and the Eco-Entrepreneurship Journey of Pocholo Espina

January 25, 2024 | | 0 Comments


In a world increasingly aware of its environmental footprint, stories of individuals and enterprises that pivot towards sustainability are not just inspiring but also essential. One such story is that of Pocholo Espina, the founder of SIP.PH, a business endeavor aimed at reducing waste by replacing single-use plastics with sustainable alternatives. His story is a testament to the power of individual action in the face of global challenges.

The Genesis: A Diver’s Insight Into Environmental Impact

Pocholo’s journey began with a deep-seated appreciation for nature, cultivated through his experiences as a diver. Witnessing the devastating impact of plastic pollution in the Philippines, particularly on the underprivileged communities and marine life, was a pivotal moment for him. It was a stark realization that despite not being the primary source of this pollution, action was imperative. This sense of responsibility led to the inception of SIP.PH.

From Simple Beginnings to Social Enterprise

SIP started humbly, with a focus on metal straws, a small yet significant step in reducing plastic waste. What began as an advocacy soon transformed into a business as the idea resonated with many. However, Pocholo’s vision was always clear – the goal wasn’t just about selling an alternative to plastic straws but instigating a broader behavioral change towards sustainability.

The Ripple Effect: Creating a Movement

The journey of SIP.PH is not just about selling sustainable products; it’s about creating a movement. Pocholo understood early on that to enable conscious consumption, making sustainability trendy and emotionally resonant was crucial. One of the key strategies was to connect sustainability efforts with personal experiences and stories, making the impact of plastic pollution tangible and urgent.

Challenges and Adaptations: Navigating the Business Landscape

Running a social enterprise in the Philippines, like anywhere else, comes with its own set of challenges. From bureaucratic hurdles to market fluctuations and the recent global pandemic, Pocholo and SIP.PH navigated through these with resilience. The decision to diversify their product line, transitioning from a B2C to a B2B model, and adapting to the digital marketplace during the pandemic are examples of their agility and commitment to their mission.

Sustainability as a Career: A New Paradigm

Pocholo’s journey is also a personal one of transformation. From aspiring to be a doctor to becoming a sustainability entrepreneur, his path reflects a significant shift in career paradigms. It underscores the growing importance and viability of sustainability as a professional choice, a field that was almost non-existent a few years back.

The Future of SIP PH and Beyond

As SIP.PH continues to adapt and evolve, Pocholo’s vision extends beyond his enterprise. His interest in engaging with corporate sustainability and community-based carbon projects reflects a broader ambition to influence systemic change. It’s about leveraging the lessons learned, the networks formed, and the impact created to scale up the fight against environmental degradation.

Pocholo Espina and SIP.PH’s story is a narrative that intertwines personal passion with social responsibility. It demonstrates that small steps, like opting for a metal straw, can lead to significant strides in environmental conservation. As Pocholo continues to explore new avenues to drive sustainability, his journey remains a source of inspiration, reminding us that each of us has the power to make a difference.

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[00:00:11] Adam: Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast for social entrepreneurs who want to build a social impact business. I'm your host, Adam Morris, and Pocholo Espina is our guest today. And we're going to explore his journey into launching SIP to provide solutions that reduce waste and increase sustainability by reducing single waste plastic. There are so many messages that we see today around climate change and the amount of waste that we create through consumption.

[00:00:35] Adam: So we're going to dive into what this looks like and ways that we can enable conscious consumption on a wider scale. So, Pocholo, welcome on the podcast.

[00:00:43] Pocholo: Thanks for having me, Adam.

[00:00:45] Adam: I'm really excited. I'd love to just kind of walk through the journey of how you got started. I read somewhere that you're an avid climber and into a lot of different outdoor sports.

[00:00:54] Pocholo: Yeah, actually got a minor injury recently. My friends and I went trail running over here in the mountain, near where I live. Um, but yeah, I do a lot of that. And actually that was one of the inspirations really in starting the business. Like a lot of, as you mentioned, outdoor stuff, like hiking, and then one of the things that really I guess is central to who I am is more diving.

