Meet Jerome and Gelaine: CoFounders of Cambio Market

Meet Jerome and Gelaine, co-founders of Cambio Market and partners in life. They’ve been working on different social enterprises for the past few years and we finally caught up with Jerome to hear his story of how they got involved in social entrepreneurship and the experience and ongoing struggles and opportunities of startup life.

Thanks for chatting with us today. To get started, tell us what is your title and what you do.

My name is Jerome and I’m the co-founder of Cambio Market, an online store for socially responsible & ethical products. We source all our products from social enterprise partners across the world that work with neglected communities. I work with my partner Gelaine on this business. As an IT specialist, I handle everything related to technologies, the website, SEO and marketing analytics. Since we need to wear many hats, I also handle the finances, the shipping logistics and often write on our blog.

Where does your passion and drive for this work come from?

I’ve worked as an IT consultant for large ecommerce websites for many years and I was also actively involved in the social enterprise community since university. I love that I can now work on my own business in a field I love while making a positive impact. At Cambio Market, we’re not just selling products — we’re sharing stories of the people who make the products and helping some of the most poor and vulnerable people in our society. In this way, the more successful we are, the more our community partners benefit, and the greater our social impact. I’ve also always believe in the role of technologies to drive social change, which is also what we do at Cambio Market. All those reasons drive me to go the extra mile every day.

How did you end up in social entrepreneurship?

I come from an IT background and my partner Gelaine comes from an HR & Marketing background. We met in university while we were both volunteers for a student leadership organization called AIESEC. AIESEC is a social enterprise that develops youth into socially responsible and global citizens through its international internship program. This is really where our passion for social entrepreneurship began.

While we ventured into the corporate world after graduation, we kept volunteering our skills to various NGOs in Toronto during our free time. But after a few years in the corporate world, we wanted to create our own venture and we knew it had to have a greater purpose than just making money. The world of social entrepreneurship felt like a natural fit: a combination of our business experience with our passion for social good.

What would you say was the most important personal change you’ve experienced since you started your project?

Gelaine is my business partner and also my romantic partner! Working with colleagues in an office and leaving work at 5PM is very different from working and living with the same person. While Gelaine and I have worked as volunteers together in the past, this was nowhere as intense as working as business partners to launch an e-commerce store. Changing from a corporate environment to working from home full time with your partner has been a major personal change.

What did you learn from that experience?

When you’re completely immersed in your business (you live and work in the same place and with the same people), it’s very easy to get stuck in a bubble and overwork yourself. Although we still often work late into the night, we’re slowly learning how to integrate the business into our lives without it taking over our lives. Gelaine and I consciously make time to see our friends and family, meet different people in the industry, and set aside personal time for the both of us to just enjoy being together without having to think about work. When you’re going into business with a partner (even if it’s not your romantic partner), you need to set priorities together and constantly check in with each other to ensure you’re always on the same page.

What would you say is the most significant change in your idea or how you run your social enterprise from when you started?

We were aware that marketing (social media, blog, PR, SEO, etc) was obviously a very important factor in running a business. However, I would say we under-estimated how much this is really just the #1 factor to the success of your business. You can have the most amazing website, the greatest photos, great product description and a great social cause, but none of it matters when nobody is visiting your website and nobody knows about it. We were doing marketing of course, but this wasn’t enough.

What did you learn from that and how did you adjust?

We had to step up our game and do much more marketing. Instagram doesn’t need great photos, it needs amazing photos. Our blog didn’t need few blog articles, it needed a real content strategy to attract our target market. We couldn’t just wait on a few websites to link to us to deliver results, we needed to directly engage with influencers and bloggers and send them product samples. This needs to be a constant focus and a full time job.

What mistake do you see young entrepreneurs make the most?

Overthinking and overplanning their idea before actually getting started. The idea itself is just a small part of what makes a good and successful organization and execution will matter much more in the long term. Along the same lines, you don’t always need an “original” or “groundbreaking” idea — you just need to execute your idea better than your competitors. Whatever you choose to do at first, it will most likely change once it reaches the market. So get started now, even if it’s not perfect, learn from it, and improve based on what you’ve learned!

What advice would you give aspiring social entrepreneurs?

Creating a lasting and successful businessis a marathon, not a sprint. Success and great results comes with time, effort and dedication, it is never an overnight success. Keep trying and never compromise on your principles or social impact. This is the same advice I repeat to myself everyday.

So how can someone get involved/support/purchase from your social enterprise?

Feel free to shop on our website at Cambio Market http://www.cambio.market . Every single item in our shop is ethically sourced, handmade, and fair trade. On top of that, your purchase goes the extra mile to help our social enterprise partners grow their impact on the communities they support. Don’t find anything you like? That’s fine! Keep doing research, buy from social enterprises, and share the social products that you love with your friends — that’s how we will develop a larger market for ethical shopping. If you also know of any social enterprises with products that would be a fit for our store, please let us know at info@cambio.market.