My first taste on building a social startup

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Building a startup is not easy. Building a social startup is even more difficult. I figured, however, why not try it? Social enterprises are, after all, close to my heart.

Last 2017, I found an opportunity to build my own startup through the opening of applications for the BPI Sinag U for Entrepreneurs, a social business pitch competition. I applied through the Lasallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development, which was handling the training program for Lasallians who wanted to join the competition. I got in, went through the training program, developed a social business idea with my partner, participated in the regional competition, got qualified for the national competition, and won sixth place overall. The national level was composed of student teams from across the Philippines. It was a very exhilarating experience–one that I will surely never forget.

Fast forward to today, after accomplishing all the business plans, marketing strategies, financial models, operational systems, and investment profiles, among many others, my team is now composed of five people. We are, however, going back to scratch. We realized that we had different directions in terms of the growth trajectory that we want our startup to follow. We also realized that we still do not exactly know the core problem that our startup aims to tackle. Bottom-line is, we need to revisit why this startup idea exists in the first place.

Currently, we are undergoing intensive market research as well as aligning the varying interests and goals of the team. Our startup idea is basically a shipping container urban farm which we tentatively named as Lungtian Urban Farm. It aims to tackle the issue of food security in urban communities, as well as promote economic development and sustainable communities. It is essentially a farm within a shipping container wherein the temperature, weather, lighting, and overall environment suitable to the growth of crops are simulated. This involves several pieces of technology such as Internet of Things, aquaponics, vertical farming, and LED lights, to name a few. The business concept is essentially similar to shipping container urban farms such as Freight Farms, Square Roots, and Growtainer, among others.

At the end of the day, our goal is to be able to provide quality crops in the urban setting of the Philippines, as well as enable easier market access to such crops. We will also be tapping into farmers and low income individuals as our primary workforce. This will be the main social, human element that our business aims to tackle, apart from solving the problems of consumers in terms of food security.

Here are some photos of our current prototype tests.

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