[00:01:17] Pocholo: That's something I did when I was much younger when I started out in college, that was the very first real interaction with the environment, and it was really nice to see it firsthand, but also to see, the negative impact. is also something life changing, I would say.

[00:01:32] Pocholo: Because, once you're able to appreciate it, to see it firsthand, you want to protect it even more. And when you see the devastations firsthand, especially in a country that has a lot of plastic pollution coming in that's not even from the Philippines it alarms you. You wonder why this happens.

[00:01:49] Pocholo: And even if we're not the primary source, You still have to do something about it because the people who are affected by it are usually the poor communities. So you see this, for example, in urban poor communities, especially here in Metro Manila. , instead of fishing, instead of being able to enjoy the immediate coastal area around them, it's just full of trash.

[00:02:08] Pocholo: So it, lowers the quality of life, it increases the chances of, waterborne illnesses to come to them. And even in the rural communities, again, same thing with fishing, they're no longer able to access some, something that's supposed to be basic and central to their identity. So those types of things are one of the core reasons in starting the business and From there, it really started out quite simple.

[00:02:33] Pocholo: I didn't intend to Make it a business. It really started more as really just a full on advocacy. It was probably more of a non profit When we started it It started out with just one metal with just a metal straw really like I had a couple of Few items, but that was the main thing that we really wanted to push.

[00:02:54] Pocholo: And we just wanted to keep it simple since we saw it as a simple thing, like it's replacing a plastic straw. It's something that doesn't really, you know, blow people's minds. But surprisingly enough, a lot of my friends, a lot of my colleagues were like, Whoa, that's amazing.

[00:03:08] Pocholo: And I'm like, But this is just a metal straw. That's, that's really essentially how it started.

[00:03:14] Adam: That's cool. Now what was it like in the beginning? Like why, was there any reason you chose a straw over

[00:03:20] Adam: something else?

[00:03:22] Pocholo: Um, I felt like it was, the first thing is it was simple enough. It's something that people use almost every day, and I felt like it could be something that could easily be replaced, or if not replaced, at least change their behavior.

[00:03:36] Pocholo: And by doing so, and this was something we were able to prove down the line, it carries over to other life practices and that's been anecdotal again and again with our customers and we're really happy and proud about that.

[00:03:48] Adam: Very cool. How did you gather evidence that

[00:03:50] Adam: this was going well?

[00:03:53] Pocholo: Um, most of it was really just collecting data In terms of behavioral change, whenever we run surveys, whenever we run focus group discussions with our customers, we're able to gather that type of data that most of the time destroy. It's just like, how are we in the most peculiar way to say it.

[00:04:10] Pocholo: It's like a gateway drug. It's like a gateway, I guess, environmental practice that people start to use to change other things. So if not, if not in their own lifestyle, a lot of them have started their own enterprises, some of them, uh, community related movements, or if not, non profits, which for us are, were indicators of success, given that we didn't really, our goal wasn't really to make this a big business at all.

[00:04:35] Pocholo: In fact, it was more of like, I remember saying it early on, like maybe in the first or second month, that, the goal of this business is not to exist. Because, if everybody did stop using plastic straws or use metal straws, then we wouldn't need to be there in the first place, right, to cause that change.

[00:04:53] Adam: Got it. I'm really interested to explore this kind of ripple effect, right? So calling it a gateway drug to get people moving in and do other things. Um, can you explain just a little bit about how you see creating a movement to, create a more sustainable lifestyle? Like, what does that look like for people?

[00:05:15] Pocholo: I would say a lot of it really has to be going, at least here in the Philippines, is making things trendy. It's both a good thing and a bad thing, you know. Uh, when we started it in 2016, it really became a trendy thing towards, hmm, 2018. But as with trends, they go up and down. So now the challenge is how do we sustain that movement?

