Lifestyle Business

No such thing as ‘too small to start a business’

Joy Angelica Subido, Joy Angelica Subido, Karla Alindahao - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - If you are convinced that you have a sound business idea and want to become a business owner, stop procrastinating and become an entrepreneur now. The lack of capital should not be a deterrent because much can be learned by starting small and building the business as one goes along. Sure, mistakes will be made and stumbling blocks beyond one’s control can be discouraging. But get over the disappointment, learn from errors, pick yourself up and focus on the vision of business success as the end goal. With honest work, perseverance, and some support and guidance from well-meaning individuals and institutions, a profitable livelihood can be achieved by anyone.

In essence, this is the message of all the winners of last year’s Citi Microentrepreneur Awards (CMA). Funded by Citi Foundation, the awards are in recognition of the success of “outstanding microfinance clients who have used microfinance and entrepreneurship to improve their lives as well as their communities.”

Since its inception in 2012, the program has thus far recognized 100 Filipinos for their stories of hope and triumph over poverty through entrepreneurship, and the latest winners were chosen by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc. (MCPI) and Citi Philippines after a nationwide search. Winners received cash awards, entrepreneurship training at the Citi Microenterprise Development Center, laptops and basic computer training. All awardees also got life and health insurance coverage to protect them from events that might adversely affect their business.

“Even after 12 years, it is very clear that there continues to be great wealth in this country when it comes to men and women who, through sheer grit and determination, escaped extreme poverty and brought prosperity to their families and communities,” said Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi at the awards ceremony. “Their accomplishment sends a strong signal to other aspiring entrepreneurs to never give up.”

The stories of entrepreneurial success are indeed impressive. Take the case of CMA national winner Teresita Valdez who couldn’t finish school because of poverty. At age 13, she got a job removing fish heads in a bagoong (shrimp paste) factory. Being a conscientious worker who showed initiative and resourcefulness, she moved up to preparing the sauces and creating products with longer shelf life. Later on, she and her husband ventured into a bagoong business of their own and success seemed imminent. But after their main customer was unable to pay a P2 million debt, Teresita and her husband had to sell their home and start all over again. In 2010, Teresita approached Tulay sa Pag-Unlad, Inc. for a loan of P10,000, and she has managed to build her business again. While she continues to borrow regularly to fund her expansion plans, she has also been able to work out affordable repayment terms with her top client and is now looking forward to exporting her products.

It is almost unbelievable that the cost of three kilos of squid was enough to start a business that now crosses the million-peso mark in annual net profit. But that was what Teresita Nicanor and her husband Reynaldo of Estancia, Iloilo, started with. Embarking on a squid-ring business in 2005, they now supply four big suppliers in Cebu as well as customers in Cebu and Manila. With eight employees and plans to acquire equipment that will improve production, Teresita Nicanor of Paning’s Squid Rings and CMA regional awardee for the Visayas looks forward to expanding her market base throughout the country.

The CMA regional winner for Mindanao is Edamil Patta. who owns the Wonderland Coffee Shop and Sari-Sari store. After being widowed, she was left with two young children to raise, plus hospital bills and debts to pay. Undeterred, Edamil sought the assistance of the KFI Center for Community Development Foundation, Inc., a local microfinance institution. The success of her business has allowed her to support her children. She shares her good fortune by sending five of her workers’ children to school.

Other CMA winners include Ernanie Llema of REL Seafoods Buyer and Dealer (Regional Awardee-Luzon), Johnny Larano (Special Award for Agri Micro-business) and Purificacion Tagulinao, who manufactures packaging and décor from pandan (Special Award for Innovation).

What was most impressive is that all the awardees aspire to uplift other people’s lives and improve conditions in their communities. A standout was Rosma Cabillion of Estancia, Iloilo, who won the Special Award for Community Leadership. While she buys and sells squid, crabs and seaweed, she is also an environmental advocate who spearheads shoreline cleanup drives, and mangrove and seaweed planting. As an active community leader, she also contributes to livelihood, nutrition and scholarship programs for women and children. Her zeal to help others strengthens the idea that the gauge and motivation for business success should not be measured solely by money. There are more valuable, meaningful forms of currency.











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