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It has been almost a week since our first in-person Mentor Me On Wheels event, and I must say, it still gladdens me to recall the enthusiasm with which the veteran businessmen-mentors and the aspiring entrepreneurs, who came to learn from them, participated in the event.
The one-on-one mentoring format gives small business owners access to technical knowledge and practical know-how on entrepreneurship in a setting that is accessible and convenient.
The Mentor Me On Wheels event last April 9 was put together with the intent of expressing confidence. Confidence that the vaccines will protect all attendees—even us, the organizers—from severe illness, and confidence in the role of MSMEs in reviving the economy.
The biggest bonus, however, was the palpable confidence among the attendees that the Philippines can and will triumph over the challenges of the pandemic, and that MSMEs will be at the tip of the spear, fighting on and leading the way toward our economic recovery.
It was particularly humbling to hear the stories of the aspiring entrepreneurs who made the effort to attend the event.
There was Rodrigo Ibantog who runs his own patahian in Baguio. He does all the sewing himself and sells his products online via Facebook. Rodrigo told us that he spent some P1,200 in bus fare to attend the event and waited from 12 midnight at the Pasay City bus terminal that Saturday morning so he could be at Ayala Malls Manila Bay at 9 a.m. He was one of the lucky winners of our raffle and went home with P8,000.
But more than the cash prize, he received advice from David Charlton, owner of David’s Salon who mentored him not just about running the business, but also how to balance growing his business with his obligations as a solo parent.
We also had people walk in from the nearby tiangges. One of them makes bags using upcycled material from upholstery. He said he had heard of Go Negosyo’s mentoring program before. As fate would have it, he saw the event being set up as he tended to his store outside the event area. He said he didn’t think twice about signing up for mentoring. He told my staff that his mentor gave him specific pointers on how he can go about setting up his business, and that next week, after the Holy Week break, he would go straight to DTI and do the necessary paperwork. But the most important lesson he learned from his mentor is that even good products need marketing. The P8,000 he won as seed capital is a bonus, he said; the mentoring he received is priceless.
I personally mentored Josh Mojica, an impressive 17-year-old who started Kangkong Chips Original last year with only P3,000 in capital. Seeing the potential of his aunt’s kangkong chips recipe, he decided to package it, brand it, and sell it online. His business is a rousing success, but he’s not stopping.
He attended the Mentor Me On Wheels event to find out how he can get a loan to expand his business. I coached him about how to run his business now that things are getting serious, and what he should do next: the paperwork,
proper packaging, upscaling his sales. Josh understood the place of mentoring in his journey as an entrepreneur.
He knows that there are people who can and will answer his questions, and he appreciates how he can benefit from the real-world, first-hand experience of people who have gone through what he is going through right now. I am amazed that he is doing extremely well; people like Josh are those we have to help.
On the other side of the equation are our mentors. They are generous people; they chose to spend their weekend that day, volunteering their time, and in some cases—devoting resources—to come and share their knowledge with complete strangers.
Their presence sends a message to aspiring entrepreneurs: there are people who are willing to help you.
Pepot Miñana of Jollibee Foods Corp., who served as one of our mentors, remarked on how much better face-to-face mentoring can be. He told us that talking to the mentees face-to-face has a different energy.
I understand completely. It’s the subtle cues, the dynamism of the interaction, the simple joy of seeing how you’ve enriched a person’s life just by talking to him.
Some of the mentors said that the questions and level of experience of the mentees was wide-ranging. Some asked very basic questions, such as what business would be ideal right now, or very specific questions about the cost of capital. Some came prepared with business plans and presented them for review by the mentors.
Seeing the number of attendees at the event was a sign that people are more confident now to return to normal life. Face masks were still being worn, Ayala Malls provided us with a venue that was spacious and well-ventilated, and everywhere, people were conscientious about keeping interactions safe.
I think we’re ready, but I think we should be more vigilant than ever. It took a long time to get to where we are—25 months for Mentor Me On Wheels; we should not waste it. Get fully vaccinated, take your booster when it’s time, and keep wearing your face masks.
It was a triumphant return for Mentor Me On Wheels, and I look forward to having more of our mentoring events conducted in person.