[00:05:34] Pocholo: How do we get people to still continue to do it, continue to use it when the hype is already down? And honestly, it's something I don't have a complete answer for yet, but I guess I'll focus more on that upwards movement. A lot of it was really getting more people to just talk about it.

[00:05:51] Pocholo: But the second part to that would be to make sure they have an emotional connection with it. So. Um, the thing is, like for me, it was mostly the diving part, experiencing nature firsthand. But for so many other people, that's not, that's a bit trickier to do, right? Like, okay, have a metal straw, have a free trip to a hike, to a dive.

[00:06:11] Pocholo: No, that's not gonna happen. Instead, like, you need to give them some form of, uh, something that hits them. And the one video that I would say drove the success of this. At least specifically the plastic straws was this video of a plastic straw being pulled out of a turtle. Have you seen that before?

[00:06:32] Adam: No.

[00:06:34] Pocholo: I'll send it over after, but it's something very shocking. like , you genuinely feel the pain that the turtle is going through of first, and it gets a bit gory honestly. But I mean, the turtle survives , but at the end of the day, it's something that really moved people . I mean, I never put it directly on social, but whenever I talk to people similar to this conversation we're having, I'd mention it.

[00:06:55] Pocholo: And it's always like, shock, there's always a shock factor. And that, that really, really moves people as bad as that sounds. I guess it's really that alarming thing, something that needs to connect on an emotional level. And if I had to identify one thing, that was really a big part of it. And of course, the final part of that would to really create that community. Um, it's really important that people have other people to talk about, and especially since it's like, you know, it's like a movement, it's like so many other people don't care about it, so it's important that, um, people understand that, okay, this is what I'm gonna do next, this is what I have to change, this is what can make this transition easier.

[00:07:38] Pocholo: So those are the, that's the one last thing that I would say that, aside from that emotional connection, it's really finding that community that you can trust, that you can always work with, that eventually you even create projects and do bigger things together.

[00:07:54] Adam: Yep. I like what you really said about building that community, right? So if somebody's beginning a journey of changing their habits and behaviors, having support of people around them, and just that idea of like, it doesn't need to be boring or painful.

[00:08:07] Adam: Like you can make it trendy and kind of exciting and get people really understanding what the impact is of the waste that, that we generate. Um, especially when it gets into the oceans or in other areas. Um, and then using that to drive change one step at a time.

[00:08:24] Adam: Now you said you started in 2016, so you've been going about seven years. One, I'm curious, like, what's it like starting a company in the Philippines? Are there a lot of barriers and

[00:08:35] Adam: was that hard to set up?

[00:08:38] Pocholo: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Like, uh, I mean, as with any country, there's always going to be challenges around that. The government, I do have to commend them, especially the local government that I'm in, Quezon City. They've made really efforts to simplify. Um, business registration, but of course what happens after that, the compliance related things become tricky from taxes.

[00:09:01] Pocholo: But I do think that's true in so many other countries, I don't think it's something that's completely isolated to the Philippines, but the challenges are definitely there. Um, once the business grew bigger, there were challenges around, you know, importation. We had to talk to customs. I don't want to get into that. You probably know what's going to come after that. But, um, there are definitely challenges around that space that you feel like, you know, especially as a social enterprise as someone who's, you know, yeah, sure, we're, we're, we're chasing profit, but mostly to sustain the business.

[00:09:34] Pocholo: We, we also, you know, I feel like there should be some assistance, some category for green businesses, for sustainable, for social enterprises, that at least, because you know, I think the bigger challenge is really not so much the business part, but the social part, right? Like, uh, in moments that we have to choose between profit and, for example, the advocacy.

[00:09:55] Pocholo: Like, uh, let's make it specific. Um, packaging. So, whenever you have to ship an item, before we were very, very stern about that. Maybe up till 2019, we really were like, no, we're not gonna give in. We're gonna make sure our, our packaging is either paper or reusable plastic. Like, we wouldn't stick to the main couriers.

