Conference in March, which ended up being a great success. We spent most of our first summer doing markets.
Running an online business has its perks, like being able to work from home in your PJs, for example. But after the first few months, we realized we weren’t getting involved enough in our community. We were too busy trying to market and sell to our customers without getting to know them as people, and that wasn’t right. So we finally began doing local flea markets and events to get out into the community and speak with our customers face to face.
Markets have also been an awesome way for us to meet fellow entrepreneurs and learn from one another. I can’t tell you how rewarding these experiences have been.
We’ve come full circle. Now it’s time to re-evaluate our business model and social impact.
We’ve learned a lot in year 1 and had a blast, but we had plenty of rough moments too. The year has come full circle, and this month, we took a good, long look at our business to see what’s working and what’s not. We realize that if we want to have a lasting impact AND be successful as a business, we have to make significant changes to how things are done. It was a tough conversation we had, but we really believe it will help make Cambio Market a more viable business in the long term.
What’s coming in year 2?
Lots of changes are coming in the year ahead, but our mission remains unchanged: we’re committed to helping ethical businesses and artisans grow, and empowering you as a consumer to live a lifestyle you love.
Thank you for joining us on our journey so far and we can’t wait to grow and learn alongside you!
Cheers to the year ahead!
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