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In my last “Tagumpay” column, I started featuring again the success stories of entrepreneurs, starting with the finalists of the Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year. Now that we are on the topic of microentrepreneurs, I’d like to shine the spotlight on some more of the country’s outstanding microentrepreneurs, this time to the winners of the recently concluded 2011 SIPAG Awards.
The Sustainable Income for People in the Agrarian Grassroots (SIPAG) Awards has been running since 2006, and is a program of the National Livelihood Development Corporation, which is headed by NLDC president Usec. Gondelina Amata and NLDC board of trustees chair Gilda Pico of Landbank of the Philippines. This is the NLDC’s way of recognizing the country’s most outstanding entrepreneurs, who have not only made a better life for themselves, but also for their family and community.
The SIPAG Awards also recognizes partner conduits without which these microentrepreneurs wouldn’t have achieved the success they have. From across the nation, the national and regional winners have finally been selected by the board of judges, which is composed of Usec. Amata herself, director Susana Leones of the Department of Agrarian Reform-BARBD, professor Nestor Raneses of the UP-Institute for Small Scale Industries, Myrna Bituin, founder of Betis Crafts, Inc., and Go Negosyo executive director Ramon Lopez.
We start with the SIPAG National Awardee for Most Outstanding Entrepreneur, Josefina Maca, whose business is based in Zamboanga. Her difficult circumstances — born into an impoverished family, lived amid the chaos brought by the MILF, and couldn’t finish elementary school — must have developed her instincts to survive. Josefina had the mindset of an entrepreneur to better her life and her family’s.
Josefina simply looked at what negosyo opportunities there were in her area and found that vending fish was feasible. Thus, with a P3,000 loan from the KFI Center for Community Development Foundation, Inc. (KCCDFI), she started her negosyo in the industry of buying and selling of fresh and dried bulinao. With a steady business and a good relationship with the cooperative bank, Josefina was able to avail of another loan, which she used to set up a sari-sari store and to purchase dried fish in bigger quantities.
Over time, Josefina’s negosyo in fresh and dried fish grew exponentially and she now supplies dried fish stock to Cotabato, General Santos, Isulan, Ozamiz, Davao and Butuan. Her earnings also allowed her to venture into a lapu-lapu culture negosyo.
More importantly, Josefina gives back to her community. All of her ventures are for the benefit of her neighbors, such as giving them access to basic commodities, or providing employment through her dried fish negosyo.
The SIPAG winner from Luzon, Leonor Alipar, could well have been a natural entrepreneur.
She developed early on an instinct for doing business, thanks to her mother’s mini grocery. But just like many aspiring entrepreneurs, Leonor didn’t immediately take the course to entrepreneurship. Leonor started her career as a sales representative at Wacky Garment Industry after earning a degree in Industrial Technology, specializing in garments.
As soon as she got married and bore children, she found that having an eight-hour job while being a full-time mom was too difficult to manage. And since her family was just as important as earning her keep, she finally yielded to her instinct to start a negosyo, hoping that this would allow her to spend enough time with her family.
She established her negosyo with P250,000 startup capital, thanks to the generosity of her husband’s friend, and they used this to purchase a four-wheel truck that would haul gravel, sand and concrete products. Later, BAS Concrete Products was born and registered with the DTI.
As the negosyo grew, Leonor knew that it was also time to expand; thus they applied for a loan of P10,000 from EADCOOP for capital. Practical and negosyo-smart, Leonor continued to stay in industries that required little capital but would nevertheless yield generous profits. She and her husband now complement their concrete products negosyo with home-based production of soap, dishwashing liquid, and fabric conditioner.
IPAG awardee from the Visayas Mira Requiron was married early to Alberto and completed only elementary school. This inevitably led them to live a life of poverty, and it didn’t help that their parents disapproved of their union even after their marriage. Determined to live a better life, Mira and Alberto moved out of her parents’ place and decided to earn money through a negosyo.
Her husband was a fisherman, and she thought that she could use her P1,000 loan from Project Dungganon to produce dried danggit. Business was doing well, and it was able to add to the earnings her husband was making from fish vending. But misfortune struck again, as Alberto contracted viral hepatitis and asthma, which cost him his job and their money to pay for hospitalization. For a time, Mira had to take his place in fish vending while also looking after their danggit negosyo.
Having lived through harder times than these, Mira pushed forward and amazingly, was not only able to grow her danggit trade to about 210 kilos per week, but was also able to sustain the piglet-raising and production negosyo that she and Alberto started.
As Alberto recovered, they explored even more opportunities in the trade of bulao and scallop culture. Their entrepreneurial drive must have gotten stronger as they were getting good at doing business that they stepped out of their comfort zone in agri-business. They started renting out computer video games and karaoke units in a town where entertainment from TV, the movies or the Internet was non-existent. Ask if Mira and Alberto are done in entrepreneurial ventures and their answer is, not likely. “Business is never boring for me,” Mira says. “There is always something new going on, new challenges, new people to meet, new proposals to work on and new products to market.”
Erlinda Tomas, who hails from Nueva Ecija and is NLDC’s second SIPAG Awardee from Luzon, also couldn’t complete her college education because of difficult times and had to help her parents at the farm. After she married and bore two children, she decided that she wanted her own kids to finish college.
Erlinda decided to pursue what she knew best, improving her farm business and focusing on mushroom culture and production. To grow her business, she applied for an NLDC loan from the Cooperative Bank of Nueva Vizcaya and used it to expand production. With patience and hard work, she now has a weekly output of more than 150 kilograms of mushrooms ready for consumption, sold at an average of P100 per kilo. With the smarts of a true entrepreneur, she used her increased earnings to expand to swine production and a furniture shop. She has also leased two hectares of rice land for additional income.
With her slew of different negosyos, Erlinda has more than enough to cover the educational needs of her siblings, has her own house, several automobiles, and even her own mushroom laboratory.
No matter how small these microentrepreneurs are, the impact they have on the lives of their families and the people in their communities is huge. And now that they are featured and recognized as SIPAG Most Outstanding Entrepreneurs, they are sure to also influence and inspire many more, as their stories show that anyone can conquer poverty and rise up.
These two weeks for Go Negosyo are packed with events. Our first Negosyo sa Barangay Entrepreneurship Development Training is ongoing at Teacher’s Camp, Baguio City, and will run through Saturday. On Nov. 23, we’ll be at the Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year Awards and the MVP Bossing Awards as the winners are declared (by-invitation events). The following day, Nov. 24, Go Negosyo and the Villar Foundation will be mounting the first OFW and Family Summit, which is open to the public.