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Just the other day, we met the First Lady to find out how we can work with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) and help the women sectors. The First Lady is already helping marginalized Filipinos and reaching them through the Lingap at Alagang Bayanihan (LAB) For All caravans. I respect the First Lady’s passion and sincerity, and offered our support in helping the MSMEs in the areas the caravans will visit.
I have been surrounded by women business leaders for many years. They are strong-willed and have a good heart. Working with women organizations like the PCW will be a good fit and can make a huge difference in helping achieve the objectives of LAB For All.
It was also perhaps providential that the First Lady would launch her LAB For All initiative at a time that Go Negosyo is also ramping up its MSME efforts nationwide. Many successful women entrepreneurs are willing to help aspiring women entrepreneurs in the countryside, and the LAB initiative will be a perfect vehicle for us to help them find their path in entrepreneurship.
At the 3M on Wheels last week, I met and mentored some extraordinary women entrepreneurs. I have met many women entrepreneurs before in our previous events, and they exhibit such determination and resourcefulness.
One such young woman came with a box of her products in tow: packets of chocolate-filled cone tips and jars of glazed cereal. She said she was inspired by the best part of the Selecta Cornetto ice cream cones – the tips – and has been manufacturing these cone snacks for two years now. It did so well that she quit her marketing job at a large company to focus on the business.
This is how a good entrepreneur will identify the big idea. In her case, she knew the tip of the Cornetto ice cream cone (which our company makes, by the way) is the best part and differentiated it by creating a snack product. Many copy concepts but fail to find a differentiator.
She found a cone-making factory and supplied them with the chocolate to put inside the cone tips. She next started making glazed cereal snacks, a product borne out of her love for cereal snacks and her frustration over them getting soggy after a time. Her solution was to coat the cereal in an oil-based glaze to lock in the crunch. This second product is outselling the first, thanks to this personal market insight. It also optimized their supply of chocolate.
As an aside, I noticed that marketing and sales people seem to have a knack for entrepreneurship. Being a marketing guy myself, I would surmise it is because they are plugged in to what the market wants. It could also be because they see market gaps and the opportunities they present.
This cone snacks entrepreneur’s problem now is growth. Not the lack of it, that’s for sure. Her product has enjoyed initial double-digit growth and while the sales have now tapered, they remain steady. Like a good entrepreneur, she has her eye on the future. She plans to enter more mainstream retail outlets and is wondering how best to scale up. I told her that, from my experience, this would be the best time to introduce new products.
I was glad to hear that one of the largest grocery store chains in the country understood that her company is just starting out and granted her request to waive their listing fees. It is this kind of big-brother assistance that MSMEs need and I was happy to hear that the big companies are responding.
I also met and mentored the founder of an upstart coffee chain. Like a lot of new entrepreneurs, she started her business in 2020, during the pandemic. She saw in her native Bacolod how it was possible to make quality affordable fresh coffee. When she moved to Manila for work, she recreated the business in her neighborhood in Makati, but offered a differentiator: she delivered coffee for free.
She started selling on social media and used e-commerce sites and soon enough, her coffee brand gained enough traction to let her open three stores. By 2021, she was franchising her business. She onboards, trains and supplies the over 100 franchises she now has, and has expanded her offering to pastries and more coffee variations. She has acquired partners but remains the company’s major shareholder. This is a smart move, especially for young enterprises because I believe that it is important to have just one person at the wheel at this stage.
I told her that it is important to hold on to the stores in the prime locations, especially the mall-based ones. I advised her to balance the brand’s expansion with acquiring their own stores, as the value will be in the stores that they own.
In both young entrepreneurs, social media proved to be the boost they needed. They promoted heavily on social media and utilized e-commerce sites to sell, and eventually made enough money to push into brick-and-mortar territory, such as supplying convenience stores and opening physical branches.
Mentoring is very important for small entrepreneurs. Even if you have a good idea or a good product, going headlong into business without proper guidance can be dangerous. One of my mentees during the event built her lemonade business from scratch and started franchising.
She was told her recipe for lemonade is the main selling point; she owns two branches but has a franchise of 50. And now the growth is making it necessary for her to learn the basics of management and how to safeguard her product. As one of our mentors told her, franchising must be done the right way. It’s easy to go from zero to 100 branches in two years, but also easy to go back to zero again if the proper controls are not established.
We have mentored so many women entrepreneurs at our 3M on Wheels events and they display the same grit, creativity, digital savvy and resourcefulness as these young women. Women entrepreneurs are important to the economy’s growth because of the wide-ranging impact of their enterprises. In small communities, they help employ and uplift their neighbors, and in the process benefit entire families.
It was remarkable to see so many of these young entrepreneurs who are so hungry to succeed. This is what motivates me to organize these events and continue to reach out to as many Filipinos who want a better life.