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Last week, we conducted the Mentor Me: Innovation Forum at the University of San Carlos. This is part of the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Workshop (YEDW) which we launched last year together with the US Embassy Manila.
It was another insightful event filled with inspiring stories and practical advice from our invited guests who willingly shared their time to help mentor more than 1,000 young and aspiring micro and small entrepreneurs. Some of the YEDW fellows who flew in from different provinces of Visayas and Mindanao also attended.
I am sure that every entrepreneur knows the value of innovation. As I mentioned last week, if one does not innovate, he cannot expect his enterprise to level-up and be sustainable. It will soon be conquered by those who take risks and innovate.
We are honored to have Sen. Bam Aquino who is considered as the entrepreneurship champion in the Senate. Bam, who has been supportive since the beginning and even hosted our television show, shared three Ms which are important for entrepreneurs to level up. These 3Ms are: Money, market and mentorship. I agree these three are what most micro and small entrepreneurs lack. Go Negosyo addresses the need for mentorship through the programs we organize for them, most especially the Mentor Me program launched in the established Go Negosyo Centers all over the country.
As Bam mentioned in his message, he said that there is space for all entrepreneurs to work together. Together, we can develop and earn.
“We do our best to create a nationwide framework where entrepreneurs can get what they need. With support from institutions like Go Negosyo, we can create the environment of success,” Bam said.
Former Go Negosyo executive director and now head of the Department of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez also attended the forum. Having been with Go Negosyo for 11 years, Mon has known many great examples of innovation ‘with a heart.’ He cited Cropital led by Rachel De Villa, one of the YEDW fellows, as an example. Cropital provides funding and support to farmers and through the monetary support, this also helps them improve their productivity.
Another YEDW product is the Agriblocks of Mariel Obregon. Agriblocks identified the increasing need for hollow blocks in Tacloban and developed environment friendly hollow blocks which are made from rice hulls. Lopez also mentioned Anna and Dylan Wilk of Human Nature which manufactures environment-friendly products made from raw materials grown locally. Even the venue partner, University of San Carlos, has produced products from mango waste through biotechnology. These are just some of the notable innovations in the community which we can expect to flourish in the coming years.
From these examples, we can say that in the heart of every enterprise is innovation to solve community problems.
Paul Rivera founded a technology start-up company in the Philippines called Kalibrr. He introduce innovation to the job-seeking system and has helped more than 500,000 jobseekers find opportunities in more than 10,000 best companies in the Philippines. Apart from sharing his inspiring story of success, he advised the participants to “go where you’re not supposed to be” in order to find innovative ideas. He cited several companies which have made disruptions in the industries. One of these is Uber, the mobile application that helps transport people by linking consumers with the riders.
Paul said, “Innovation and disruption can come from anywhere. Anything can be disrupted or innovated.” From the traditional models come the innovative models which are not just creative, but also sustainable.
Lastly, he said, “If you’re looking for ideas, shift the mindset. Check the problems in your community and think of ways on how you can make businesses out of it.”
If we are talking about creativity and innovation, one of the top entrepreneurs that comes to mind is one of Cebu’s pride — Kenneth Cobonpue. Kenneth is a multi-awarded and world-renowned furniture designer and manufacturer.
Because of his ingenuity in design, he was tasked to be the creative director for the APEC Economic Leaders’ welcome dinner. He highlighted the Filipino culture through the designs and even the chairs he produced for the special venue. He also made the limited-edition souvenirs for the event.
Kenneth shared that his inspirations came from the things around him. Kenneth said, “You do not need to look far for inspiration.” He encouraged the audience to use creativity and innovation not only in their businesses, but also in their everyday tasks to show the world what this country is capable of.
One of Go Negosyo’s trustees and who is president and CEO of Islands Group, Jay Aldeguer, attended the Innovators Forum together with Wilson Ng of Ng Khai Development Corp., Jefferson Tan of Wellmade Motors and Development Corp., Julita Urbina of Laguna Garden Café and Peter Delantar of Nature’s Legacy Eximport.
Jay who has been with Go Negosyo since 2005, is a great example of an innovative entrepreneur. Through Islands Groups, Jay has creatively improved the tourism industry by developing products and services that showcase the beauty of each province. He shared that with innovation and the right market, one can become successful.
Jocot De Dios, CEO of GE Philippines also joined us in the Innovation Forum and talked about the culture of innovation in their company. He shared, “In GE, our greatest asset is our people.”
Aside from them, we were also joined by several innovation enablers from different institutions and young innovators who shared how innovation helped their start-up companies go big in their respective industries.
The stories presented impart the value of innovation to our audience. We saw their tweets and feedback about the program and it revealed that this has helped them nurture creativity and develop better business models. We will soon share this program to other provinces and hopefully, they too will develop an enterprising and innovative mindset!