On The Ehje of Glory

This column will now highlight our new slogan; Go Negosyo is rallying its entrepreneurs to join us as we launch our new battlecry – Pilipinas: Now is our time! This year is our chance to start seeing things change for the better. We at Go Negosyo believe, for the past seven years, that entrepreneurship will lead this country out of poverty.

Entrepreneurship is not only for those who have their own business, but also for those who work in private companies and even in government (through intrapreneurship). In the end, what we want to see is an enterprising Filipino who is as passionate and hardworking as a Chinese or Indian entrepreneur. Greater transparency and good governance is now happening. The serious attempt to bring down corruption and to have greater transparency in governance brings about greater confidence not only in local negosyantes, but especially in foreign investors.  And I have to say, Sec. Cesar Purisima has done a good job here.

Definitely not everything in this administration is perfect, and it would still be true in future administrations, but what we need now is to build on what we have. And I believe we are at this moment when we could really see our nation reach a respectable status within the Asian region, with our reserves growing close to 75 billion dollars, continued OFW remittances, a very stable foreign exchange, and a stock market that is making new highs. More and more people are starting a business, buying property, and investing in the stock market. So let’s not blow this opportunity.

This column will continue to feature entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in the coming months: their story and how they intend to make our new slogan Pilipinas: Now is Our Time! become a reality.

Let me share with you the story of a microentrepreneur whom we have mentored since she won the Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year in 2006, of which I have been a judge for the past years. I am proud of her success. We saw how her business grew further from that time on. She has been featured in an indie film in Cinemalaya, which we will also show soon on our TV show Go Negosyo: Kaya Mo! And she consistently attends our events to inspire others that they, too, can do it. This is the story of Ehje’s glory…

Back then, life was a real battlefield for Jennilyn. She struggled through poverty before being a successful entrepreneur. As a mother of two, sustaining the needs of her children was a daily challenge. She was an assembler at an electronics company, while her husband was a company driver. “Our salary was just enough – and sometimes short – for our daily expenses,” Jennilyn says.

This daily struggle was what motivated her to be more enterprising to make ends meet. And so apart from her day job, Jennilyn and her husband set up a concessionaire in a canteen with other business partners. Jennilyn supplied the raw materials. But doing business always entails many risks, and sometimes the risk is the choice of partners. Their partners betrayed the couple and left them with a huge debt. But the betrayal and the business flop wouldn’t be the worst thing for the couple, as they reached the point where they could no longer afford to bring all of their children to school.

For any entrepreneur to see through difficulty, optimism is imperative. Jennilyn never stopped being enterprising. On one serendipitous day, Jennilyn accidentally made peanut paste meant for kare-kare too sweet. An idea popped up. “What if I try to make peanut butter?” she thought to herself one day at a supermarket. And so she experimented and prepared her very own homemade peanut butter, made sandwiches with it, and gave them to her co-workers for their opinion. They loved it.

Like a real salesperson, Jennilyn visited the bakeries near her workplace and sampled her peanut butter. With the right sweetness and creaminess that suited the Filipino taste, the peanut butter received positive feedback and soon orders were coming in. Jennilyn used her nickname, Ehje, as the product’s brand.

Jennilyn knew that to grow her trade, she had to learn how to do better business. And so she prayed that she could attend a seminar. When we met Jennilyn through Citi MOTY, we involved her as one of the entrepreneurs to share her story and advice at numerous events. But our negosyo seminars and events were also a learning experience for her. She met Go Negosyo’s community of entrepreneurs, who were generous enough to share their experiences and pieces of advice on how to take her business to the next level. At the same time, this community expanded her business network and grew her client base. She now supplies her peanut butter to large food store chains such as Johnlu Koa’s French Baker and Julie Gandionco’s Julie’s Bakeshop, both of whom are also part of the Go Negosyo advocacy. Ehje’s Peanut Butter can also now be found at SM Supermarkets.

Recently, Jennilyn received a Small Bizloan from Plantersbank with the help of PinoyME to allow her to expand her business even more. I was told that in reviewing Jennilyn’s story, one of their references was a video clip of Jennilyn’s mentors at Citi MOTY which include Citigroup country officer Sanjiv Vohra and myself.

And so, with the launch of Go Negosyo’s new campaign, I asked her: Do you believe that this is really our time? And if so, how do you think entrepreneurs such as yourself can help contribute to this movement?

Her reply was simple, yet heartfelt:

Bilang isang Pilipinong entrepreneur, proud akong sabihin na isa akong produkto ng Pilipinas—nakakapagbigay-hanapbuhay sa aking mga kababayan, gumagawa ng produktong may mataas na kalidad, at nakakatulong na makapagbahagi inspirasyon mula sa aking mga karanasan. Maraming pagsubok ang aking hinarap, at akala ko ay hindi na ako makakaahon sa kahirapan. Ngunit hindi ako nawalan ng pag-asa. Pananampalataya sa Diyos ang susi ng aking tagumpay, ngunit dapat tayong maging masipag, matiyaga, at matapat sa ating hanapbuhay.

It is our dream at Go Negosyo to see more entrepreneurs like Jennilyn; for Filipinos to have that determination to fight poverty by having an entrepreneurial mindset. And as with our new battlecry, there is no better time than NOW to make that happen.

Pilipinas: Now is Our Time!