Even in a world where one has to constantly think about their state of political correctness, thinking of the welfare of others can be pretty low on our priority lists. It’s even harder to think of others at our age, when we have to deal with growing up, finding a job and figuring out how to pay for this month’s bills. It’s one thing to be compassionate for others while behind a keyboard, but it’s a whole ‘notha thing to actually do it IRL. It may seem that our generation is raring to change the world, but only a few get to follow through.
Which is why people like Kyzel Dagdag are gems. At just 21, he’s set up a bamboo charcoal business that doesn’t just reduce a solid waste problem in his home province of Iloilo, but also helps empower women and out-of-school youth by bringing them to the core of his social enterprise. He and his team of equally passionate neophytes got their start through BPI Sinag, a program of the BPI Foundation that challenges businesses and offers mentorship and financial support. Now in its third year (Kyzel was awarded in 2016), the program heralds a triple bottom line of “people, planet and profit,” the three Ps that Kyzel’s business, Bambulig, embodies so well. Young STAR caught up with the bright young businessman after sharing a testimony of his experience at the BPI Sinag Year 3 launch, and talked about how his journey into social enterprise began, and where he hopes to take it in the future.
YOUNG STAR: Tell us about Bambulig and how it began.
KYZEL DAGDAG: My family is rooted in the bamboo industry; my parents are bamboo experts in Iloilo. ‘Nung bata pa ako, I got to travel to bamboo communities, and ‘yung basic na livelihood nila is making charcoal, or pag-uuling. Dati, ang daming puno, pero ngayon, konti na lang yung mga puno. I realized that the deforestation was happening because of pag-uuling. There’s also the existence of the bamboo waste. Another thing that I realized is that the mothers from the community, wala silang ginagawa buong mag-hapon. After they cook breakfast and after mag-chika-chika ng konti, wala na silang ginagawa buong araw. Sayang ng oras nila. They don’t get empowered enough.
And this is where BPI Sinag comes into the picture, giving us an opportunity to create a social enterprise. Sabi ko, “why not?” Kung nandoon yung bamboo waste sa community and yung main source of livelihood nila ay pag-uuling, why not just use them together? Yung mga nanay sa community, sila na lang yung mag gather ng mga bamboo waste dun sa harvest site, and they can use their free time well. So aside from increasing productivity, they get additional income.
How did you come up with the ideas for the products themselves?
We have two products: the first one we have is the charcoal bamboo briquettes, which are used as fuel for cooking. Based on our research, almost three times yung burning time ng bamboo charcoal briquettes compared to regular wood charcoal. It’s smokeless, and walang ash pag pinapaypayan. Our other product is the bamboo charcoal dehumidifier and deodorizer. Basically one problem we see in urban areas is that in closed areas like condos, if you’re an active person, a foul smell tends to form in their gym bags, shoe racks, closets. That’s one problem we can address with the bamboo charcoal.
How did you decide to become a social entrepreneur?
Lately ko lang na-realize na ‘yung business pala namin before was a social enterprise model already, and I was exposed to it at a very young age. My parents would create products, and train and develop with different bamboo communities. We give them the idea, they execute the product, and we buy the product from them. And being raised as a Boy Scout, I was trained to really give back to the community, and in everything I do, there’s always involvement with the community.
Speaking of the community, how important is the role of the women and out-of-school youth in your business?
They’re very important because they’re one of the reasons we exist. We were motivated to create because of them, and to help them help themselves, to make a living, and be empowered.
What advice would you give to young people who want to become social entrepreneurs?
You start by really thinking: what impact do you want to make and what legacy do you want to leave? Start with that. Start with a dream, and with the help of institutions such as BPI Sinag, you start joining competitions, and start pitching your ideas to angel investors, or foundations, or different institutions. And pag start-up talaga, mahirap. Konting tiyaga lang. One day, you’ll really come to realize that if you hold on to that dream, that dream will come true. And it’s worth it. You come to realize na eto yung reason na bumabangon ako sa umaga; this change that we want to happen.
To know more about Kyzel’s business, visit facebook.com/bambulig.