[00:10:16] Pocholo: We found a specific courier that would get us, that would do, um, pack, uh, plastic free packaging, among other things. But eventually, it became a hard decision for us that, okay, we're having a hard time. As I mentioned, the trend already went down, so we needed to pursue other sales channels. And as a result, that became, like, our equivalent of Amazon here in the Philippines, uh, Shopee and Lazada, which are very strict about using plastic packaging.

[00:10:40] Pocholo: In fact, like, Excessive plastic packaging, like you have to, something that's not breakable, you still have to put it in bubble wrap, and then you put it inside a plastic pouch. That, since that's how you ship it economically, and with Amazon, right, you have those, um, you use boxes, and you have fillers, which actually just are as bad, I guess, but at least in the Philippines, it's very, In your face plastic.

[00:11:04] Pocholo: Like, I'll send you a photo of , what the package here looks like, because it's really, it's insanely a lot of plastic. But because at that point we had no choice, we had to choose like, okay, do we pursue the sales channel even if it goes against our values? And at that point, yeah, we didn't have a choice.

[00:11:21] Pocholo: We were like, okay, if it's a survival of the business that we have to consider, then we'll have to give it. So those are I think, the more difficult moments like starting a business in the Philippines. It's. It has its challenges, but I think that's not exclusive here. I'd say the bigger challenge is that we should be able to incentivize, um, businesses like ours or other social enterprises to actually do it since there are so many other challenges you face and other considerations aside from profit.

[00:11:46] Adam: Yeah, that makes sense. Um, and even with big, huge corporations, you know, there's quite often people who are trying to tackle these problems and they just can't

[00:11:56] Adam: because of the cost considerations.

[00:11:58] Pocholo: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:11:59] Adam: but sometimes

[00:12:00] Pocholo: big corporations.

[00:12:03] Adam: so, but sometimes like understanding what the current process is leads to future innovation as well.

[00:12:08] Adam: So being able to use a system and understand its strengths and its weaknesses quite often that gives way to kind of future innovation.

[00:12:18] Pocholo: Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely.

[00:12:20] Adam: Now you don't sell just straws anymore. So you how did you expand your product line? And how did you choose what to do next?

[00:12:28] Pocholo: So with SIP, at least, we actually started a second business. I don't know if I mentioned it. Loopstore PH. Um, so SIP was really metal straws and it became more a B2B thing, so we decided to focus it onto the food sector because a lot of our customers were, , cafes, restaurants, so we said, okay, maybe we can work around that first and then let's see what happens.

[00:12:49] Pocholo: So it expanded into, uh, cutlery that we started out with bamboo cutlery and that really became our, that actually became bigger in terms of sales, uh, in terms of revenues. It became much bigger in relation to revenues because I guess it was a big, yeah, it was more expensive of course. We were able to sell it as a set and sell it as something that, okay, you can bring around, and the best part is you could actually customize it.

[00:13:15] Pocholo: You could change the color so that, you know, it caters to the corporate side of things. Um, so we eventually expanded into a tumbler and then we just, you know, completed the set with a lunchbox. And after that, we were like, okay, um, we want to add more other things that really complete the lifestyle because that's what a lot of our customers wanted.

[00:13:36] Pocholo: Um, that's how we decided essentially, okay, like let's time to venture out to try something new because. Now, our customers are asking us, do you have an alternative for black, for example, for paper, for menstrual products, for, what else, for shampoo. Shampoo was one of the first things, actually, but we just didn't have the expertise for that, so we just partnered up with someone.

[00:13:57] Pocholo: But we figured that, okay, we have the traction, we have the customers, um, so that's, and we have the community, we know people, so let's make it a collective. Let's, let's bring in people. Um, so we started Loop, and it was really mostly a consignment operation. Like we started, we built a store, a physical store here in Manila about 2019.

[00:14:19] Adam: So kind of a bit before the pandemic.

[00:14:22] Pocholo: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So that had its own challenges, of course. Um, but yeah, uh, we started, sorry, like late 2018. So we had a full year. We had a full year of operations. Uh, that somehow

[00:14:35] Adam: It's a way to get your footing.

