Access to better paying and permanent jobs has not always been within easy reach for out-of-school youths (OSYs) and indigenous peoples, more so during the Covid-19 pandemic. This reality inspired two women technopreneurs, Paula Bayao and Cherlyn So, to set up their respective start-ups called Puldiya and Raketeer. Their goal is to provide opportunities for employment specifically for these socially marginalized groups in the youth sector through skills upgrading and eventually match them with the right employers.
Start-ups addressing social inclusion
“Puldiya hopes to address the social inclusion of the indigenous community, specifically the Igorots, to ensure that no one is left behind as we move forward in dealing with the new normal,” says Bayao, a freelance industrial engineer who recently put up the Baguio-based start-up with co-founder Katlyn Say-Awen. The start-up also serves as the community arm for Bayao’s business called Hey Success Virtual Assistance Services. Puldiya, which means ‘pay per day’ in kankana-ey dialect, is a reference to the labor-intensive but informal jobs many Cordillerans do like gardening, mining, or carpentry and where payment is mostly per day’s work.
“Puldiya aims to create sustainable job opportunities through virtual assistant freelancing for indigenous youth in Baguio City and nearby municipalities using the Education to Employment Model,” says Bayao, who is an Igorot herself. Under the model, low-income earners will be ‘rapidly reskilled and upskilled’ in in-demand soft, digital, and technical skills to help them succeed as independent remote workers.
Skills training will be done through webinars and will focus on bookkeeping and accounting, training management services, and data annotation. Once skills are in place, Puldiya will also take care of matching their community members, which also include students and professionals apart from indigenous youths, with the right companies.
Raketeer works in the same vein but with the dual aim of 1) empowering out-of-school youths ages 18-30 through skills upgrading and employment and 2) bringing counseling and value formation to youths who need emotional support no matter their social background.
“Raketeer is taken from the word ‘raket’ which, in Filipino, means sideline. We want to add a more positive note for it to mean earning money through legal means,” says So, who has a background in business and human resources. Inspiring her to pursue the start-up are youths she often encounter, some of who are going through depression while some are in desperate need of work to augment their parents’ income. “In dealing with the youth, I realized that some may not be as resilient to changes. More than IQ, what many of them need are emotional, social, and adversity quotients,” So says.
How to incorporate such nuanced purpose through a start-up and translate it into a viable service or product was a challenge for both So and Bayao.
From idea to social enterprise
Both Puldiya and Raketeer were fledgling start-ups when they became part of the Miriam College-Technology Business Incubator’s (MC-TBI) second batch of incubatees. Under the program called “The Nursery,” MC-TBI is able to provide a whole ecosystem of support for start-ups, especially those that are women-led like Puldiya and Raketeer. MC-TBI is supported by a grant given by DOST-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology, Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD).
“For six months, incubatees get free and full support in facilitating the development of their start-up ventures in their early stages,” says MC-TBI Manager Ma. Cristina Ibañez, explaining the role of “The Nursery” Program. This support includes capacity-building activities, mentoring, networking events, providing potential seed funding, and conducting a series of trainings on business development and legalization as start-ups transition their business ideas into a minimum viable product.
The MC-TBI is housed under the Miriam College-Henry Sy, Sr. Innovation Center which provides the facilities and tools that incubatees may need as they develop their start-ups. However, since the pandemic, all capacity-building sessions are held online.
“We’ve gained invaluable knowledge from the trainings conducted by MC-TBI. What we’ve learned from them we were able to cascade to our members as learning tools in building their freelance businesses,” shares Bayao. “MC-TBI was also able to advise us on matters concerning registration of our start-up as well as connect us with the right government agencies and networks that can be source for possible grants.”
Scaling up their purpose
To date Puldiya is up and running and has been able to successfully match some of its members with clients and are receiving an income that is above Baguio City’s minimum wage. Being an online and service-based start-up, they saw their roster of clients grow during the pandemic. This means more possibilities for job matches with their trained youths. But funding remains to be a challenge, says Bayao. “In freelancing, you will need the skill plus internet plus computer. We can find a way to provide skill plus Internet but computer units are expensive,” she adds.
As it searches for more funders, Bayao, together with her team of six, is keen on building a strong foundation for Puldiya so that they can scale it up in the right time. “We are aiming to have 100 freelance members from our indigenous community for the next 3-5 years,” she says. The number may seem low but this is because Puldiya is training its members from the ground up and is doing it in the context of the Igorot culture. “We Igorots are more inclined to become business owners because we prefer working in the field or garden and owning our time and risk rather than working 9-5,” she explains
Purpose and intention
Raketeer, for their part, says they found MC-TBI at the right stage of their start-up. “We needed a mentor that time--someone who can shed some light on what we were doing and MC-TBI was able to provide that,” says So.
To date, Raketeer has signed a memorandum of agreement with a digital company that has committed to hire youths trained by Raketeer in digital and graphic design. It has also begun offering counselling and skills training through community partners like Verbum Dei and a Christian group based in Palawan who both work specifically with OSYs. So and her team of four are currently in talks with the Palawan local government for possible future trainings.
For her admirable work, So was able to catch the attention of Power Mac which will fund the iOS or mobile operating system of the Raketeer App that will make their services not only a click away but user-friendly for the youths they intend to help. “Our start-up is a growing baby that needs continuous support. Every youth that we give trainings to and are able to motivate, encourage, and connect with Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises is already a success for us,” says So.
Reflecting on the lessons she’s learned in building her start-up, So shares that knowing one’s purpose is very important. “Do everything with a heart and come with clean intentions and everything will fall into place,” she says.
[MC-TBI has opened the call for new start-up applications for a new batch of incubatees and technopreneurs who can be part its "The Nursery" Incubation Program for six-months. The deadline for submission is August 13, 2021.For more details, visit their FB page @miriamcollegetbi or email email@example.com.