ENTREPRENEURSHIP is no easy feat. There are those who succeed and there are those who don’t. A little help along the way spells the difference.
This year, 2016, marked the formal “bayanihan” in the local business community. This meant that big brothers and sisters of Cebu, going beyond their personal interests, reached out and helped smaller enterprises succeed in their respective businesses. This was aligned with the vision of “bringing Cebu to the next level.”
Businessman and consultant Virgilio “Nonoy” Espeleta, 56, is one of those local business owners who extended their time and expertise to new entrepreneurs, who are striving to do well, as part of the Kapatid Mentor Me program of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
The 12-module mentorship program of the trade agency spans a 10-week period and aims to help micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through coaching. Under this progam, mentors from the business sectors and academe teach MSMEs the different facets of business operations, including human resource management, taxation, financial management, operations, and marketing.
In Cebu, the Mentor Me program was first launched in October in partnership with Go Negosyo and the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI). The first batch, consisting of 26 MSMEs, graduated last Dec. 9.
From the start, Espeleta volunteered to mentor these entrepreneurs and was responsible for the creation of the modules, which are now being adopted by the Mentor Me programs implemented in different parts of the country. Joining him as mentors were CCCI President Melanie Ng, Bunny Pages and 20 other established local business owners.
“We have to help them, the new entrants in business, because they need help. They cannot grow to their full potential if there’s no one around who will closely mentor them and guide them in their journey as entrepreneurs,” said Espeleta, who is also the CCCI vice president for business development.
Preliminary data from DTI Cebu show that there were 14,289 business name registrations issued in the first 11 months of 2016. This represents a 3.09 percent increase from the same period last year.
“2016 was a good year for our MSMEs because of strong domestic demand. 2016 was also an election year so election spending would also be a big contributor (to overall economic growth),” said DTI Cebu Director Maria Elena Arbon.
The local trade agency saw a unique set of entrepreneurs this year, after having transportation network vehicle service (TNVS) drivers of Uber and GrabCar obtain business name registrations with DTI.
“We noticed that there was a spike in the number of business name registrations for transport services for Uber and GrabCar during the fourth quarter,” noted Arbon.
Training on e-commerce
The year also saw further development of micro enterprises with the revised Republic Act 9178 or the Barangay Micro Business Enterprise (BMBE) law, which exempts micro enterprises from income tax and minimum wage requirements. The revised law transfers to DTI the BMBE registration, from the local government unit, which made it “fairly easy” and “hassle-free,” said Arbon.
In addition, the local trade chief said the new programs introduced by the Duterte administration, including the Mentor Me program, and the P1-billion funding to support the MSMEs through the DTI-owned Small Business Corporation (SB Corp.) is supportive of the country’s MSME development.
Aside from the Kapatid Mentor Me program for traditional businesses, DTI Cebu rolled out two more mentorship programs this year, specifically for online businesses or the E-Commerce Mentoring Program in partnership with e-commerce specialist Janette Toral.
Arbon said this is a 10-module program for MSMEs and exporters ready to venture into e-commerce; and the Launchpad Cebu for startups in partnership with the Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA).
“The starting businesses, or I call them new entrants, really need mentorship so they can grow. Aside from mentorship, they need help in market access and access to finance,” Espeleta said. Arbon made a similar observation.
For CCCI, the businessman said, the chamber is encouraging their members to integrate the products and services of local micro and small enterprises in their value chain so the growth of MSMEs and large companies be more inclusive.
The challenge of competitiveness is also a key concern among MSMEs.
“The usual risks and challenges faced by our MSMES have been in competitiveness. In an increasingly global and interconnected world, the challenge is the capacity to level up to meet competitiveness challenges,” Arbon said.
Cebu, for instance, does not provide a competitive environment for MSMEs, said Espeleta. Poor infrastructure, red tape, worsening traffic, problems on flooding and solid waste management, as well as poor internet connectivity do not support entrepreneurship.
“We can choose to ignore that (problem) but we can’t be competitive this way,” Espeleta said.
Looming wage increases and the Duterte administration’s program to end contractual employment are also hurting MSMEs, especially micro entrepreneurs who do not have enough resources for labor.
In 2017, the businessman hopes to hear from the local and national government a clear “pro-business” roadmap.
On the part of DTI, Arbon sees more opportunities next year.
“DTI is getting more program funds for MSME programs like support for the establishment of additional Negosyo Centers, SME Roving Academy, and others like the Cebu Startup Ecosystem Development Proragm, OTOP (One Town, One Product), etc.,” the trade official said.
While one year is too short to fix Cebu’s poor infrastructure situation and competitiveness issues, the private sector, specifically CCCI, promised to continue to provide mentorship and needed support to Cebu’s MSMEs.
“We will be there for our businessmen,” promised Espeleta. “We are doing this on a purely voluntary basis.”
The cooperation he observed in 2016, he said, has never been this vibrant and visible among local entrepreneurs.
In February 2017, DTI Cebu announced, it will start training the second batch of the Mentor Me Program, still tapping the mentorship resources of CCCI. The trade agency is still accepting applications.