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It seems there is no stopping Filipinos from pursuing entrepreneurship. Our friends at OCTA Research released their latest Tugon ng Masa survey recently, and they showed us their findings from the survey they conducted last March.
The survey showed a high awareness of Go Negosyo. At 68 percent awareness rating, I am told this is impressive for a non-government entity. What this tells me is that our advocacy is gaining ground. We can readily see this from the number of attendees at our free mentoring event, 3M on Wheels.
OCTA found that 78 percent – that’s almost four out of five Filipinos – would choose to go into business rather than work as employees. Among the top three reasons were that, by becoming entrepreneurs, they will be able to control their own schedule, have no boss to report to and no limit to their income. All of those are true, except when it comes to time. Yes, you can control your time, but you will direct it toward building your business. The upside is, you will happily do it.
Those who chose to stay employed cite money as being the primary reason, mostly because of the financial security that employment provides. This is also true. The world needs employees. Even entrepreneurs need employees. And some excel at being employees better than they do as entrepreneurs and make a good living out of it.
Often, when I mentor at 3M on Wheels, I encounter small entrepreneurs who are faced with the choice of staying employed or becoming entrepreneurs. These are often the ones who are just in the startup phase of their businesses. Whenever I see that they have a choice, I temper their expectations by telling them to maintain a lifeline to a steady income. If I am talking to a couple, I advise them that one of them should stay employed.
Entrepreneurial dreams are easily quashed by reality. Many of our small entrepreneurs live from hand to mouth. Whatever they earn from the day goes back into the business. That is why our mentors always emphasize keeping the business’s books separate from the household’s expenses. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when household bills start piling up and you need ready cash to make the due date.
Of course, there are the success stories. There’s the former public school teacher who made bagoong to augment the family income and ended up with a million-peso business. The former OFW who came home and applied what he knew about aquaculture and successfully built a fish farm in his hometown. The college student who makes thousands of pesos a day selling over Facebook Live. But these are survivors, and there is such a thing as survivorship bias. They can only tell you they survived hardship because they did. Hidden from view are those who didn’t, and they, too, can give us valuable lessons in entrepreneurship.
I am also heartened to see that Filipinos see small businesses as a force for good. More than half of the respondents to the OCTA survey said that small businesses must be supported because they support the local community, have a positive impact on it and that they create jobs. It is this last point that really resonated with me: small businesses create jobs.
According to the UN, job creation through MSMEs will often directly benefit the poor and vulnerable, particularly women and the youth. Furthermore, job creation through MSMEs directly reduces poverty, increases income and positively impacts education and health over time. In other parts of the developing world, the numbers hardly differ from our own situation in the Philippines: MSMEs comprise almost all of enterprises and contribute upwards of 60 percent to employment. These wide-reaching impacts of MSME development are precisely why, when I was named the lead for the jobs group of the Private Sector Advisory Council, I saw how it dovetailed into my advocacy for MSMEs.
Over the past year, Go Negosyo has highlighted the importance of digital technology, women entrepreneurs and OFWs in strengthening our MSME sector. As we move forward, we plan to focus on tourism and agriculture, among others.
Tourism and agriculture have the potential to create employment opportunities outside of urban centers and can greatly impact the lives of the poorest in our country. In particular, we are placing a strong emphasis on the agricultural sector through our Kapatid Angat Lahat Agri Program (KALAP). Our goal is to transform Philippine agriculture into a productive, profitable, sustainable and competitive industry. We want our farmers to become agripreneurs.
We have already identified the challenges that we will face as we move forward with KALAP. Of the three pillars of successful entrepreneurship – access to mentorship, money and markets – it is the money, or credit, part that presents the biggest challenge. Already, access to mentorship and markets are addressed with the participation of big-brother companies. Fortunately, the banks and financial institutions have expressed their support of KALAP, and the President himself said that the DBP and Landbank are expanding their credit program coverage for agriculture.
By investing in agriculture, we not only improve the industry and ensure food security for the country, but we also create job opportunities in rural areas. To achieve this, KALAP will focus on major agricultural commodities, adopt inclusive business models and create an enabling business environment. Through KALAP, we aim to transform the agriculture industry into a more productive, sustainable and profitable sector that can improve the lives of our fellow Filipinos.
By focusing our efforts on MSMEs, we can create meaningful change for our country’s economy and create more jobs for its people.