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What a first OFW summit it has been for the Villar Foundation and Go Negosyo. To our surprise, more than 6,000 people filled up the hall at the World Trade Center last Nov. 24, as past and present OFWs and their families attended to learn how to make a stable future for themselves in the country. We didn’t expect to see thousands lining up outside the hall as early as 5 a.m. It gives us great joy to know that our summits, whatever kind, seem to be something many always look forward to.
The audience was very attentive and it was clear that many would really rather establish themselves here. People were jotting down notes, asking questions, and as the day progressed, the hall just filled up more, so much that the people seated at front would have it hard to walk through the crowd.
In the morning forum, former OFWs turned entrepreneurs Prudencio Garcia, president of Mekeni, Myrna Padilla, founder and president of BPO company Mynd Consulting, and Randell Tiongson, who now has his own training firm, shared their struggle and their first steps in starting a business when they came home from abroad. There were many questions from the audience, such as what’s the right business, how to get a kick start, but the most recurring was where to get capital. All our speakers, and so would entrepreneurs everywhere, agree that capital is not the biggest problem, and that funds from modest savings can take you to places with hard work, discipline and perseverance.
I thought it best to bring with me to the stage the Citi Microentrepeneur of the Year winners Corazon Bautista and Carina Gonato to prove to aspiring entrepreneurs that a negosyo can start with very little capital. Corazon Bautista started with P5,000, invested more in her skill in sewing clothing, and now she’s a manufacturer of ready-to-wear corporate clothing and supplies to five malls. She took the time to impart words of advice right after my speech.
Setting up a negosyo is never easy. Even Sen. Manny Villar, who recounted his story in his speech, had to experience a couple of failed businesses before making it big with Camella. Apparently, the very first client who gave the Senator his break in negosyo is an OFW, and to this day, the OFWs remain dear to him.
Meanwhile, the afternoon forum presented negosyo opportunities to our OFWs and their families, thanks to the participation of Leonardo Dayao Sr., president of Puregold Price Club, Victoria Villa, founder of Natasha and Marikina Shoe Exchange, and Shiela Culpa, Avon’s Process Development manager. They discussed some of the easiest entrepreneurial ventures that require little capital for startup entrepreneurs.
To discuss the programs for addressing some of the most pressing issues of OFWs, Susan “Toots” Ople of the Blas V. Ople Center graced the stage to present reintegration efforts for OFWs, while OWWA director Luisa Reyes presented the different kinds of assistance the government has for returning OFWs.
And finally, there to inspire the audience were Go Negosyo executive director Mon Lopez, who explained in a nutshell the importance of developing an entrepreneurial mindset and having the knowhow to succeed in life, and motivational “mindset-change” speaker Michael Angelo Lobrin. Entrepreneurs School of Asia former dean Pax Lapid and franchise guru Armando “Butz” Bartolome were also there to teach the rudiments of starting and running a negosyo.
As Cynthia Villar stressed in her speech, it is important to look after our OFWs and to give back to them what they have worked hard for since they have contributed much to their family and our country. Our goal here is to help them put their hard-earned money in the right place, that is in a negosyo, to create a sustainable source of income for their family, especially after they retire.
Probably the highlight of the day was when one lucky wife of an OFW, Foresa Morada, was awarded the grand raffle prize – a Camella House and Lot. She was close to tears as she came to the stage and shared the story of how her OFW husband has been away for a very long time to be able to send their children to good schools and to give them a brighter future. She regarded the Villars and Go Negosyo as an instrument to making her dreams of having her own home come true.
Five other lucky OFWs and family members who stayed till the end of the program also walked home with a Kettle Korn franchise, and one audience member won a Swift Negosyo Kart worth P100,000.
I have a feeling that the Villar Foundation will continue to spawn summits like this, hopefully with Go Negosyo, given the success of this first ever OFW summit. This is definitely something to look forward to, especially for OFWs who missed this inspirational and educational event.