AT the peak of rush hour, on the last working day before a long weekend, Bryan Benitez-McClelland challenged his intern to an “impromptu intercity” race from Salcedo Village in Makati to Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig. McClelland rode his bicycle, while his intern took a motorcycle. The former arrived in BGC, parked his bike and had a nice dinner before he received a text that declared the youngster’s arrival in the area.
This author met up with McClelland at a coworking space called Impact Hub, where he delivered a talk for Life Stories, an event by MAD Travel and Where To Next, where the latter helps people connect with their passions and purposes.
McClelland is a Filipino-American who had lived in the United States (US), but would often visit the Philippines as a growing boy. Those visits, paired with his curious and reflective nature, made him wonder what it would be like to be a Filipino living in the Philippines. When he found an opportunity to lend a hand in Gawad Kalinga (GK), he decided to finally find out.
While volunteering in the Philippines, McClelland did some work as a stuntman that led to some opportunities in commercial modeling. “Working with communities in the day then walking the runways at night exposed me to a life of extremes,” he recalled. His experiences were highly relatable to my own when I first visited this country. On the one hand, we saw a life of poverty and paucity; on the other, we experienced glimpses of the high-class lifestyles that rapid economic growth has facilitated. One side boasted community and togetherness, while the other lacked inclusivity and sustainability.
McClelland would soon find a way to merge those two worlds through Bambike.
Synthesize and scale
BAMBIKE is a socio-ecological enterprise based in the Philippines that hand-crafts bicycles from locally grown bamboo. It was the first of McClelland’s many business endeavors in the country.
Its tagline, “Revolution Cycles,” suggests that he did not come home only to develop a one-off, elitist product aimed simply at profit. The innovator founded a scalable idea, the potential benefits of which Filipinos from all over the country will soon be able to “ride on.”
“It’s been a lot of fun, but it hasn’t been without struggle,” the Filipino-American recounted between sips of beer. While well-educated in sustainability and community development, McClelland still relies a lot on improvization and creativity.
“Social entrepreneurship is a bit like jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down,” he joked. I laughed, though I know he was not kidding.
What always strikes me about McClelland is his ability to synthesize and scale. He takes his experiences, distills them into principles, and then expounds those principles into detailed and holistic systems. I suspect this was exactly the method he used to come up with Bambike and how he will lead the revolution that will follow it.
These principles have guided the entrepreneur through the trials and tribulations he has experienced thus far. Those could indeed guide us all, I believe, in our pursuit of purposeful entrepreneurship.
Learning to pivot
“KNOW when to change things. If they are not working, do something about them,” McClelland said.
The stuntman-turned-model-turned-entrepreneur has not been spared from crisis and failure. He simply knows how to handle them. Many of his projects are now on the rise (aside from Bambike, he also runs Batala Bar and the Philippine Artisan Trade, a hip space for Filipino-inspired cocktails and local goods), and they are largely due to McClelland’s ability to recognize failure and transform it into success.
When his venture into white water rapid tours did not take off, he focused instead on creating eco-tours around Manila. Today, Bambike Ecotours runs regular courses all around Intramuros in Manila, BGC and Poblacion in Makati City.
DETAILS, cause-and-effect loops, as well as reason, seem to interest McClelland greatly. Where most people would probably stop questioning and begin to simply accept answers, he would continue to ask, “Why is it this way?” then promptly incorporate the answers into more questions and more solutions.
This kind of curiosity transforms into concern and allows him to create thoughtful and supportive company practices. When he found out the number of broken families due to overseas work migration, McClelland set up all his facilities close to his builders’ homes. He also has a hard-line approach on making sure all his builders’ children are able to attend school.
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