|The members of KAINA are celebrating the first opening of KAINA restaurant. Photo provided by KAINA.
KAINA, which means “Let’s eat together” in Tagalog, is a social venture that supports the independent living of single moms and children in the Philippines. Three students from Hanyang University and Nerryrose Zamora from Ateneo de Manila University (AMU) came together and started KAINA to support single moms living in Maogma village in which they cluster. It is a village that was specially arranged for homeless single moms by the local governments and civic organizations.
The team members first met each other at last year’s Social Venture Youth Exchange (SVYE) in the Philippines, which is a leadership program that promotes the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
With the cooperation and the support of AMU, KAINA restaurant could launch their first branch in a cafeteria of AMU. KAINA helps single moms by employing them to sell Korean food, all to support their independence.
“Currently, we’ve been staying in the Philippines for six months for the first launching of KAINA,” said Lee Jae-seo, one of the first members of KAINA. “We had the chance to develop KAINA during a boot camp and social venture festival held last year.”
Lee explained that he was more of a person who perceived social problems superficially before he started KAINA.
“When we first started this business, we thought that every problem could be solved if we provided the society with a franchise in which single moms can live independently,” Lee said. “Still, there was a single mom who couldn’t work with KAINA because there was no helper for her baby. Also, even when the child is grown up, the child would wait for the mother outside, instead of a safe school.”
To solve this complex social problem, KAINA is planning to form a social innovative cluster focused on the Philippines in January. Though the plan has not been set perfectly yet, Lee seeks to use his experiences and lessons he had learned throughout university to develop his plans. KAINA may not be considered a success in terms of business, but the team believes that it has succeeded in terms of social help. The venture has hired four single moms and provided stabilized jobs ever since it was founded in June.
“Deep connection with the local community and single moms was key to our success,” Lee said. “The long preparation time and on-thespot investigations contributed to the social venture’s success as well.
Lee further explained the reason for choosing Korean food franchise. As the demand for Korean dishes were on the rise, along with the peaking popularity of Korean dramas, the team thought opening a social venture that specializes in Korean food would be able to bring the attention of Philippine women.
KAINA originally had planned only the employment of single moms. However, Lee came to realize that when the goal of a social venture is short-term, the project could end up negatively affecting the local society. Therefore, KAINA came up with more ideas that could support single moms in the longterm.
“We changed plans by delaying our return to Korea to stabilize various practices that could solve the social problems of the local community in the Philippines,” Lee said. “We are currently planning to establish a daycare center for children and micro financing to promote the independence of the local community. These systems would help free single moms from domestic work and financial problems.”
He further emphasized the difference between social venture and commercial enterprise hoping for more social venture founders.
“The focus of social venture emphasizes the impact and real changes whereas commercial enterprise seeks to maximize its profits. It’s very important to set a realistic business model so that it can be applied in real life.”
KAINA believes that ways to solve social problems do not necessarily have to be innovative and creative. As what Lee said, sustainability is the most important factor.