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Confidence is contagious. If we show confidence, we, in turn, inspire confidence in others. As we move forward from this pandemic, it is important to encourage the hesitant to take the first steps to normalcy. Our entrepreneurs must believe it is now okay to venture out and reopen their businesses. Along with entrepreneurs, we must also build the confidence of banks and assure them that the money they lend out will be repaid, that businesses will stay open and earn enough to pay back their loans. Our foreign creditors must also see that the Philippines will return to normal and be able to repay its national debt, enough to maintain its good credit rating and borrow again when needed.
It is with this thought that we at Go Negosyo decided to resume our one-on-one mentoring program, Mentor Me on Wheels, not anymore via online conferencing platforms, but this time, in person. The return of Mentor Me on Wheels will be this Saturday, April 9, at the Ayala Malls Manila Bay in Pasay City. We are thankful to the more than a thousand small entrepreneurs and the 130-plus mentors who have decided to join us in this activity.
The return of Mentor Me on Wheels signals our confidence that the Philippines is now in recovery mode, and that vaccines, coupled with continued distancing, masking, and ventilation, will help us ease back into normal life. Go Negosyo is an advocate of increased mobility, with people having the confidence to return to their normal activities as we move the economy forward.
In-person mentorship, in particular, needs to return. Our entrepreneurs need a lot of help right now as they will play a key role in the recovery and growth of our economy. MSMEs bore the brunt of the economic impact of the pandemic and the effect of the lockdowns on them was felt almost immediately. Many MSMEs belong to the hardest-hit sector – retail, manufacturing, transport, construction, accommodations, food services, personal services. And as is the nature of small businesses, they had very little elbow room when it came to capital. Whatever they earned was put back almost right away into the business. When you have sudden mobility restrictions like the one in 2020, MSMEs will not only have zero sales and no money to pour back into their business, but also no money to pay back the loans that they need for capital in the first place.
Mentorship is an essential component in helping entrepreneurs not just recover and rebuild, but also achieve success. Along with money and markets, mentorship is a pillar of our advocacy at Go Negosyo. Mentors can share their experience, offer insights, and give the encouragement every small business owner needs, even when times are good. That is why even throughout the mobility restrictions imposed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our mentoring programs continued. They became an opportunity for us to improve the reach of our existing mentoring programs for entrepreneurs.
Since we first launched them in 2016, our programs relied on face-to-face interactions between the mentors and the entrepreneurs. It was a stroke of luck that at some point, we decided to bring the mentoring to the provinces and came up with a mentoring roadshow called Mentor Me on Wheels. When the pandemic broke out, the mentoring went online as a Facebook Live show called Go Nego Show.
With the success of Go Nego Show, we decided to continue our original mentoring programs, Kapatid Mentor Micro Enterprises–Money and Market Encounter (KMME-MME) and Kapatid Agri Mentor Me Program (KAMMP) as they were originally intended, but this time through online conferencing platforms and social media. This proved to be the correct decision and paid off quite well in terms of helping entrepreneurs throughout the pandemic.
Even with the restrictions, our mentoring programs were able to produce thousands of graduates and from all the regions across the Philippines. Dedicated coaching became a crucial pivot in our programs, and it enabled us to integrate the three crucial components of entrepreneurship– money, market and mentorship – in a single program.
In 2021, the KMME-MME program saw an increase in the numbers of both mentors and mentees across the regions. By October 2021, 1,634 mentees had taken part in the KMME online program for the year, bringing the total of KMME-MME’s online mentees to 3,084. In all, the KMME program, in its original and its online form, has benefited 11,871 mentees since its inception. KAMMP, which has produced 3,032 mentees since 2017, added 755 mentees thanks to online mentoring and even during the restrictions in 2020 and 2021.
These numbers make us hopeful that the drive for entrepreneurship remains alive and well in the Philippines. However, how successfully our entrepreneurs will help the Philippines recover from the ravages of the pandemic will depend on how well we, as citizens, can maintain the integrity of our wall of immunity. Right now, we are managing quite well, but it can easily go the other way if we become complacent. That is why I have been relentless in pushing for boosters. We have seen how waning immunity and lax compliance with health protocols easily reversed the situation in countries that were once considered success stories early on in the pandemic. With hope, the Philippines will be able to sustain its momentum. With the return of Mentor Me on Wheels, we express our confidence that the country will not only bounce back from the pandemic, but that it will thrive and prosper through entrepreneurship.