Bunye: Rays of sunshine amid the pandemic

SOCIAL enterprises (SEs) are like rays of sunshine amid the pandemic gloom. As the global health crisis uncovered new challenges, SEs have remained undeterred in pursuing their advocacies to help the communities they serve not only to survive these challenging times, but also to create long-term growth post-pandemic.

But the truth is, despite its purpose-driven, self-sustaining business model, several SEs have found themselves scrambling for resources as the pandemic disrupted the supply chain and hampered operations. They are used to providing assistance to those in need. This time, however, most of them need help, too.

This is the reason entrepreneurship programs remain crucial. One such program is being run by BPI Foundation, the social development arm of the BPI. Through its BPI Sinag program, the Foundation is working with different partners such as the government, and non-profit and private organizations to foster a thriving ecosystem for social enterprises.

For seven years now, BPI Sinag has been empowering local SEs in uplifting Filipino communities and scaling their businesses while addressing the triple-bottom-line of people, planet, and profit through opportunities for technological, social, and market innovations. Part of the program is to provide cash grants and boot camps in business management, finance, and marketing.

"Our efforts to support social enterprises do not stop here as this is a long-term commitment. We will continue to build and refine the program scope and interventions based on prevailing market dynamics," said BPI Foundation Executive Director Owen Cammayo.

This year, 10 SEs received cash grants, exclusive mentorship opportunities, and more at the recently held BPI Sinag Spark 2021 Awards.

With the theme "Sinag Spark"-which represents light and hope for progress to SEs as they bounce back from the effects of the ongoing pandemic -- the program awarded the Batangas Egg Producers Multipurpose Cooperative, Ecoveritas Agriculture Technical Assistance Services (COSCAO Chocolate Manufacturing), LikhangMaragondon Native Products Trading, Mayani, and Tinker House as the top five SEs in this year's business challenge; while GreenLife Coconut Products Philippines, MagzWheel Furnitures & TireCycling, Peak Foods Processing, Tagolwanen Women Weavers Association, and Tindagat.ph placed 6th to 10th.

Through Ayala Land Inc.'s Alagang Ayala Land program, Sinag SEs can avail of free leasable space for three months to one year in any Ayala Malls. On top of that, BPI Foundation will cover maintenance fees for common areas for a maximum of 10 square meters for the first three months for the Top 10 awardees.

BPI Foundation Chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala congratulated this year's awardees through a recorded video message. "We recognize that this year has certainly not been easy for businesses of all sizes, given the challenges brought about by COVID-19. I commend and salute your commitment to serving our fellow Filipinos and the planet while helping drive our country's economy during these difficult times," he said.

A record-breaking 124 SEs joined the Sinag Spark business challenge this year. After going through months of deliberations and two intensive boot camps, the top 25 finalists were tasked to pitch their business plans to a panel of judges, namely, BPI Foundation Executive Director Owen Cammayo, Bayan Academy Chairman and President Prof. Francisco "Jay" Bernardo III, Villgro Philippines co-founder and CEO Priya Thachadi, and Coffee for Peace founder and CEO Joji Pantoja.

Other social enterprises also received special awards. Magzwheel Furnitures and TireCycling, a producer of furniture from recycled rubber, received a P20,000 cash grant from BPI Direct BanKo.

Mayani, an impact-driven agri-technology startup, took home the Endeavor Mentorship Award with several mentorship sessions. Collaborative makers hub Creativly Studio and fresh fruit and vegetable distributor Green Habits Agri Trading obtained The Gift Mentorship Award with a one-on-one mentorship program from StartUp Village. Meanwhile, Ecoveritas Agriculture Technical Assistance Services (COSCAO Chocolate Manufacturing), which offers healthy chocolate bars, and Mayani bagged the Investment Readiness Award and three months' worth of investment mentoring support from Villgro Philippines.

In November, BPI Foundation will hold its very first Philippine SE Summit to present a National SE Strategy Paper and introduce its second Sinag book titled, "How to Manage a Business That Does Good."

Since its launch in 2015, BPI Sinag has provided a total of P20.5 million cash grants and welcomed 238 SEs all over the country.

BPI President and CEO TG Limcaoco said, "At BPI, our aspiration is to build a better Philippines, and we believe that supporting the growth of this sector is key to doing just that. We recognize the importance of SEs to our economy and society. Through BPI Sinag, we are committed to nurture social entrepreneurs and help enable their growth, progress, and sustainability."

Through programs such as BPI Sinag, we can indeed help build a better Philippines by making sure that social entrepreneurs get the help they need when they need it. Let's support these social entrepreneurs today.

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