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Every year, I am glad to be part of the national selection committee of the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards organized by Citi Foundation in cooperation with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, and Citi Philippines. They award microentrepreneurs who have been successful and are slowly making their way up with the support of microfinancing.
Citi Philippines CEO Aftab Ahmed said there are more than 100 nominations submitted this year which was trimmed down to 15 finalists. From their stories of trials and success, eight were recognized as winners.
BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said the winners proved that through an inclusive financial system, they were given “better access to financial products and services that empower individuals and enterprises to seize economic activities.”
The national winner is a young female entrepreneur from Iloilo City. At 26, Honie Krizia Navor already owns a multi-million-peso enterprise. It may not be as fashionable as those favored by her peers but, through dedication and hard work, she’s now a wholesaler and retailer of granite tiles, stones, and marble stones. Thanks to her clients’ support, she has also expanded to related businesses such as hauling and construction. The renovation of the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City is currently her biggest project. All of her employees, save for her mother and her secretary, are all male and several years her senior, but this does not deter her. She takes pride in running a business that not many women think of entering.
Richiel Vargas won the regional award for Luzon. Richiel began her garment manufacturing business with a single sewing machine. Using her 10 years of factory sewing experience, her enterprise now makes garments such as armbands, gloves, bonnets, face masks, and specifically designed motors masks. When she started her business, she took a hands-on approach by directly going to vendors in Baclaran and Divisoria who were willing to sell her products. Product quality is one of her top priorities; at the end of each production day, her husband and she does quality checking themselves.
Frangeli Guitars is known for selling the “Best Guitars” in Cebu City. Angelita Dagoc, regional awardee for Visayas, initially started as a construction materials retailer. However, it wasn’t successful or sustainable. Using the leftover lumber from the old venture, they took another shot by making wooden handicrafts and string instruments. Business boomed. Their willingness to join trade fairs and market their products from different parts of the country also helped to increase their reach abroad—even as far as to export consistently to Fiji, Hawaii, and Tahiti. Apart from the perceived sustainability, her discipline to continually re-invest savings to build her capital helps her grow the business.
Marcelina Occena, regional awardee for Mindanao, uses a combination of 36 different herbs to provide an all-natural remedy to UTI, stomach aches, body pain, muscle fatigue, coughs and colds, and migraine to poor farmers and families who cannot pay costly hospital bills. Unlike other products in the market, her herbal oil is orally consumed for a faster effect. Furthermore, she consistently delivers to farmers in her community whom she believes needs her herbal oil the most after a grueling day’s work. In the future, she plans to diversify her business by adding a cacao farm and supplying fruit juice ingredients.
A young entrepreneur Kevin Pacatang won the youth microentrepeneur award. Kevin has been co-managing his mother’s business as early as 2011, while still studying. As a child, he grew up in the business—tagging along with his mother when she sold their products in the community, processing the beans of tablea and coffee, and delivering their goods when he grew older. In 2014, he gained full autonomy of managing the business and he took a P200,000 loan from Paglaum Multipurpose Cooperative for additional capital. In the future, Kevin plans to expand his business by targeting bigger malls in the region. He also plants on consigning in all pasalubong areas.
There were also special awards given.
Manuel Iwayan was recognized for his green and sustainable enterprise. The idea was spawned from his time as a hacienda driver when he saw his employer ordering plant pots made from rubber tires. He noticed that in their community, many old tires were being discarded as garbage. This gave him an idea. With a capital of P45, he ventured on his own and collected old rubber tires from trash bins to convert them into plant pots. His obras evolved from plant pots to other recycled products such as garbage bins, swing sets, garden sets, and rubber bushing for vehicles.
Renato Mercado won the award for agri microbusiness. Starting with a P5,000 loan from Bangko Kabayan, he bought chicken manure to turn into organic fertilizer which he sold to farmers in his barangay. It’s customary that farmers use synthetic fertilizers because it’s cheaper. Renato, on the other hand, believed that quality produce comes from the quality of their fertilizers, so he made his own. On good days, he delivers three truckloads with 200 sacks per truck, but this number shrinks to one truck on rainy days. To prove that his fertilizers is as effective as he claims, he also launched a sideline business in planting corn, tomatoes, pechay and eggplants.
Last but not the least, Wilberto Dagame received the community leadership award. Known locally as “Mang Bert”, he started out when their small community became interested in selling yema. Instead of the normal yema, he developed yema-based pastries and candy products as well as pastillas to his lineup. He allots 80 percent of his profits to reinvest back into his business, while the remaining 20 percent goes to expenditures. His plans for the future include incorporating honey and kapeng barako to diversify their product line. Today, he actively works with the Department of Agriculture in Lipa, DOST, and Lipa Beekeepers.
I hope these stories inspire you to start your own entrepreneurial journey!
Back row (from left): Youth microentrepreneur of the year Kevin Pacatang, special awardee for green/sustainable business Manuel Iwayan, University of the Philippines chancellor Michael Tan, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco, Ayala Corp. president Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Philippine Airlines Inc. independent director Antonio Alindogan, Citi Philippines CEO Aftab Ahmed, special awardee for community Leadership Wilberto Dagame and special awardee for agri micro-business Renato Mercado. Front row (from left): CMA regional awardee from Visayas Angelita Dagoc, CMA regional awardee from Luzon Richiel Vargas, CMA microentrepreneur of the year Honie Navor, CMA regional awardee from Mindanao Marcelina Occeña and The Philippine Daily Inquirer chair Marixi Prieto.