MANILA, Philippines — With their scale, most micro, small to medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country faced the challenges or worse, suffered the consequences brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic—from dwindling to zero sales to the heartbreaking laying off of employees, among others.
Nevertheless, MSMEs remain important drivers of our economy even as they try to bounce back with relaxed quarantine measures amid the new normal. They collectively help in the recovery of the country’s shrinking economy.
More notably, there are also startups that go beyond their products or services by providing livelihood and innovating technologies at a time Filipinos need it most.
Here, we get to know two local enterprises that are making positive impact on their communities and the environment.
Founded in 2014 as a trading company supplying advanced material in the semiconductor and electronics industry, Nanotronics pivoted its business into nanotechnology and 3D printing in 2015. With this move, the local tech startup has not only produced innovative nanotech products, it has also come up with solutions that address environmental concerns.
Addressing plastic pollution during pandemic
According to a Reuters Special Report, the COVID-19 pandemic has “has accentuated a trend to create more, not less, plastic trash.” Indeed, from face shields and PPEs to takeout food packaging and even bubble wraps used in online shopping, plastic wastes are piling up landfills or end up littering the oceans.
While the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development calls for trade policy to address this, local enterprises can also do their part.
Nanotronics, a nanotechnology and 3D printing company, leads by developing a fully biodegradable, robust and reusable face mask. Being developed together with one of Shell’s ecosystem partners, the face mask will be made from 100% local materials.
“This product would be able to reduce the waste problem related to the use of existing face masks, which are partly made from synthetic, non-biodegradable plastic, during these times,” Nanotronics co-founder Dr. Jerome Palaganas, said.
Innovating technologies for a sustainable future
Nanotronics is committed to researching and developing nanotech products. In 2017, it got the support and funding of the Department of Science and Technology to pioneer the production of nanotechnology materials using indigenous plants in the country.
Serving clients from the industry, government offices and academic institutions, the enterprise never stops innovating for the next generation of nanotech adopters.
“We expect that these will have direct contribution in significantly reducing plastic waste thereby will eliminate the need for a complex waste management system, reduce carbon footprint, and mitigate climate change impact starting with our country. We are targeting to release this next-gen products in the next couple of years,” Palaganas said.
Oro Handmade Innovations
Since 1993, Oro Handmade Innovations has been making paper products from sustainable abaca fibers. In the beginning, it catered to local market while generating jobs to women in Cagayan de Oro City. In time, it became a steady source of livelihood for bigger communities as it also started penetrating global markets.
Providing livelihood for the marginalized
Through the vision of its owner and founder Lolita Cabanlet, Oro Handmade Innovations became a community enterprise that provided livelihood training program for urban poor women of Cagayan de Oro City.
These women became the artisans of handmade stationery, paper fans, bags and boxes during the early years of Oro Handmade. Today, the enterprise provides more opportunities as it now produces washable paper handicrafts for the home including lamps, vases, bowls and placemats through its brand Indigenous PH.
Oro Handmade Factory also recently launched an origami face mask biodegradable that is made from abaca paper and is 100% biodegradable.
Partnering with local communities
By starting its own paper factory and adapting to the changing times, Oro Handmade Innovations through its founder saw that it can tap into the global market. With the help of Department of Trade and Industry Region X, the community enterprise started exporting to US, Europe and Asia.
Its brand Indigenous PH is also one of the top 13 Philippine manufacturers that took part at the 2020 Digital Fair of the prestigious Maison&Objet.
With growing demand of its washable paper products, Oro Handmade needed more raw materials. It then partnered with indigenous farmers in Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon who now supply them with abaca fiber, bamboo sticks, rattan vines, cogon grass, and many more natural materials.
Together in collaboration and innovation
Nanotronics and Oro Handmade are two of the nine recipients of the first-ever Shell LiveWIRE Acceleration Program in the country last year.
Shell Philippines believes in the role of local enterprises to nation-building, and now, to recovery beyond the global crisis. As such, Shell launched its flagship enterprise development program LiveWIRE in the local shores last year.
Promoting entrepreneurship and innovation around the globe since 1982, LiveWIRE is now finally providing endless possibilities and significant collaborations to Filipino enterprises.
“When we won the Shell LiveWIRE, the grant provided us the needed cash flow to restart our operation as we were thinking then of acquiring a loan as our operation was affected by the pandemic like most of the startups. We use the fund on the different development projects we have which are aligned with the project proposals that we made with Shell to integrate our products into their ecosystem,” Palaganas said.
“Our enterprise met the Shell criteria on sustainability in operations, environmentally friendly products, and compatibility to its advocacy on circular economy. The acceleration program is so far the best and most innovative I have ever attended. Its topics covered technical to financial management skills which are relevant to our enterprise,” Cabanlet said.
This year, the Shell LiveWIRE is once again open to energize Filipino entrepreneurs to move forward. The 2021 Acceleration Program is searching for community enterprises and tech startups that leave positive impact with innovative solutions and sustainable business models.
To know more and apply for the Shell LiveWIRE Acceleration Program, visit https://www.shell.com.ph/energy-and-innovation/make-the-future/shell-livewire-philippines.html. To pre-register and apply, go here.