[00:14:38] Pocholo: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And we managed to at least grow the brand in that year and not have to compete online like everyone else had to scramble once you know the pandemic started.

[00:14:48] Pocholo: So yeah, we built that store, we brought in a couple of partners. I think we started out around 20, 20 ish, uh, just because we were confident that at the start SIP will be able to carry the store and true enough. It did. That's how we drove followers. We drove customers into the store by having SIP promos only exclusive there.

[00:15:07] Pocholo: And allow them to discover new, new things in the store. And true enough, that happened. Um, we were able to bring in shampoo bars, conditioner bars, um, Ziploc replacements, towels made out of recycled plastic. Uh, swimwear made out of recycled plastic. We were really able to drive that, um, to capture that, whatever that market needed.

[00:15:29] Pocholo: And that, that allowed us to really at least get that. And we eventually expanded to other products. Uh, I guess since you mentioned the pandemic, I'll quickly touch on

[00:15:41] Adam: yeah, Actually, before you dive into the pandemic, I just want to expand on this because I think a lot of people starting out, don't know how to develop the next thing or things like that. How are you figuring out what the next product was? Like, how are you actually communicating with your community and your customers?

[00:15:58] Pocholo: Um, it was really just. Talking to the people, I would say we have champions in our community, the ones that I guess they double as ambassadors and they're essentially my friends. So they became my friends eventually. So it's really a personal, building that personal relationship with your customers.

[00:16:14] Pocholo: And of course, there's going to be the email newsletters that support that. But I think it really starts out with that, the friendship you build with your customers. And that goes a really long way versus, you know, focus group discussion surveys. They help. Yeah, for sure. But sometimes it's a hit or miss.

[00:16:30] Pocholo: Sometimes you'll still get it wrong. But if you talk to your customers, then that usually becomes easier.

[00:16:35] Adam: Great. Thanks. And so let's dive into the pandemic. How did that change things?

[00:16:42] Pocholo: Hmm. Yeah, uh, we had to close down the store. Search fully online because at that point the rent was pretty expensive for us, especially considering there was no foot traffic. That was a mistake, by the way. Like, you know, that's three years in hindsight. We should have opened the store in a mall, like that, that, that was the mistake because in the malls actually were very considerate, uh, towards merchants for quite a while, like they weren't charging rent for almost, I think, a year, a year and a half, which could have, you know, for us, yeah, sure, it's free rent, like just leave it there, you know, if it, if it picks up after the pandemic, then great, uh, if it doesn't, then yeah, sure, we can close down at a later time versus this one.

[00:17:29] Pocholo: We closed it down. two months into the pandemic because we knew that we were certain that this is not a good idea and true enough. It really wasn't, uh, of course, we scaled everything down during the pandemic. We just made sure that, you know, we went, we uh, switched to like survival mode for a while until things started to pick up again towards the end of the year because we started really developing more products because we figured that what we were good at. Yeah. was, yeah, we had, we had friends, we had consignment, uh, partners, but at the same time, we were really good at developing our own in house profitable products. Like, the margins on those things go way, way higher. So, consignment, usually here in the Philippines, ranges from 30 to 40 percent. Um, but if you have your own product, that can range from 50 to even as much as 90 percent, uh, profit margins in the retail sector, especially in, with things that are, More, novelty items or if not, um, things you only buy once. So you can charge a little bit of a premium for that. For example, our menstrual cups and menstrual discs. That worked out. That really drove our profit for a long time. And yeah, um, once we were able to scale down, we ended up focusing a bit more, I and my partner back then really, you know, doubled down on digital.

[00:18:47] Pocholo: She equipped herself in terms of social media, in terms of photography, whereas I took care of the digital ad side of things. And we were able to really create like that ad machine for almost two years that it worked really, really well and kept the business profitable. So that was really good. Um, SIP on the other hand still, so actually SIP sort of scaled down as early as 2019, 2020.

