Gising Gising

We all know Gising Gising for their fresh produce boxes and noble business model, “every box sold is a box shared”. Yes, for every produce box Gising Gising sells, another gets donated to a family in need. Inspired by the 1 for 1 model made popular by brands like Warby Parker and Tom’s, Gising Gising’s founders’ Celina Borromeo, Antonio Silva, and TJ Malvar sought out to bring this idea to our local community. Apart from providing families with a supply of fresh vegetables, this model enables GG to support local farming communities as well.

Read on to discover how these inspiring founders brought this idea to life with giving back at the core of its mission and how their dynamic has created and shaped their brand.

(left to right) Tonyo Silva, Celina Borromeo & TJ Malvar

Tell us about how Gising Gising came to be.

Tonyo: TJ is a highschool classmate of mine, and Cel a friend from college

Celina: We always knew we wanted to do business, especially in the field of social entrepreneurship, but we had other priorities at the time. Different careers and so on.

TJ: True! I’m a doctor, Cel is a product manager with a telco, and Tonyo was in Marketing. However, an opportunity came up during the start of the pandemic. I started a donation drive called Puso Kitchen to help feed displaced families. After a while, we got to talking and thought our goals would be more sustainable and achievable by shifting to a social enterprise. Fast forward to a couple of months later, Gising Gising was born! 

How did you  come up with the name Gising Gising?

Tonyo: It’s Celina’s favorite veggie dish. 

Celina: While it is my favorite, I won’t argue, we really wanted to send a message that business can be done in a way that has a direct impact to society. In short, we wanted to wake people up to a new way of doing things. 

TJ: True! Like it or not, this pandemic has really shown us how interconnected we all are. It’s really a wake-up call telling us we have to change the way we view things like nutrition, health, and of course, the way we do business. 

What is the problem that you’re solving? Why does it matter? 

Tonyo: Food Insecurity. It’s a big, complex problem and what we’ve started doing is barely scratching the surface. But hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.

Celina: Right now, we are doing what we can to help by focusing our efforts on giving immediate relief. Because of Covid, the hunger rate in the country went up 20% and an estimated 4.8M million families are experiencing hunger. Food donations are just the start. As we grow, we hope to come up with more impactful and sustainable solutions that will help solve the problem. 

TJ: As a doctor, I really believe that nutrition is such an integral part of one’s health and well-being. So many problems arise when a person isn’t “food secure”. What we are doing here with Gising Gising is only the beginning. We hope to be a part of the change that groups like yours are advocating for. 

How does it work? Describe your business model and how it works, how do you find communities to give boxes to? Distribution, logistics, etc.

Tonyo: Our business model was inspired by the OG’s of the space. Warby Parker and Tom’s to name a few. We found it really awesome how a simple shift in the traditional business framework can have so much impact on other people’s lives. After a while, these businesses became movements. Our goal is to replicate that success in the Philippines and somehow contribute to help address the issue of food insecurity.

Celina: Taking inspiration from these companies, we applied the 1 for 1 model wherein each time you buy a box of produce from us, another box is shared to a family in need (on your behalf). Just by shifting your produce buying habits to our company, you as a customer/partner have the power and ability to provide a week’s worth of fresh produce to a family in need. Despite having this model, our goal is to share boxes at no extra cost to the customers. We price our goods competitively with supermarkets and groceries. 

Tj: It’s a really new way of doing things. We understand that people are used to buying at palengkes and groceries. Buying online is a new habit. However, we hope that in time, people will see the merit of the concept and make the shift. 

Which produce box is your favourite and why?

Tonyo: My favorite box, a box I order every week, is the Gerilya box! My wife is sort of a health nut, so I try to keep up. We find that when doing meal preps and preparing high protein and low carb meals, the veggies in the box do the job. I love roasting the veggies and pairing them with a protein. It's simple and does the job for me. 

Celina: I stock up on the Araw Araw box regularly. We do our own cooking at home so we always need these pantry essentials. The Gising Gising box is a close 2nd. 

Tj: For me, it's hands down, the Gising Gising box. I live on a farm here in Antipolo and we love classic pinoy home cooked meals. This box provides the veggies that allow us to cook up the classics. Sinigang, Kare Kare, you name it. My daughters love it too so that’s a plus! 

How do you ensure  your produce is of good quality? 

Tonyo: Our chief farmer TJ does an amazing job in managing our supply chain. We’ve adjusted different facets of our operations to ensure that customers get the best produce possible. 

