Social Entrepreneurs in Action

What urged me to write about social entreps in action is a letter sent to me from an OFW in Nigeria. Let me share it with you his letter:

Dear Joey,

I’m Jason Javier, an OFW working here in Lagos, Nigeria. I’ve been constantly following your advocacy on entrepreneurship. Your effort on spearheading the GO NEGOSYO battlecry of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship is truly commendable.

I bought your book NeGOsyo: Inspiring Stories of 50 Successful Filipino Entrepreneurs at National Bookstore last May 2007. I read and digest it thoroughly. The success stories are inspiring and worthy of emulation. Every aspiring entrepreneur should have a copy of this book.

Your weekly article on the Philippine Star is worth reading. Your article on “Creative Entrepreneurship” gave me the idea to adopt it for the students in Olongapo City.

It’s now on the planning stage and will kick-off in the next three months. This project will be known as “Creative Entrepreneurship for Students”. I believe that thru this project, we can develop at this early, a mindset of optimism and a culture of creating opportunities among our future entrepreneurs.

I doff my hat to you and to all our Go Negosyo advocates.

Let’s kill poverty now. GO NEGOSYO NA!


Jason Javier (Nigeria)

Upon reading his letter, I am reminded that negosyo isn’t always about making money. Having the power to create wealth while you help underprivileged groups or address certain social problems along the way is a doubly rewarding experience. There’s a growing number of entrepreneurs who consciously pursue their business objectives, making certain sectors or having a social dimension as an integral part of their business model. These social entrepreneurs are the emerging breeds that are adding up to the hundreds of successful companies that have adopted corporate social responsibility as part of their mission. Those with CSR’s share the fruits of their labor to fund developmental and community projects, be it on education, health, poor and other marginalized sectors in our society.

Just recently, I received a book from Hernando M. Vitas, also known as the “Puka King”. His book tells his entrepreneurial journey which started very early in life from earning extra income as a newspaper boy, and venturing into different kinds of business ventures later in life. His major break came when upon visiting Barrio Yapak (now known as Pucca Beach) in Aklan, where he first found one of the biggest sources of pucca shells. He started to export jewelry made of pucca shells which later became a fashion craze in the global market. What is most notable about this story is how Mr. Vitas mobilized and provided a source of income to poor sea communities not just in Aklan but in other parts of the Philippines as well. He also provided employment to poor squatter areas in Manila to process the shells before shipping them off to Honolulu and New York.

In a way, this story reminds us of how businesses should always have a social dimension. Other examples of entrepreneurs who help others help themselves and who made social activities form part of their business models include Chit Juan of Figaro who helped and networked with cooperatives and communities in Batangas and Cavite that produce kapeng Barako and made other blends for the full-bodied Figaro coffee. There’s her nephew Rommel Juan of the food joint Binalot who has Dangal at Hanapbuhay Para sa Nayon (DAHON) as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility program. Binalot buys the banana leaves directly from farmers and even trains them on how to cut and sanitize the leaves properly according to the company’s specifications.

Some companies that address community problems are those who became finalists of this year’s DHL Young Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (YES) Awards. The first prize was Illac Diaz of Pier One Seafarers Dormitory who is also a staunch supporter of the Go Negosyo advocacy. Aside from providing a clean, safe and affordable transient housing for Manila seafarers, Illac’s Pier One Dormitory also offers placement assistance, temporary employment while processing their papers. The other finalist Dexter Briones of Power Memory Franchising Inc. developed a program to help students learn faster and gain confidence by improving their memory skills. Another example is Emerson Atanacio who founded the National College of Science and Technology (NCST) in Cavite, a school that provides industry-specific training to young people from low-income households. These are just some examples of notable entreps who made their business grow while at the same time extending a helping hand in making sure that the less than fortunate others are also able to live a comfortable life.

Incidentally, I have also been invited by Alfredo and Jim Ayala to a special presentation by the Ashoka Trust, a global association of leading Social Entrepreneurs with system-changing solutions to the world’s most urgent social problems. This is an excellent opportunity to hear what this organization does and how they can promote and nurture social entrepreneurship in the Philippines.

Whether it be adapting a corporate social responsibility program or by pursuing a field in social entrepreneurship, entreps should always carry that sense of civil duty to help others especially those who are less fortunate. In the end, the success of a business cannot just be measured by monetary rewards but ultimately thru its positive social impact in improving the lives of others.