[00:19:13] Pocholo: We were really just focusing it more on corporate, um, partnerships, which is a good thing because, you know, corporate partnerships are nice. They're not consistent the way retail is, but once you get one project, um, that's okay. That, that, that keeps the company profitable for a month. And sometimes even years.

[00:19:31] Pocholo: And that really drove the profit for the company even throughout the pandemic. So that was a good thing that really kept us alive. I would say in the, in that two years, 2020 to 2022, we were really, we were actually thriving. Um, the challenge really actually came after. So once here, I dunno how it's for you guys, but for us, like the pandemic really was an effectively two years, uh, two years of.

[00:19:55] Adam: Yeah.

[00:19:56] Pocholo: limited movement. Like, uh, it's insane here in the Philippines. Like, you'd have quarantine passes, you'd have, uh, a lot of restricted movement. You can't travel to other countries or if not other provinces even. If you come back from another country, you have to quarantine in a hotel that would cost you like, I don't know, what, a thousand dollars for ten days, just so that you can be sure that you didn't have COVID.

[00:20:22] Pocholo: Um, so yeah, it was really a challenge. So when things opened up again in 2023, uh, oh no, more like 2022, around mid, early to mid 2022, um, It shifted people away from digital, and at that point, honestly, we were exhausted. We weren't sure anymore, like, do we still wanna pursue this? So, yeah, we ended up scaling down the business even more.

[00:20:45] Pocholo: So now it's just a very, very nimble operation, and I actually just run it myself now. Um, but yeah, it works. It still keeps the advocacy and the business alive, and we're just gonna keep it that way for a while while I also pursue other things.

[00:21:00] Adam: Got it. Neat. I'm curious, um, have you connected with other social

[00:21:05] Adam: enterprises in the Philippines?

[00:21:08] Pocholo: Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. It's a very small community. Uh, we're all friends. Yeah, more or less, more or less. If not friends, you at least know of them. So if ever you need something or you want to ask something, people are very open and kind. As long as, you know, you're also the same to them.

[00:21:24] Adam: Yeah. What does the social enterprise community look like?

[00:21:28] Pocholo: It's very small. Uh, I would say maybe around, wouldn't hit a hundred businesses. At least the ones that are, you know, I would consider sizable, or people that have dedicated a significant amount of time into their work. Because there are some, you know, the ones that are, uh, usually it's the ones that are started by university students, right?

[00:21:49] Pocholo: Like, they're like, oh, I have this idea, and then give them a few months, and then they give up. So there are others that have lasted way longer, and those are the ones that I would say are part of that. that qualified to be part of that community altogether. Uh, yeah, it's very small, very, uh, everyone knows each other.

[00:22:08] Pocholo: If you do something stupid and somebody has, so some people have, um, just quickly, quickly talk about that because it's a funny story. Um, so there's this bamboo, they were selling bamboo products and then their name was Bamboo Company. And then there were competitors, their names were Kawayan and, um, what was the other one?

[00:22:31] Pocholo: Bambuhay. So what he did was he, he bought like their, like certain variations of their domain and redirected it to his site. So yeah, that, that really, that really got

[00:22:45] Adam: People upset.

[00:22:47] Adam: Raise some ice, bros.

[00:22:49] Pocholo: yeah, so don't do things like that. It's a very small community and people will know, people will talk about it and it's not gonna be a good thing.

[00:22:57] Pocholo: So you have to be careful, really.

[00:22:59] Adam: So you said you're working on other projects, what's your vision for the future?

[00:23:04] Pocholo: I really want to get more on the corporate side of things, like the corporate sustainability because we don't have the scale. That's the reality of a lot of social enterprises here as well in the Philippines.

[00:23:15] Pocholo: Like, it's very limited, like, in as much as we're reaching a lot of people, even big corporations trying to transition into sustainability, like, they have all the money in the world and they'll still say, oh, it's too expensive for us, right? One of the things is they I considered earlier this year was working with this, uh, fast food company here in the Philippines. Um, and, thinking about the systems that you could create about bigger impact long term.