Celina: Yes, we have processes in place to ensure that the produce you get is truly farm fresh. Being in it for 4 months, we have found that it is something we improve on each day. And we don’t plan on stopping! 

Tj: It’s a continuous process for us and we continue to evolve as we grow. Without being too technical, it's all about having the right partners. One of our core goals is to help smallholder farmers earn a better living. As much as possible, we try to source directly from them. This allows us to cut certain redundancies in the supply chain and buy the goods at very fair market prices. Above the average usually. As we continue to do this, we build trust with our partners and in return they also take care of us, they take care of you. 

As business partners, what do you think you each bring to the table that’s unique?

Tonyo: TJ is our heart and our conscience. To add, his experience in farming and supply chain management is also a valuable asset. Cel is our boss. Having experience in the telco world and an MBA degree to boot, she keeps our operations in check. Weirdly enough, she also does our creatives which she claims to not enjoy, but we don’t believe her. I do partnerships and a bit of marketing. 

Celina: Yes, I do all the police work with these 2 deviants! Kidding aside, I try to apply what I’ve learned in terms of putting systems and processes in place. While we’re still a young enterprise, it's good to get into the right habits. And yes, I do the content as well! 

Tj: I live on the farm so I handle the day to day operations. Sourcing, assembling etc. It’s tough, but I’m getting the hang of it. I’m a doctor first,but I’m slowly learning the ropes. Fun Fact, since we launched in June and started planning in March, we still haven’t seen each other! 

What were some of the challenges you dealt with as entrepreneurs in the beginning stages? 

Tonyo: I still believe we’re at the very beginning. The most challenging thing for me is going against the norm. To be honest, people are still very used to buying their produce from traditional channels since it’s been that way for ages. However, we are confident that as we move forward, our mission and purpose is to wake people up to a new way of doing things! 

Celina: The most challenging thing for me is getting these 2 deviants to follow the rules. HAHA but kidding aside, it's really about running a smooth operation. What we are trying to do is good intentioned and all, but that alone won’t guarantee success. For us to be able to continue sharing the goods, we need to be a financially stable organization as well. It’s been a challenge for sure, but everyday, I believe we’re moving one step closer to our goals. 

TJ: How to follow the company rules! HAHA For me, the most challenging thing is figuring out the correct formula when it comes to our supply chain and operations. There are so many factors we try to balance. We want to source fairly, be environmentally responsible, share boxes and so on. All this comes at a cost. And effort! It's not easy, but we believe these things will pay-off in the long term. Fingers crossed! 

What has been most rewarding about this experience so far?

Tonyo: It's so hard to narrow it down to one. If I had to choose though, it's meeting so many awesome people who are working hard to make a difference. It's so inspiring to see organizations like yours, like FTF. It's so easy to get demoralized with the current climate, but seeing you guys do your thing, we feed off of that…We get energized and ultimately, we push through!  

Celina: For me personally, the most rewarding experience is having the opportunity to create a platform that brings out the innate spirit of bayanihan. In just 4 months, we’ve been able to share the goods with over 2000 families. It just goes to show that there are a lot of people who want to do good. 

TJ: On my end, it's seeing my friends, our partner farmers slowly but surely have the ability to provide for their families despite the pandemic. I live near our place of operations and the farmers here, they are very close to my heart. Because of GG they’ve experienced an increase in income. Again, this is only the start but we hope that as we grow, they grow with us!

You ask this question,  so now we’d like to ask each of you -- what change would you like to see in your lifetime?

Tonyo: I hope social entrepreneurship won’t be a category under business…won’t be something we even celebrate anymore. I hope it becomes the norm. The way everybody operates. 

Celina: we should realise that there are opportunities, resources, and like-minded people everywhere and that we have to get better at putting these pieces together to create lasting solutions that can help improve the quality of life of people

TJ: As a doctor, my ultimate dream is to make universal health care a reality in the Philippines. As one of the co-founders of Gising Gising, our collective aim is to make healthy food more accessible and fun for all. These are lofty aspirations and seem unattainable. But when brought down to the level of the community, it becomes less overwhelming and more actionable. 

As an idealist and a pipe-dreamer, I used to get so overwhelmed with everything that I wouldn’t get anything done. A key realization I had in recent months is to change my perspective a little bit. So now when I frame it, it goes like this: My dream is still to make healthy food more accessible and fun for every Filipino. But my goal is to simply make healthy food more accessible for our community. I believe that this kind of thinking will enable us to create lasting systemic changes in the way that we do things in our country. Change starts from small beginnings, and It starts at the level of the community.

To learn more about Gising Gising, click here.