Inverting the pyramid

The overwhelming response last March 8 in the Women Negosyo Summit was indeed very encouraging as we realized that somehow Go Negosyo has been able to connect with a wider reach of Filipinos.

In a research we conducted to estimate the level of awareness of Go Negosyo and its entrepreneurship advocacy, 70% of the respondents answered that they are indeed aware. They have heard about Go Negosyo from our TV show, newspaper advertisements, radio announcements, and website; and through word of mouth. The result just confirms why the women entrepreneurship summit was very well attended. We now see the message of Go Negosyo, “negosyo: sagot sa kahirapan”, gradually sinking in the minds of many Filipinos.

Now, there are a lot of Go Negosyo entrepreneurs who are strongly showing their support to the advocacy. By just making an effort to appear in our Go Negosyo activities is already a great step in giving back. Corazon Ong, who is a Go Negosyo advocate and who appeared in our book on inspiring women entrepreneurs, attended the morning session and came back to be part of the afternoon session last March 8. She is the Founder and CEO of CDO Foodsphere – a competitor of our business in processed meat. I have great admiration for her work as a woman and as an entrepreneur.

Fernando Fernandez, Chairman and CEO of Unilever Philippines – our joint venture partner in our Selecta ice cream business, sent me an SMS. “Joey, we’ll continue helping. I have always believed that poverty fight, in my country, here or wherever, is not about unplanned charity. It is about giving people the skills and capabilities they need to become good “negosyantes“. I feel you are building something great for this country and we are happy to give you our little help in this crusade. Cheers…” Fernando is originally from Argentina, a country similar to the Philippines.

From the nine Inspiring Women of the Year who were recognized last March 8, Unilever gave a Creamsilk Special Award to Tina Medina. She is a blind teacher who has a great attitude in life despite the odds. She continues to fulfill her purpose in life and has done something that will make many proud. Along with the special award, she received a check worth 100 thousand pesos from Unilever.

We are now seeing a swelling of big business that want to help micro and small entrepreneurs to scale up. As we look at the pyramid, big businesses at the top are large contributors to the growth of our country. But, then again, similar to our social structure, the wealthy control the country. Those at the bottom of the pyramid are the bulk of the population. It is important that we are able to help those at the bottom to move up. This in then end helps us to fight poverty and make Filipinos prosper. Progress means a larger market as well for all negosyos.

Recently, BPI Family Bank launched “Ka-Negosyo Business Loan”, a program that will help small entrepreneurs not only by providing financial assistance but by providing actual mentorship. According to Gigi Montinola, who heads the BPI Family Bank, they have positioned the BPI Family Bank to address the needs of their SME partners. BPI Family Bank President Yogi Salcedo relayed to me their commitment to help build these sectors, which they believe is crucial to a wider-base development in our country. To help the SMEs, they are now offering collateral-free loans at very competitive rates. They will focus on the bankability of the entrepreneur himself and his business model. They have no cap on the funds that they intend to use for this purpose.

While I was writing this column, I was in Baguio and then in Dagupan attending two of our Negosems in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry. Those were well attended one-day seminars, with entrepreneurs from the CAR and Region I. Some even travelled 12 hours from the mountains and farms just to attend the Negosem. I decided to join some of the Negosems being conducted by our group to be able to get a better feel on how our micro and small entrepreneurs think and what their concerns are. It was quite encouraging and a real fulfillment when you are out there helping people, encouraging them and giving them hope. We combine this with actual teachings on the key concepts of entrepreneurship which focus on self-mastery, mastering opportunities, product development, marketing and financial literacy.

We are blessed with the many Angelpreneurs who have consistently lectured in our Negosyo Seminars or Negosem series around the country. They are Ping Sotto, Dean Pax Lapid, Jay Bernardo, Butz Bartolome, Cito Beltran, Henry Tenedero, Luis Cruz, Reuel Virtucio, Titus Ortigas, Nonoy Espileta, Jorge Wienekie, George Soriano, Mylene Abiva, Ed Pilapil, Armand Bengco, Tess Dimaculangan, Benel Lagua, Glenn Batocados and Eric Villarama to name a few. It is great to have a community of Angelpreneurs who are equally committed educators sharing their knowhow to the participants, to make them better entrepreneurs. It is great to be able to provide them with the materials that will make them better entrepreneurs.

Many of the entrepreneurs who participate in our Negosems are not part of any business clubs. They are less empowered with the right concepts. You can only imagine how they can reassure themselves that they are on the right track. There is that lack of mentorship. Through Negosems or other programs like these, they learn the right way of starting and growing a business.  They are able to get the reassurance to give them the strength to persevere. They are given answers to their questions. Our guests and audience are also able to hook up with people who can advise them on different negosyo topics. We have truly been blessed with our Angelpreneurs who go out of their way and travel so far to inspire, teach, and mentor a lot of people. We are also grateful to the provincial and regional directors of the DTI, who are also now part of the Go Negosyo Angelpreneurs. Their mission is to help micro and small entrepreneurs to become medium and large one day.

Again, maraming salamat. It is time that big businesses really get involved and help those at the bottom of the pyramid.