MUNI Meetup on Cacao, Tea, and Community: Creating Businesses for Social Impact

#MUNIonthis: While the Philippine economy has been growing in the past few years (despite the slow to 5.2% this first quarter of 2015 [1]), we have yet to reach our Millenium Development Goals and decrease poverty rates to 16.6% by this year [2].

Ebony Lautner, Communications Officer for BPI Foundation, pointed out at the Muni Meetup: Cacao, Tea, and Community last July 4, 2015 that economic growth does not necessarily lessen inequality. We see this manifested in Metro Manila as new infrastructure stand beside urban poor settlements.

(An image from Ms. Ebony Lautner’s presentation)

One way to prevent this inequality is through inclusive growth, something which social entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs who are looking to gain profit as well as help the people and the planet, try to achieve.

“Interplanting or intercropping cacao, coffee, or something like that, hits those three birds with one stone. Generally creating income, planting trees as a deterrent for mining, logging, at the same time it’s creating a powerful economy where the community itself protects its own environment,” says Rob Crisostomo about his work with SEED Core and Casco Commodity.

The former enterprise helps develop rural areas while the latter exports cacao beans to the world’s largest cocoa and chocolate manufacturer.  He mentions that while having a social mission can be an extra effort, it is often what will motivate you to keep going through the hard times.

Muni Meetup speakers: (L-R) Jamir Ocampo of Kapwa Greens Inc., makers of Tsaa Laya; Ebony Lautner of BPI Foundation Inc., makers of the BPI Sinag Challenge; and Rob Crisostomo, CEO of Seed Core Enterprises and co-founder of Ritual

Creating Quality Products vs. Cause-Marketing for Business

For Jamir Ocampo, working with urban poor communities, specifically the women of Calauan in Laguna, has been his social mission. He now works with the community to create Tsaa Laya: Exquisite Tea Collections of the Philippines.

Despite one’s good intentions, it’s often hard to get a social enterprise off the ground. And even with grant money, it was difficult to balance community development and profit. “We had to find ways. […]  in case you don’t have money, focus first on product development,” says Jamir.

Jamir recommends that after developing one’s product, social entrepreneurs focus on testing the market and building their social capital. This helps ensure the sustainability and scalability of one’s social mission.

Connecting with the community to create inclusive growth

After the talks, the audience engaged with the speakers, bringing up important topics such as the ethics involved dealing with farmers and urban poor communities and bringing “niche” products to a mass market. Jamir said that while his products are mainly niché, he also tries to distribute to a larger market; it’s important to be realistic about what your business can actually produce. Rob Crisostomo said he sees farmers as equals, preferring not to see their working relationship as benefactor and beneficiary.

Eager (and eager-to-be) social entrepreneurs at the Muni Meetup on Cacao, Tea & Community at A Space Manila

It was evident that while social entrepreneurship requires passion and commitment, it is also important for entrepreneurs to have an understanding, respect, and sensitivity to the communities and causes they work for and with. It isn’t about giving people opportunities, it’s about creating something together to bridge the inequality gap and create a better Philippines.

While there is still a lot of work to be done, these are encouraging examples that we’re going in the right direction.

See speaker talks on the Muni PH Facebook page.

The meetup also served as a platform to help promote the BPI Sinag Challenge, a social business plan competition.

You can submit your business ideas for positive social impact until July 20, 2015. The challenge allows existing and aspiring entrepreneurs to get their ideas funded, participate in a 6-day business bootcamp, get mentored by business experts. Join the challenge at

Suffice it to say, the meetup left attendees feeling pumped to make their ideas happen, as well as inspired and hopeful for a better, more inclusive world.

Muni Meetups are monthly events hosted by Muni, to spark conversation, connect our community, and create positive impact in various areas of creativity and sustainability.

Join the next Muni Meetup on August 15, 2015 (details TBA), subscribe to our Facebook events, and sign up for Muni Mail to get first dibs on Early Bird tickets, and receive meaningful content and event updates.


  1. “Poverty Rate Cut to 16.6% by 2015.” Office of the President of the Philippines. Office of the President of the Philippines, n.d. Web. 12 July 2015.

  2. “Philippine Economy Posts 5.2 Percent GDP Growth.” Philippine Statistics  Authority – National Statistical Coordination Board. Philippine Statistics Authority, 28 May 2015. Web. 12 July 2015.

Lian Kyla Dyogi is a full-time literature student and part-time Seiri editor. She believes in the power of music, the written word, and stories. Someday she hopes to become a master storyteller. You can read some of her work here and here.

#community #robcrisostomo #tsaalaya #tea #seedcore #socialentrepreneurship #Munimeetup #jamirocampo #cacao #ebonylautner #bpisinag

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