I had the chance to speak before the Aid for Trade Convention in ADB where foreign dignitaries mostly trade ministers and the country’s top entrepreneurs and government executives discussed how enterprises in developing countries can have a more active participation in the global market. Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala echoed the statement of IMF and WB that no aid for trade package can provide more benefits to the majority of developing countries than a successful Doha Round that opens markets and reduces subsidies in other countries. He emphasized the key steps for effective aid for trade for the Philippines, to wit, identify export opportunities feasible for economic growth, specify the strategic public goods needed to exploit the identified export opportunities and then mobilize aid resources to supplement domestic efforts to create or produce these strategic public goods. Former Bulacan Governor dela Cruz on the other hand reiterated that education, health and changing the mindset towards a society of entrepreneurs rather than employees or workers are at the heart of the Bulacan development strategy. Bulacan is known for performing local government unit with many best practices towards improved local governance, streamlined license (I-SPEED), permits and investment processes, and effective marketing and support services (packaging, branding, etc.) to its growing SMEs. As a result, Bulacan is a haven of SMEs and despite the lack of big name large enterprises; it has the lowest provincial poverty incidence in the country.
Since most of the businesses here in the Philippines are MSME’s, it is really a challenge to compete globally given that export giants like China have far more superior production capability than ours. But as with any entrepreneur, we must focus more on our strengths. For us to be globally competitive, we must move beyond survival entrepreneurship and instead focus on creative entrepreneurship. This sense of creative entrepreneurship needs to be strengthened and propagated, and in the process give people a greater sense of hope. Creativity and continuous innovations allow our entrepreneurs to bravely face the challenge of competition, especially from other countries.
There are many ways to develop this mindset of creative entrepreneurship, but first is to create a general awareness that this brand of creative entrepreneurship is key to continuous growth. Creating this mindset as early as possible can develop into a good habit that yearns for continuous improvements. One must be exposed to available information and learning early on. Thus, we must improve the quality of public education and give students quick access to information especially those who are in need of proper mentorship. We should provide these students access to the outside world thru the use of the internet. The world wide web can be used not only as a vast information tool but also a networking engine that can connect them to people from all over the globe. Also, networking sites such as Multiply have become a breeding ground for young entrepreneurs who sell their products and services through the internet.
There are a lot of instances where we see creative entrepreneurship at play. A good example of this can be seen at the Rockwell Powerplant Mall every Sunday where they have the Baker’s Dozen cake and pastry fair where you can choose a wide array of deserts and pastries by home-based entrepreneurs. There are the usual participants such as Vargas Kitchen, Sanlo’s Empanada, but some of the more innovative products I’ve seen here include Cuptails in Dreams which sell cocktail flavored cupcakes. Another interesting participant is 16-year old Ange who sells her own version of frozen brazo de mercedes. The response for this kind of bazaar has been quite favorable that the mall administration has agreed to extend the fair till October. Moreover, you will see and enjoy this week the exhibit and forum of the Association of Negros Producers. See their unique products and new business ideas.
Bonifacio Highstreet is also a haven for new business concepts such as Sonja’s cupcakes, the Bo Concept furniture store and the Blow-up Babies photo studio. These quaint shops are just among many others that offer one-of-a-kind pieces/services that you can never find in department stores. Whether it is in food, art, furniture or apparel, the shops here sell very distinct designs which are ideal for people who are looking for unique gifts to give this holiday season. Likewise, the SM’s, Robinson’s and Ayala malls have started to offer specific areas that will allow new micro and SMEs to show and sell their wares.
One can always explore new technology findings and applications in DOST and other research agencies and websites to see a good source of new business or product ideas. These are just some of the many ways on how entrepreneurs can enhance their creative abilities in order to inject new excitement in their businesses.
I am frequently asked the question: Are entrepreneurs born or can you really learn to be a negosyante? My answer to this is we can all learn to become negosyantes. We can all have the drive for hardwork, passion etc. but we also need the gift of creativity. What do we mean by creativity? This is the ability to differentiate business models that are unique and those that are able to address consumer needs. For example, Vicky Belo who is a Go Negosyo advocate recently launched her Belo soap among her line of beauty products. I am told that her sales is close to the 80m a month level…wow that is a Superbrand in the making! This is an example of a business that is not being a “me too”. Tim Yap is another example of how one uses his name as a brand from his Embassy to his ODM limited edition watches to his events company. Creativity is what spells greater success. This for me is our leverage which we can use in the competitive global village that we live in today.