[00:23:43] Pocholo: It's something that even if I leave, even if I stop a year or two later, it's going to keep going. It's not as, you know, like with us. Yeah, sure. The advocacy is still there. We're still reaching a certain amount of people, but the impact has decreased. Because the amount of money and time we're pouring into it has also decreased.

[00:24:00] Pocholo: But if you do it in the corporate setting, if you do it directly with companies and influence them to make that change, you're able to really get it into the things that are more critical, so for example, creating metrics for how suppliers internationally would be graded and would be assessed to, you know, become more sustainable to qualify towards their climate goals, towards their waste goals, their packaging goals.

[00:24:27] Pocholo: So for me, that had, like, my mind would go crazy because, wow, the amount of things you could actually do, the amount of tools that are made available to you, especially now that I already. know what works and what doesn't. I know who to talk to in the community. It allows me to be more effective as a person, as a leader, as a changemaker, you know, even if that means being part of a bigger system.

[00:24:50] Pocholo: In fact, I would argue that being part of the system is also central to that. And I know, I'd probably want to do it in a consulting role because I'm not going to lie, like, even if I'm scaling things down. I've still been doing things on the side that are still contributing to the business.

[00:25:06] Pocholo: I feel like being an entrepreneur that that spirit won't really go away. It will even in a setting of a job I'm sure I'll still tweak that a bit. Another thing that I have been also been looking at actually is working with local communities here in the Philippines.

[00:25:22] Pocholo: Um, essentially it's looking for carbon projects. So, carbon projects, although I know there have been controversies. behind it as well, especially amongst the bigger ones or the ones that are just using it to either companies that are trying to greenwash or if not, companies that are taking advantage of the fact that companies want to greenwash.

[00:25:43] Pocholo: Those are what make the industry really bad. But here in the Philippines, there's a lot of potential. And again, working with communities always has that impact that tickle in my brain, the tickle in my heart. There's a lot of untapped potential here in the Philippines.

[00:25:57] Pocholo: Oftentimes, you will argue that conserving a certain space, like example, the experience I had in the start about diving. So whenever we go up to our communities, it's about a 3 hour drive from Manila in Batangas. there's no incentive to really conserve, you know? Like, some people will overfish, and they will be penalized actually by the government because there are certain areas that are marine protected areas.

[00:26:21] Pocholo: You could argue that, but this is also their livelihood, but this is the only thing they know to conserve and to protect what's around them. So if you're able to incentivize that through, you know, blue carbon projects or the blue economy, then that's something that's really exciting and interesting as well to me.

[00:26:36] Pocholo: And finding those people that we could work with on the ground to actually keep the place to, to financially incentivize these types of. conservation behavior, which before was unheard of. Before, you'd have to look for a donor. You'd have to just, you know, speak to their heart and, sorry, sorry, there's no money involved, but now there is.

[00:26:57] Pocholo: I mean, of course that becomes its own challenge, but I'd rather have that problem than the, than the opposite because if you have the money, at least you have some leverage to actually create that impact that you really want.

[00:27:10] Adam: That's neat. And I, I love just this journey of like growing SIP and the activities that you're doing and then realizing that, yeah, okay, seven years in, you've been through a pandemic, things have changed and being able to step back from that and really reassess what you want to accomplish. Um, and take a look at where the most impact is that you can make,

[00:27:30] Adam: but still, it sounds like you're in the middle of the journey, right? So, seven years, you still have a lot of stuff ahead. how has all this work changed you so far as a person?

[00:27:41] Pocholo: Study was actually, in the medical field. I was supposed to become a doctor. I even took the test to get into the medical schools already. And, yeah, um, it was a last minute thing. I took a gap six months in between starting university and starting the business. and I think that was the thing that got me to, you know what I don't lose much by trying something different. Because worst case, if I screw it up, then I'll go to med school, I guess.

