Obama’s Presidential Entrepreneurship Summit

About a couple of weeks ago I got a call from Elzadia Washington, the Acting Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) here in the Philippines. Director Washington was happy to inform me that out of a short list, I am one of the two people they have selected to represent the Philippines in the first Presidential Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in Washington DC.

I asked who the other person was and I was told that it will be Bai Sandra Basar. I told Director Washington that it will be an honor to participate and represent the Philippines. I also invited her to our Women Entrepreneurship Summit last March 8, so she can experience firsthand what we do in Go Negosyo.

Director Washington and her team arrived at our women summit quite early. They were surprised with the attendance and the intensity of the audience and participants to learn.  We told them that to many, these activities serve as eye-openers where they get inspired and oriented about entrepreneurship. After which, they get to learn more in our negosyo seminar series nationwide.

USAID has been supportive of many projects in the Philippines. They are very active in Mindanao. They do their share in helping the poorest of the poor. Their agency fully understands that people who are below the poverty line must be taught how to help themselves so they don’t become dependent of society.

The United States has its reputation today because of entrepreneurship. Live the American dream of free enterprise. As we know, the American economy is supported by small and medium businesses. This is how franchising was invented. As you can see, many of the American business models have been franchised around the world: from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, to KFC; from retail clothing brands through distributorship models to bottling concepts like Pepsi; and many other examples. In America, even services have been franchised. Entrepreneurship is what made America a great country.

The US is a country that allowed even foreigners to become billionaires and owners of many technology companies. Dado Banatao, who is a Go Negosyo featured entrep in our first book, is an example. He is one of the first technopreneurs to succeed in the US. Dado has also succeeded in helping create more technopreneurs, as he is now a venture capitalist.

Now America faces one of its greatest tests, as the country is hit with the financial crisis. There is a big rise in unemployment. This Presidential Entrepreneurship Summit of Obama is right on time. For America to regain its strength; the small and medium enterprises must be able to weather this crisis and people must continue to pursue their dreams of making it big through starting a business. This is the model that Go Negosyo has been pushing for in the Philippines for the past five years.

Poverty is our biggest problem. As seen from what has brought America where it is today, entrepreneurship is the key success. It is about teaching people how to fish. We know that many people do not graduate even from high school. The chance for employment is slim, unless they can speak good English and work for call centers. The alternative is to help them become entrepreneurs. Today, many are already forced into entrepreneurship, since they don’t have a choice. We call them “survival entrepreneurs”. With proper training in developing the right
attitude and basic know-how, people have the chance to succeed.

On April 26 and 27, Bai Sandra Basar and I will be representing the country in President Barack Obama’s Summit on Entrepreneurship.

During his speech in Cairo last June, President Obama announced that the US will be hosting this summit. The goal is to identify how they can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations, and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the
world. This also represents an opportunity to highlight and support business and social entrepreneurship in Muslim-majority countries and Muslim communities around the world.

Bai Sandra is a member of the board of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Business Council and a member of the Mindanao Regional Development Council in Region IX.

We are only two among delegates who have been selected from countries around the world. Other participants will include successful entrepreneurs, investors, academics, and leaders of entrepreneurship networks, non-profits, foundations, and businesses who are invested in
promoting business or social entrepreneurship communities around the world. Panelists, who will be joining President Obama, during the summit will include Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned, Queen Rania al Abdullah II, Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Pepsi Cola Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi, Google Inc. Chaiman and CEO Eric Schmidt, among many others.

According to the embassy, Bai Sandra and I were chosen based on our “innovation of ideas and ability to promote entrepreneurship; commitment to community service; gender, geographic and urban/rural diversity and ability to inspire others.”

We were advised the summit will include a series of moderated discussions on key issues and challenges for advancing entrepreneurship, youth entrepreneurship, mentoring and networking, fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, among other topics. This summit is part of the President’s aims of supporting entrepreneurship, innovation and economic opportunity, not only in the US but also across the globe.

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Congratulations to the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) for their upcoming 87th Commencement Exercises on Saturday. I gladly accepted their invitation to be the commencement speaker. It is always a pleasure to inspire and speak in front of graduating students. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank PWU and Dr. Helena Benitez. They have informed me that I will also be conferred the Conrado Benitez Heritage Award, which is a great honor to receive on my part. Dr. Helena Benitez, PWU’s Board Chairperson, has always been supportive of Go Negosyo. She was also one of our “Mother of All Mother Entrepreneurs” Awardees during our first women entrepreneurship summit last March 209.