06 November 2011

Five minutes to change the world

Five minutes are definitely not enough to change the world, but five minutes were all it took for Paolo Benigno “Bam’’ Aquino IV to convince an august panel of global development and social entrepreneurial experts that his group could help improve the lives of many Filipino women.
Aquino, chairman of Micro Ventures Foundation, presented Hapinoy before Singapore National Committee for UN Women and MasterCard executives for the “Project Inspire: 5 Minutes to Change the World” competition. For successfully supporting 1,000 woman sari-sari owners through personal and business development, management systems, better pricing of goods, and additional revenue channels, Hapinoy won the grand prize and a US$25,000 Women’s Empowerment grant.
A joint initiative by UN Women Singapore and MasterCard, Project Inspire was launched in March to commemorate the 100th year of International Women’s Day and to celebrate MasterCard’s 25th year in the region. About 450 youth teams worldwide submitted their life-changing ideas to empower women and girls across Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa in the form of five-minute pitch videos (or written proposals). The winning projects were judged on project sustainability, impact and long-term economic or social benefit to disadvantaged women and girls in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
The judges also awarded a special grant of US$10,000 to Mark Cox, who represented his team from Thailand for the Best Financial Literacy/Livelihood proposal. Their project, ‘UPLift Initiative’, empowers Burmese women migrants living in landfills at the border of Thailand and Myanmar by building a women’s resource centre that provides financial literacy training and skills for income generation activities.
A US$10,000 special prize was also given to the Most Creative Community Outreach proposal, which the judges awarded to Madhura Dutta for ‘Painting the Road to Empowerment’ from India. Her team’s program benefits abused and discriminated women from Pingla, East India. These women have a unique culture of earning a living by singing and painting. Her winning project aims to replicate the successful Pingla model in the nearby village of Chandipur, bringing this artistic talent to the production of diversified products including decorative scrolls and other artworks.
Making Pinoys happy
While social responsibility and social enterprise have become buzzwords of late, not one group has helped the poor with business development. This is where Hapinoy sees great opportunities.
“Nobody does business development for the poor. They didn’t finish school, they don’t know anything about running a business, managing revenues and profit. Sari-sari stores usually supplement the family income with an average profit of about P100 to P150 a day. So sometimes they are close because the stocks have run out because they cannot sustain it,’’ Aquino says.
Hapinoy steps in by teaching woman storeowners practical applications of concepts like inventory management, visual merchandising, customer relations, and financial management — basic book keeping and understanding their financial situation.
These may be a mouthful for sari-sari owners but Aquino says they definitely put these concepts in context.
“We tell them, O, ‘nay, yung mabenta ilagay sa harap, yung makukulay dito, yung mabagal gumalaw ilagay sa likod. Kung may produktong malapit nang mag-expire ilagay mo sa harap,’’ he explains.
With about 700,000 stores in the country, sari-sari stores make up 30 to 40 percent of total retail sales in the Philippines. Hapinoy has evolved into a full-service micro entrepreneur enhancement program: a network of micro, small, medium and large enterprises where Hapinoy Community Stores and sari-sari stores serve as the hubs for goods and services that are coursed through the program.
Hapinoy also teaches the nanays the big difference between sales and profit, the waterloo of most sari-sari store owners. “Sales is not profit. So we tell them that if you sell P5,500, you can only spend the P500, which is the profit. We teach them to separate the money of the business from the money of the family. Kung kukupit ka, kailangan mong ilista yon.”
Basic the training may be, but Hapinoy is optimistic about the difference it has made in the lives of the woman entrepreneurs the group has been helping. “The training may be basic but it really helps. The foundation of all these different business skills is a change of mindset about themselves to build their confidence. Eventually, what we see is when the nanays become successful, the tatays get involved. It’s the gateway to the development of the family and community.”




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