Jo Bautista is an artist and social entrepreneur. In 2020, as Covid-19 disrupted our lives, she launched SendToGive, a social business that combines art and impact.
1. Hi Jo, first of all, can you tell us a bit about your personal and professional journey? How did the idea of SendToGive come to you?
I was born in the Philippines and came to Germany in September 2019 to pursue my master’s degree at ESCP. Six months into the programme, the Covid-19 crisis broke out. As I was quarantined here in Germany, I would constantly check the news about the Philippines, reading every day about the many ways the country was struggling during this time.
People were losing their jobs and going homeless on a day-to-day basis. That really freaked me out so, to cope with my negative emotions, I started painting every day. It occurred to me that, with a global pandemic in our midst, the best way to make the world better is if each individual person contributes.
My approach was through business. My first idea was to sell the paintings and to send the money back home. But I didn’t know how to sell them, especially because I couldn’t go out into the streets of Berlin. So I turned the paintings into postcards instead, and SendToGive was born.
2. How does SendToGive work exactly?
Through the SendToGive website, you can send a postcard to anybody without ever actually having to go to a post office: you can simply type out your message and send it online. All the profits from each postcard sent are used to support underserved farmers across four provinces in the Philippines.
SendToGive started in May 2020 with postcards but as we look on to our 2nd year and onwards, I want to move into securing and properly managing corporate donations.
Practically the entire 2021 has been spent on trying to secure the non-profit status here in Germany but this challenging step is also a very important one since it would enable us to work with corporations – that means bigger donations and greater impact.
The Philippines relies on an agricultural economy, but farmers are the poorest people of our population, which doesn’t make sense. So we’re trying to support them by giving them groceries, health insurance and scholarships for their children.
3. The opportunity to impact people’s lives for the better is very special. Have you managed to meet some of your beneficiaries?
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to meet any of our beneficiaries because I haven’t been home since the pandemic started. We have exchanged letters, though, and sometimes they send me videos. The one beneficiary we have the closest engagement with is a kid we started helping when he was 12. SendToGive provides him with enough money to cover his costs for school, such as food and transportation. His name is Ken.
4. How do the roles of artist and entrepreneur relate? Has one helped you become better at the other?
I do think so. As an entrepreneur, I don’t follow specific stages or a very well-defined plan. I tend to follow my intuition through some sort of flow, the same way that I paint. I’m not very methodical, but then somehow, it forms a picture at the end. It’s a very nonlinear, creative process and this way of doing things, which I think I am able to develop in my art, also helps me on the entrepreneurial side.
Flipping it around, I think my entrepreneurial side helps give structure and discipline to my art, pushing me to create paintings and drawings that have more than just a visual appeal but some kind of force in the world.
As an entrepreneur and artist, I don’t follow specific stages, and I tend to follow my intuition through some sort of flow, the same way that I paint. I’m not very methodical, but then somehow it forms a picture at the end. It’s a very nonlinear, creative process.
5. Art and entrepreneurship are both a process, indeed. Going back to your business, what’s next on the horizon for SendToGive?
I want to provide families in the Philippines with solar lamps. About 4.7 million Filipinos live with no electricity. That’s more than the size of Cologne and Berlin combined, a whole population that lives in complete darkness at night.
These families get by using kerosene lamps, which are hazardous to their health, especially since they are constantly inhaling fuel. It’s also expensive, taking up between 10 to 30% of a family’s income per month. Their money literally goes up in smoke! It’s also really bad for the environment. Kerosene, when you burn it, emits something called black carbon, which is a lot more heat absorbent than regular carbon.
So we want to replace these kerosene lamps with solar lamps that are healthier, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly. One solar lamp can also last a family up to 6 years. In our next stage of growth, through collaborations with corporations, we hope to provide solar lamps to entire communities.
About 4.7 million Filipinos live with no electricity. That’s the size of Cologne and Berlin combined, a whole population that lives in complete darkness at night.
6. Earlier this year, you became a member of the ChangemakerXchange community co-created by Ashoka and Robert Bosch Stiftung. What does it mean to you to be considered a change maker?
I don’t think the word changemaker belongs to me just yet. I think I have the potential to be one, simply because I have the desire and the willingness to act. But the Changemakers I have in my mind are those that really create change in a big way and I am not there yet. But I am working towards it and I’m looking forward.
When I started, I wasn’t thinking so far ahead. I just knew I wanted to help people. And then I tried and I just didn’t stop. I’m still trying today.
7. What piece of advice would you give to young people eager to make a difference in the world?
Start with what you’re passionate about and have fun with it. Just try and don’t overthink it. I know that whenever I start thinking about the risks and all the work that is left to do, I get this weird feeling and start asking myself: is it worth it? But when I started, I wasn’t thinking so far ahead. I just knew I wanted to help people. And then I tried and I just didn’t stop. I’m still trying today.
Interested in collaborating, sharing ideas or giving feedback, you can reach Jo directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.