Fishy Folk (previously Explore Apnea)

Fishy Folk (previously Explore Apnea): Skin Diving Tours

Quezon City, PhilippinesPhilippines
Year Founded:
2014
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Fishy Folk teaches skin diving through guided trips to the ocean. We train and hire locals from coastal communities (specifically Marine Protected Areas) to be our skin diving guides. These guides help us expose tourists (first-time divers) to the ocean and educate them in the process.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if something as fun as skin diving could save our seas?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Coastal communities, especially ones in MPA's, turn to tourism as an alternative to fishing.Though they mean well, locals are unaware of the damage caused by their practices. Businesses abuse marine life for profit when they should know better. This lack of education and awareness is passed on—not only to the children of these locals and businesses, but to the tourists they cater to. It’s a cycle that’s hurting marine life slowly but surely.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Skin diving is the middle ground between snorkeling and scuba diving. Like scuba, skin diving involves submerging yourself in water to look closely at marine life. But instead of relying on a tank to breathe, all you have are a mask, snorkel, and fins. Because skin diving requires such minimal equipment, it’s easy to teach and has less impact on the environment. Through skin diving, Fishy Folk gives tourists deeper experiences with marine life and educates them about marine conservation. Our goal now is to involve locals by training and hiring them to be skin diving guides. Customers who know better want better. Educated guides result in educated tourists who demand proper practices from tourism businesses.

Awards

Semi-finalist (as Explore Apnea), BPI Sinag (sinagpitch.bpifoundation.org)
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Virgilio Enriquez, founding president of the Calatagan Mangrove Development Alliance, is a key player in protecting the community's mangroves and seagrass reserves. Now he wants to establish another MPA in the community—a possible dive spot. With Fishy Folk's help, he conducts test dives in that spot and proves that this area where people overfish is worth protecting. He gets Fishy Folk to teach locals skin diving and organizes dives in the area. As tourists and other livelihood projects come in, locals who used to make fun of him for protecting the area follow suit. The community then takes better care of the area as they see its value beyond providing fish.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Fishy Folk has had 4 dives with a total of 30 participants and a revenue of 30,000 pesos. While these dives were successful in testing our market segment, we've yet to partner with an actual coastal community. Given 125,000 pesos and 4 months, we can provide one community in Anilao, Batangas with equipment, manuals, and training to produce 10 skilled guides. If we hold regular dives (consisting of two day-trips, one three-day trip, and two advanced courses per weekend) after that, we can breakeven in one month. We'll know we're successful when: 1. Our target MPA's or communities score higher according to a tracker tool made by the UP Marine Science Institute 2. There is growth of income in the area 3. There is growth of tourism in the area 4. There are less incidences of fish feeding, overfishing, fishing of endangered species, and other illegal activities

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

In five years, Fishy Folk should have partner communities in Mabini and Tingloy (Anilao), Apo Reef (Sablayan), and Mactan, Moalboal, Malapascua (Cebu). We should have 100 fully trained and equipped skin diving guides, 800 dive trips so far, 500 loyal customers, and a revenue of P10,000,000 a year. Most importantly, we should have a reputation as the first skin diving tour company in the country,with the most skilled skin divers and knowledgeable marine conservationists.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The actual dives pay for themselves. Whatever profit we earn for the first few years will be invested in our partner communities. If we hold regular dives consisting of two day-trips, one three-day trip, and two advanced courses per weekend after training one community, we can already breakeven in one month. We can earn a revenue of 900,000 pesos if we have regular activities for a whole year afterwards.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Other enterprises on changemakers.com who are targeting Marine Protected Areas (such as Marine Gifts and Blue Ventures) propose ecotourism as well. But they propose a variety of other projects to go with it. Fishy Folk is different because it focuses on teaching a specialized skill set. More than providing income, we want to empower them through the new skill of skin diving and workshops about first aid and rescue, marine life, and marine conservation. These are lessons they can use to manage their home and natural resources for the rest of their lives.
Team

Founding Story

My business partners Gela Petines and Gyobs Baguio started a skin diving organization called ISDA in the Ateneo de Manila University four years ago when they saw the potential of skin diving in advocating marine conservation. Our third business partner Owen Sanico was part of the first batch in 2011 while I joined back in 2013. Skin diving has made me feel more connected to the ocean. It’s helped me see how my behavior and habits directly impact the environment. My business partners and I have seen the same change in the people we dive with. With Fishy Folk, we get to share this life-changing activity with more people, especially those lucky enough to live right by the ocean.

Team

As founder and CEO, I've recently quit my job to pursue the enterprise full-time. Apart from looking for funding and grants, I handle day-to-day operations. I'm also in charge of branding, marketing, and content creation given my background in graphic design, copywriting, and photography. My three partners are part-time consultants. Gela Petines is a project manager in a renewable energy company. She founded ISDA (https://www.facebook.com/ISDAteneans/?fref=ts) and initiated the Batang VIP Project (https://www.facebook.com/Batang-VIP-422767897928424/?fref=ts). She's our consultant for legal and financial matters. She's also our advisor for community involvement and development. Gyobs Baguio, also founder of ISDA, is a teacher in the Philippine Science High School. He's in charge of training and managing our guides. Owen Sanico is a service transition analyst in an IT company and has been education & research officer and water safety officer in ISDA in the past. He's our systems architect, in charge of constructing the user experience and using feedback to improve that. As the project grows, the team will include a COO, CFO, and guide trainers on the ground in partner communities.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

I saw the call for entries on Facebook.

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder, CEO

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

As a member of ISDA these past two years I’ve designed promotional and educational materials, participated in member dives and training sessions, planned and led dives, and taught total newbies to dive. I’m most proud of volunteering in a summer camp for kids in Anilao, Batangas. We taught these kids how to explore the sea (which is right by their home) with skin diving. More importantly, we helped them understand the life that exists in the water and how to interact with it.

I didn’t stop there. A few months ago I helped my business partner Gela raise money and organize efforts to send 83 kids from Isla Verde, Batangas to the Mind Museum here in Manila. The Batang VIP project (https://www.facebook.com/Batang-VIP-422767897928424/) aimed to empower the kids who live at the epicenter of marine biodiversity in the world by educating them and showing them how important they are in conserving our oceans.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

My mentors have been my bosses from my last two jobs. Dwight Co founded Pepper.ph, PhotoKitchen, Hole in the Wall, and Table Crafter. Mike Parker founded and is president of And a Half, a brand consultancy and design studio. He used to work for Got Heart Foundation.

The BPI Sinag group (which includes both organizers from the BPI Foundation and the other 39 semi-finalists) is a constant support system I continue to communicate with.

Just recently I found out I was chosen to be one of the DO School's 20 fellows in their 2016 program. I'll be attending the program from January to March in Berlin, Germany.