Beyond The Islands

Gelaine Santiago: Canadian Filipino Entrepreneur with a Big Heart

Born in the Philippines and raised in Canada, Gelaine Santiago is a successful Canadian Filipino entrepreneur who owns Cambio & Co.. Cambio sells Filipino products in Canada, and there’s more about her and her company that needs to be told! Even more so to young aspiring entrepreneurs!

Who is Gelaine?

This Canadian Filipino entrepreneur has made her mark in Canada’s business industry. Sounds familiar? Maybe because we once wrote about Filipinos conquering the UK’s business industry. But this is just across the pond! Despite the fact that Gelaine is currently located in Toronto, her business, which aims to promote conversation about Filipino identity and heritage, is very much Filipino. It supports our craftspeople, and acts as a catalyst for social change. In a nutshell, it is also a reflection of her experience of discovering her Filipino identity.

Along with her business partner and co-founder, Jérôme Gagnon-Voyer, she established the online fashion retail website Cambio & Co. in 2015. Seven years later, there is no disputing Cambio & Co.’s success. Gelaine and Jérôme have created a company with more than 2,000 global clients, 12 partner organizations, and 10,000 social champions. However, Cambio is more than just a commercial venture; it also plays a significant role in Gelaine’s quest to rediscover her roots.

Tracing roots

Jérôme and Gelaine visited the Philippines in 2013. According to the latter, “It was a tremendously eye-opening experience.” Since her parents moved their family to Canada when Gelaine was just three years old, this was her first journey back to the motherland.

“I came to the revelation that my comprehension of who I was was completely lacking,” she said.

Gelaine and Jérôme had the chance to dive deeper into their shared interest in social enterprise while in the Philippines. The couple used their trip to learn about the non-profit industry in the country. “We found so many incredible firms embracing fashion to build a sustainable business model,” said Gelaine. The conscious Filipino entrepreneur was ubiquitous. This is how the idea of Cambio & Co.’s came to fruition.

Cambio & Co. and the Filipino Artisans

Cambio is not your normal online clothing retailer. The products are made in the Philippines by artisans. What’s good about this is that these craftsmen are part of Cambio. The company serves as the e-commerce platform that connects them to a larger clientele. People living abroad can purchase fashion items that not only honor their history but also help Filipinos by allowing Filipino craftspeople to sell to a larger market.

“It’s funny because the journey of developing and growing Cambio really parallels my own journey of discovering my roots and wanting to reconnect with the Filipino side of my identity,” said Gelaine. Through her journey of reconnection, she has also been able to establish a company that, in an ethical manner, supports the long-term survival of artists in the Philippines. It assists others in reconnecting with and preserving their own Filipino heritage. In other words, it comes full circle for those participating in this venture.

Bravo! If there’s one lesson to be learned from Gelaine’s journey, it is that knowing your roots and embracing them will take you far and wide in life.

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