[00:28:15] Pocholo: And, That didn't happen, clearly. And it's been seven years. For a while, I always said that, you know, okay, if this doesn't work out, even during the pandemic, I said that, you know what, okay, let's consider medicine again. But now, it's okay. After the pandemic, I was just like, you know what, there are other careers.

[00:28:31] Pocholo: I already know so many people. I stay in this sector. And think that was the biggest change. I found where I want to be. That's really, I think, the biggest thing that I would say changed me in the past years. Even back then, I would say I was someone who would really want impactful work.

I think if I told myself seven years ago that you'll have a good career in sustainability, I would have called bullshit. Like back then, nothing. Like these jobs in the sustainability sector, they didn't exist.

[00:29:05] Adam: Yeah.

[00:29:06] Pocholo: So, working in sustainability back then was... Grinding it out in, let's say some NGO that would be paying you, you know, peanuts. You wouldn't be able to have a viable financial career if you stayed in sustainability.

[00:29:21] Pocholo: That's how it was before. But now, wow, like six digit jobs in the U. S. for sustainable procurement. Who would have thought?

[00:29:31] Adam: well, and it's only going to increase because of the demands And the way the world's with climate change. I can imagine that conversation seven years ago when you're like mom dad. I decided not to be a doctor I'm gonna sell straws instead

[00:29:48] Pocholo: Yeah, no, that is not a funny conversation, I'm gonna tell you that. Yeah, that was really an uphill battle. I I'd always stand up for myself, even when I was young.

[00:29:57] Pocholo: Back then, I was very stubborn that we could change everything. We could do everything. But a lot of humility really came from scaling down the business earlier this year because I saw how so many people were willing to help. And that was a really good reminder that this is a community , that social enterprise community, not just the sustainability community. people will be willing to help if you allow them to help. At the end of the day, you'd need that group to actually impact more change. You really, really cannot do it alone.

[00:30:27] Adam: and it sounds like some of the magic that you've been able to create in sustainability is you know starting with a straw and using that as you know a starting point to engage in further conversations, um, and share the stories of what's going on so that other people can share those stories and really increase that impact.

[00:30:45] Pocholo: Yep.

[00:30:46] Adam: I've heard with sustainability, one of the most effective things that you can do is to find a small way you can make a change and then share it with 10 people, right? And so if you've been creating that avenue for people to share stories about sustainability and move on to bigger and bigger projects, that's a really a huge impact overall.

[00:31:06] Adam: How do people find out about you? Like where do they go to learn about

[00:31:09] Adam: SIP and other activities you're involved in?

[00:31:12] Pocholo: Yeah, websites up and running. Although you can't buy stuff directly there anymore. At least our catalog and the things we fight for are still there. So that's sip. ph. So sip. ph and loopstore. ph. So those are, it's essentially our online catalog and at least a way to contact us. Happy to at least always have that conversation at this point, you know, I have time So I'm happy to just talk to people, just get that fire I would say this one thing by the way, like I got scared I would say a bit earlier this year because I was exhausted towards When I closed the business, and , I still talk to people in this space. And sometimes I got scared that did my fire die out? I was generally scared about that. But having these conversations now that I'm more rested, headspace really is encouraging and fun. And it's always nice to have these types of conversations that remind us of why we do things and what we do it for.

[00:32:13] Adam: Yeah, and quite often you do need some space in order to let something new come in, and that means taking a step back from, activities which are really intense, but not creating the impact that you'd like, so, um, it takes a lot. I'm very excited to see what you get onto in the future.

[00:32:31] Pocholo: Thanks, Adam.

[00:32:32] Adam: Yeah. And thank you for sharing your journey of starting and growing and how you connected with customers and got feedback and added new products and just what you learned through kind of all these huge changes of the pandemic and your natural business life cycle.

[00:32:48] Adam: So, thank you very much for for joining me on the podcast.

[00:32:51] Pocholo: Thanks for having me, Adam. Appreciate it. Always fun to have these conversations.

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