Microfinance is the key

In one of our short meetings with Injap Sia of DoubleDragon and Mang Inasal, he shared one quote that stuck in my mind. He said, “For employees: education is important. It catapults an individual from zero to hero. But for entrepreneurs, microfinance is the key.”

While an enterprising attitude is evident in many entrepreneurs, microfinance turns their ideas into fruition, a plan into a goal. In our 10 years of featuring inspiring stories of entrepreneurs, we found out that many of them started from the bottom of the entrepreneurship pyramid- as microentrepreneurs. They found ways to level up their businesses through creativity and innovation coupled with funding from financing institutions.

It is empowering to know that there are a lot of micro finance institutions that help micro enterprises from the start. It gives them a chance to level up their lives through entrepreneurship.

The biggest microfinance institution we come to know is the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development – Mutually Reinforcing Institutions or CARD-MRI of Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip. He started this business in 1986 after realizing that the urban poor need help. After working with marginalized sectors and less privileged Filipinos in his previous employment, he had the desire to help the landless rural poor.

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Dr. Alip is one of our featured entrepreneurs in our Passion book as he really exemplifies passion through his dedication to help finance livelihood projects and start-up entrepreneurs. For 30 years, CARD-MRI provides loans and grants to micro entrepreneurs in the rural communities. As a social enterprise, CARD-MRI aims to eradicate poverty through microfinance.

Just recently, we met with him for a partnership in one of the programs that we will be launching this year. In his modest office, Dr. Alip shared with us how CARD-MRI has helped countless of micro entrepreneurs, most especially women who have nothing but the desire to start their own businesses. Micro entrepreneurs can borrow as small as 5,000 as a starting capital and is collateral free. I remember the time we had him in one of the fora we hosted, he shared that their repayment rate is almost 100 percent. With this, we can see that their clients’ enterprises are growing and developing into bigger enterprises.

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Today, CARD-MRI has now five billion pesos funds lent out to over three million borrowers from different provinces.

W Group’s Rosalind Wee celebrated her 70th birthday. (In photo: Rosalind Wee, Marissa Concepcion, Joey Concepcion, and Lee Hiong Wee)

After our short meeting, we asked him if he wanted this business to have a franchise model so it can provide negosyo opportunities to others since we saw how sustainable the business is. He humbly answered that that may not be aligned with their overall objective which is to eradicate poverty through lower micro-financing cost. And that is all that matters.

He shared to us, “The business of CARD remains poverty alleviation. We are not a bank in the same way that others are. We are primarily a social enterprise. We are there to help.”

Aside from the microfinance and micro insurance programs, CARD-MRI also provide health services and pharmacy outlets through BotiCARD which offers affordable generic medicines to their clients, provides hygienic and wellness products, and gives health support services such as health education and medical advices.

All these programs of CARD-MRI come from Dr. Alip’s mission to make a difference in the lives of many Filipinos that is why he is worthy to receive the 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service. Truly inspiring!

Another inspiring entrepreneur is Rosalind Wee, one of Go Negosyo’s beloved trustees and a good friend of the family. You may have heard of her name countless times because of her other advocacies so let me share briefly her story.

Rosalind started as a teacher before becoming an entrepreneur. As we all know, a teacher’s salary is quite small compared to different professions.  She then thought of having a home business. With just 5,000, she started a small handicraft business.

But this is not the business that made her what she is today. Since she grew up in Jolo, Sulu surrounded by rich aquaculture resources, she ventured into the processing of carrageenan made from seaweed. This carrageenan is a key ingredient in many processed foods including ice cream, cheese, chocolates, salad dressings, and even toothpastes and air freshener gels.

Today, their family company W Group has ventured into many industries but has not left the carrageenan production.

Mrs. Wee recently celebrated her 70th birthday and we all wished her well. With her passion in their business, we hope that she will continue leading the business to its continuous growth.

These entrepreneurs are the kind of entrepreneurs we all admire. We are inspired and empowered by their examples and how they remained humble amidst the triumph in their entrepreneurial journey. I wish that more young entrepreneurs learn from their stories and good models of leadership and enterprising attitude.

Source: Philstar Global. Date: January 21, 2016

http://www.philstar.com/business/2016/01/21/1544607/microfinance-key