A good partnership

GO NEGOSYO PILIPINAS ANGAT LAHAT! - Joey Concepcion - The Philippine Star

Sometimes, life-changing encounters can come from unexpected places. Go Negosyo is participating in the ongoing LIKHA fair, where our staff have been encouraging the community weavers to join our entrepreneurship mentoring events. One would normally think the weavers would be interested in how entrepreneurship mind-setting works, or how to create basic financial statements or market positioning, etc., but last week, one of the most eye-opening mentoring that happened with them was when one of the weavers asked for assistance in setting up an e-wallet account so they can receive payments from visitors who wanted to buy their wares.

I realized how some things we often take for granted can be worlds away for other people. It is easy for us (at least us city folk) to assume that everyone has a smartphone with an updated OS, and that they have access to a stable internet connection and that installing the Maya or GCash application is intuitive. But the truth is, there are aspiring entrepreneurs out there who need our help even in this most basic task for doing business nowadays.

It is a humbling experience to come face-to-face with a situation that challenges how well you understand hot-button phrases like “inclusivity;” for this lesson, we have the organizers of the LIKHA fair to thank, particularly First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos.

In our 18 years of reaching out to MSMEs all over the country, I have found that it is through government collaborations that we accomplish more than what we set out to do. Working together, government and private sector can be a stronger force for MSMEs; our partnership becomes more than the sum of its parts.

For this, I have to give credit to the leadership of the agencies we work with, especially the Department of Trade and Industry. Although they already have solid programs to help our country’s MSMEs, they remain open to suggestions, resulting in an even stronger partnership.

This kind of rapport lets us speak freely among ourselves. It’s never mixed company, even when I talk shop. Usec. Cris Roque, who herself came from the private sector, once asked how come I know so much about the DTI. I said it is because the DTI has been such a big part of Go Negosyo over the years; their success has been our success. We are able to help MSMEs by supporting the DTI in their various platforms for the sector.

In my roles as Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and as founder of Go Negosyo, I’ve had the privilege of working closely with the DTI for the past 18 years, starting with my first appointment by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Since then, I’ve worked alongside the DTI secretaries, including Cesar Purisima, Juan Santos, Peter Favila, Jesli Lapus, Gregory Domingo, Adrian Cristobal Jr., Mon Lopez and now Fred Pascual.

The DTI’s continued support has made the Kapatid Mentor MicroEntrepreneurs program – sometimes called the MBA for entrepreneurship – a resounding success. It has provided the blueprint for the regional ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network, where we are trying to build an ASEAN-wide repository of entrepreneurship knowledge and best practices among ASEAN member-states.

The success of our partnership with DTI became the inspiration for the other government partnerships that followed. Go Negosyo worked with the Department of Health and with the Department of the Interior and Local Government during the COVID-19 pandemic; with the Department of Tourism for our Tourism Summit; with the Department of Migrant Workers during our Balik Bayan Summits to help OFWs reintegrate into the Philippines as entrepreneurs; with the Department of Agrarian Reform to see how private sector can help realize the promise of agrarian reform through agripreneurship; with the Department of Social Welfare and Development to teach financial literacy and capacity building to beneficiaries of the Sustainable Livelihood Program and with the Department of Education to incorporate entrepreneurship training into the K-12 curriculum.

Sometimes, in other partnerships, it is just a synergy that works. The reach of Go Negosyo’s entrepreneurship mentoring was widened when we became part of the First Lady’s LAB for All deployment. Through this initiative to bring medical, legal and social services closer to the underserved communities, we were able to send our Go Negosyo mentors to the grassroots, to places that were beyond our logistical capabilities.

Private sector also has insights that can be useful to government. I shared with them, for example, that OTOP (One Town, One Product) should be sustained as the brand of DTI’s local products. I believe that it successfully addresses both the supply and the demand side of MSME products. As a brand, it is already established as the marketplace that showcases local culture and resources. In short, OTOP remains a great idea and should remain as the brand of the MSME marketplace.

This insight comes from being in the private sector and keenly attuned to efficiencies. Usec. Cris Roque was with the private sector for the longest time and she understands the importance of efficiencies and how best to achieve them. There is nothing like real-world experience, especially in entrepreneurship. From her, we hear great ideas like an online B2B portal for MSMEs, upscaling the product offerings of nanopreneurs (something as simple as teaching the local manicurista to do acrylic nails or how to rebond hair, to something more complicated like lending systems for sari-sari stores).

It is fortunate that we have someone like Fred Pascual at the helm of the DTI. He is all for government and private sector coming together, and is always open to suggestions.

The 18-year journey of Go Negosyo is testament to the power of collaboration. Through partnerships with government agencies, we have been able to reach and empower countless MSMEs across the country. These partnerships have not only facilitated the growth of entrepreneurship but also encouraged a spirit of cooperation, making it possible to leverage the strengths of both the public and private sectors to create a more robust and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Philippines.

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