For years, people’s perception of Iloilo City is that it’s a backwater town with nothing awesome happening. That may have been true then, but it’s a perception that’s increasingly being challenged today.
Right now, it seems like every investor is bent on pumping money into Iloilo’s industries. The noteworthy thing is that the boom isn’t just limited to Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) centers only; entrepreneurs and artisans are benefiting from this renewed commercial interest in Iloilo!
However, if there’s one thing that people loved about Iloilo, it’s the… well, people*. From an article in Project Iloilo:
“I love that, despite the current industrialization, it hasn’t lost its charm. It’s still a unique place filled with people who express their pride in this city.”
That shouldn’t be surprising. After all, it’s the people who make the communities, and it’s the communities defining a city or region’s prevailing culture.
For us at Maven, it’s vindication of what we’ve been saying over the past five years (and counting!): For a business culture to be defined, it needs a community — or even several — to establish it right. Community-building is at the heart of Maven. And boy, we’re the first ones to tell you this stuff ain’t easy!
Of course, we’re also the first ones to say that it’s all worth it. Here’s how we started with our community-building initiatives and how we kept at it through all these years.
* = And Iloilo supposedly has the best regional cuisine anywhere else, too. We’re willing to fight anyone on it, so don’t tempt us.
It all started with Google…
First Google Business Group Iloilo Meetup (2013) | Photo by GBG Iloilo
Yen Gonzales de Felipe, one of Maven’s founders and its current CEO, started like any other online freelancer: writing content for various overseas clients, doing link building, and carrying out inbound marketing and reputation management strategies for several websites. When she eventually managed her own team of developers and content writers, that’s when the entrepreneurial bug hit her.
In one of the blog posts she wrote in 2014, Ms. de Felipe said:
“It was a welcome challenge to go out of my comfort zone and by that I refer to I-do-my-s**t-and-you-don’t-have-to-know zone. I realized that I have so much to share not only to my friends but to my fellow online professionals and business owners as well. So I went out of my way to meet new people from different industries and became more visible during events and seminars locally.”
At that point, Ms. de Felipe was (and still is) active in serving as one of the community managers for the Iloilo chapter of the Google Business Group (GBG). At around the same period, she was heavily involved in organizing grassroots initiatives by Google Philippines like the ‘Find Your Precinct’ project during the 2013 Philippine elections.
The community might be active, but it was still hard to convince more people why digital is the new reality in the country.
As a way of acknowledging the challenges they were facing during that time, Ms. de Felipe wrote this:
What an Organized Community Can Do
The Maven of today aims to be a well-rounded and adaptive marketing agency. However, what did not change about the company is the core it was originally founded on: “To help businesses and organizations, regardless of size, a chance to succeed and scale through technology and the internet.”
Maven’s mission is accomplished through the widespread involvement of different communities through various activities we have initiated and are involved in. While the company’s involvement with organizations like Developers Connect and the WordPress Community ensures that we’ll always have a foot on technology and innovation, other events like Startup Weekend and the aforementioned GBG events are our way of “paying it forward”.
In other words, we don’t hesitate in giving opportunities to individuals who have the potential to harness their entrepreneurial sparks and create businesses that will benefit their localities not just in terms of employment, but also in terms of social mobility and empowerment.
It’s hard work, and it’s one where we find many of us dedicating weekends to helping organize these activities. But we find it rewarding, even if it sounds clichéd.
Ever seen the reaction of a 70-year old parolee who created a WordPress blog on her own even if she just used a laptop on the first hour of her training? There’s really no feeling quite like it.
The volunteers assisting the attendees during the Coding Girls worshop| Photo from Coding Girls Western Visayas Facebook page
Ultimately, we believe that the power to enact the positive change we wanted to see in our communities lie in us. As a company, we’ve already established years ago that Iloilo City — heck, even the entire Philippines — boasts world-class talent on par with the rest of the globe thanks to the internet.
Now, all we have to do is to keep encouraging people, businesses, and communities to get involved in helping us create a thriving and inclusive business ecosystem. And we can’t do it just by ourselves.
So, why play at being Superman or Captain America when we can team up and be like the Justice League or the Avengers?
And we always have one room for one more.