When we launched Cambio Market in 2015, we were doe-eyed and green, fascinated with this new world of entrepreneurship, travel, and ethical business. We wanted to empower people to live more meaningful lives, to help ethical brands grow, and to share the stories of artisans and enable them to change their situations. We were inspired by what we saw in the Philippines, all these young entrepreneurs creating the most unique products we had ever seen, and were inspired by their razor-like focus on eradicating poverty. It was truly inspirational.
Although the Philippines inspired our journey, we never realized that the country was more than just a beginning for us. We loved products from the Philippines, but could we really have a shop of only Filipino-made products? The voices inside our heads (and many voices outside) told us no.
The view on our way to visit one of our artisan communities in the Philippines. Photo credit Shanice Espiritu.
‘There aren’t enough products’, one would say. ‘You’re pigeon-holing yourselves.’ ‘People won’t pay for products made in Philippines’. The voices swirled.
So we expanded to fairly made products in India, Guatemala, Peru, Uganda, and Philippines. We began to carry jewelry and home decor and even candles made in Toronto and parts of the US. We always put care and thought into who we worked with to ensure their ethics matched ours, but despite our hardest, we didn’t know what we really stood for or what we represented.
Though business was growing and we were getting recognition, things felt… off.
So we went back, traced our roots, our loves, and what made us truly passionate about our business in the first place. We wanted to help people see that the world could be different. That business could be empowering and impactful and positive. That if we all said “no” to the status quo, we could change the world - not just for future generations, but for OUR generation.
And there was no better example of this than in the Philippines.
We travel to the Philippines every year to meet our artisans and partners in person, and we always come back re-invigorated and inspired.
We loved the Philippines. We loved the stories coming from this country. We loved how brands and nonprofits and Filipinos and non-Filipinos and artisans were all working together.
We became friends with the founders of inspiring brands, like Yana Santiago of Olivia & Diego and EJ Mariano of AKABA. We loved the artisans we met and their enduring love for their craft despite hardship and poverty. We loved how eyes would light up when we told people in North America that this bag was handwoven in the Philippines, or this piece of jewellery was made in Davao, and that one is made from banana fibres, this one’s hand-embroidered by local nanays (mothers)... we could go on and on.
I think we were destined all along to become Cambio & Co., a platform to connect the world with the Philippines’ most innovative and impactful brands. It may seem so obvious now to anyone on the outside, but for us, it took two and a half years of struggling and confusion and late-night identity crises to really figure it out.
But now that we’ve finally arrived here, we’re home.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us from the start. And to those who are new to our journey, welcome. Together, we have the potential to do amazing things.
With much gratitude,
Gelaine & Jérôme
Empowerment is You stands for empowering yourself as a consumer, while working together to empower the entrepreneurs and the artisans we work with. Empowerment is You.
Some brief facts about Cambio & Co. and what you can expect from us.
What does Cambio & Co. mean?
Cambio aims to build a movement. We want to create a world where individuals and brands work together to empower every person that touches their products. For consumers, that means being able to create impact through the way we all live and shop. For ethical brands in the Philippines, that means a world where Filipino craftsmanship is truly valued and dignified employment for Filipino artisans is the norm.
But we can’t build a movement alone. We have to work together - with brands, artisans, consumers, community organizations - to create real and sustainable change. And that’s what our name represents. Community, collaboration, cooperation - Cambio & Co. means all of these things.
Does this change your ethics? Will your products no longer be fair trade or consciously sourced?
Actually, we’re more focused than ever on our ethics and principles.
We want to cultivate a true appreciation for Filipino talent and craftsmanship, and that means paying close attention to how those products were made, the materials we use, the way they were sourced, the working conditions of our artisans and craftspeople, and their wages.
Our goal is eventually to become a B-Corp Certified business in the future and to quantify our impact (and yours) more concretely. One step at a time...
What kind of products will you be carrying?
All of our pieces will be designed and handcrafted in the Philippines by Filipino artisans. The Philippines has a beautiful array of amazing products, from housewares to food and textiles. However, due to the pervasive problems in the world’s fashion industry, we’ve decided to focus on fashion.
At Cambio & Co., you can expect to find beautiful Filipino fashion accessories, such as our handcrafted jewellery and handwoven artisan bags, all sourced from the Philippines’ most innovative and socially impactful brands. Our goal is to eventually move into clothing and footwear in the future, so make sure to keep in touch with us!
Photo credit Ben Beringuela.