Imagine that you are a young entrepreneur. You’re innovative. You want to change the world. You’re filled with ideas and fuelled by passion. Best of all, you have a product that deserves a spot in the local market.
Then you may start asking the questions. “Where do I get the best suppliers? How will I sell my products? Heck, how do I even register my business?”
These are the tough questions that every entrepreneur deals with. And these are the questions Roots Katipunan aims to answer.
Roots Katipunan – A space for entrepreneurs
Roots Katipunan provides entrepreneurs with a co-working space, a store where they can display their products, and business development services.
It was founded by seven young individuals who recognised the need for a space that helps entrepreneurs thrive, especially in their startup stage.
But the “space” that Roots offers goes beyond the four corners of their shop, the shelves and hot desks. What they provide is a nurturing community.
“To leave the comfort and stability of being employed and choosing to become an entrepreneur can get hard and lonely. It’s very important to have a strong support system because you have to do things on your own,” shares Melinda Gabuya, one of the co-founders of Roots. “If you have a community where you can share resources, knowledge, and network, it makes things easier.”
Roots is a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs. It calls its partner entreps, “fellows”. To sustain the business, various income streams have been developed for Roots and fellows to grow together. First, it provides co-working spaces for start-ups who can’t afford to rent their own office space. Second, it provides shelf space at an affordable rate of 2,500Php/month (about SGD70). Spaces are renewable monthly, giving its fellows more flexibility to manage their overhead costs. Third, it provides services such as accounting and order fulfilment.
Roots Katipunan – Rooted in communities
In the vibrant startup scene in the Philippines today, there are other groups that offer co-working spaces and accelerator programs. But what sets Roots apart is that it remains, as its name suggests, rooted in communities.
Roots cater to social enterprises that support various communities from different parts of the Philippines. Its founders, having development background or are social entrepreneurs themselves, all believe in marrying profit with purpose. Thus, its fellows are businesses that support causes and provides income-generation for different sectors.
Habi Footwear, for example, sells sandals and shoes made from scrap cloth. Habi supports communities who weave the scrap cloths, as well as local shoemakers of Marikina City, the country’s Shoe Capital. Tsaa Laya, which sells premium local tea, provides jobs to women in relocation housing in Laguna, a province south of Manila. Hiraya Chocolates supports cacao farmers in Davao, a province in southern Philippines.
With all the livelihood of these communities at stake, this is much more than just generating profits and hitting the right numbers for Roots Katipunan.
“If you help the businesses grow, if you help them sell, then you help the communities,” explains Gabuya.
Roots Katipunan is also rooted in supporting the local industry.
“Most of us (founders) work with local communities, so Roots has a Filipino orientation,” shares Gabuya. “However, we envision our fellows moving from the local market to the global market. We are aiming for export in the future.”
Startups and millennials
In the Philippines, 99.6% of the businesses are micro, small, and medium enterprises. Any initiative that supports these businesses – whether from the government, private investors, or a bunch of millennials – are all valuable in helping achieve inclusive economic growth.
Roots’ business model is also reflective of the big role played by millennials in the social enterprise landscape. Local and global trends show that millennials, those born between the 1980s to 2000s, are more keen on choosing jobs that promote social responsibility. It’s no wonder that Roots’ founders and most of its fellows belong in this age group.
Gabuya shares other traits of this generation that make them good entrepreneurs. “Millennials, they’re more gutsy. It’s good because they’re not scare to explore news things,” she shares. “They have a sense of connection. They always stay connected with people and new things – and that’s where possibilities, partnerships, and collaborations come from.”
Evolving ideas, learning curves, and free beer
Roots Katipunan, in its current state, was not exactly how it was first conceptualised. “Originally, I wanted to start a pub that resells local craft beer,” shares Gabuya. Another Roots co-founder, Jannine Chiong, who is also the President and CEO of Habi Footwear, has a space. So they thought of setting up a shared selling space. But there were many things to consider, such as how to manage costs, how to diversify their income stream, etc.
Gabuya and Chiong started sharing their idea in their network and people wanted in.
Gabuya reflected on her Roots journey, “what you set out to do eventually changes, and you have to be able to adapt. You have to be able to grab the opportunity that comes. Things might turn out to be even better than you could imagine.”
She also shares how the Roots model opened lots of opportunities for partnerships, collaborations, and new ideas. The place is used for seminars and local gigs. It also holds events such as Entreps Anonymous, an open mic session where entrepreneurs can share their woes; as well as community nights for fellows to come together.
“What was initially envisioned to be a pub became Roots Katipunan, and we are able to weave our own advocacies into this space.”
One shouldn’t be surprised to get free local beer in Roots event.
Rooted and growing
In September 2017, Roots Katipunan celebrated its first birthday. They have grown their fellows base to 45 social enterprises, hosted several events, and now has two full time staff.
But their biggest achievement, Gabuya says, is managing to stay alive. With the going rate of startups folding in their initial years, this was no mean feat. Roots Katipunan aims to stay afloat, and maybe open new hubs in different parts of the metro in the next three to five years.
Perhaps staying alive becomes easier when your motivation is the countless communities who have the potential to produce quality products. Coupled with the many young people with crazy minds and willing hearts to help these communities who just need the space to do so.
“When someone says, ‘I’m a social entrepreneur – where do I go? Where do I start?’ You can always go to Roots Katipunan. We will always be there to help.”
Pictures taken from Roots Katipunan Facebook Page