Friday, March 16, 2012

Sari-sari stores: Social enterprise for ‘people power’

Sari-sari stores: Social enterprise for ‘people power’
By Aileen Garcia-Yap
Cebu Daily News
March 16, 2012

Changing the mind-set of sari-sari store owners from being “just a small store owner” to “an entrepreneur running a business that has potential to grow” is one way to empower people to start their own business.

Paolo Benigno “Bam” A. Aquino IV, founder of Hapinoy Store, said this was the aim of the group behind the network of sari-sari stores which he helped set up in 2006.

“We believe in empowerment. We feel this is a new form of ‘people power.’ We fight the poverty of the mind, spirit and wallet,” said Aquino during last Wednesday’s annual membership meeting of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) Visayas at the Casino Español.

Aquino explained the difference between charity and a social enterprise.

Giving people what they need through traditional chairty has temporary benefits.

“A social business enterprise puts into balance the three important issues—environmental divide, the material divide and the spiritual divide—and is the best way to address each of them simultaneously,” said Aquino.

Aquino, who co-created the Ang Hapinoy Store in 2006, said he was inspired by an international futurist who gave a talk emphasizing three important numbers—1.5, 2.5 and 3 “that every entrepreneur should address.”

“The number 1.5 is the amount of resources that we use compared to the actual available resources that we have. This represents our environmental divide,” he said.

For the second number, 2.5 represents the total number of poor people, in billions, in the world, which represents “our material divide.”

The number 3 refers to the trend of three times more deaths caused by suiicide compared to death by violence in the world.

“This represents our spiritual divide,” said Aquino.

A social enterprise addresses all three needs.

Aquino said the Hapinoy Store was created to help empower the owners of the sari-sari store, as the smallest retail unit in the country.

“There are around 800,000 sari-sari stores in the country today and if we can group them, they can become powerful. We thought that if we can work with the owners, empower them and make ways for a change in mind-set, we can be able to help improve our economy,” said Aquino.

Aquino illustrated the concept of a social enterprise by sharing the classic children’s story “The Giving Tree” with a twist.

In the classic story, an apple tree gives up all its fruits and wood so that a boy could earn money and be happy.

Aquino then retold the story using a mango tree, who gave all her fruits and told the boy to sell half of it and plant the seeds of the other half. The seeds multiplied till the boy had an orchard, providing a sustainable income for the boy until he became an old man.

“For Hapinoy, we are aiming it to be nationwide within two to three years and global within the next five years,” said Aquino.

The PBSP Visayas has its own volunteer program for start-up businesses.

The Business Advisory Program (BAP) involves volunteers from member companies of the PBSP, a foundation made up of at least 230 corporate members.

Individual experts volunteer for assignments in finance, marketing, production operations and organizational management.

This year, PBSP Visayas awarded 13 volunteer advisors, including a posthumous award to Mr. Leonardo Alindajao who was the quality and productivity coordinator of San Miguel Yamamura Packaging Corporation.

Alindajao assisted the Agricultural Producers Cooperative in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.
According to PBSP executive committee vice chairman Philip N. Tan, 46 volunteer advisers have assisted 39 enterprises .

“This year we hope to have more volunteers and assist more enterprises,” said Tan.

In his remarks, PBSP executive director Rafael C. Lopa said they aim to scale up successful anti-poverty projects such as the development of the Cebu Hillylands and replicate it in other communities like the Marikina watershed in Luzon.

“We want to establish a win-win models of change through our successful projects,” said Lopa.

Other awardees were Michael J. Alcarde, engineer Gerry R. Burdas of Teradyne Philippines, Limited, Dioscoro O. Ayag Jr. of Options and Concepts and Spice Up Massage and Spa and Bed and Bath, Rammel B. Cagulada of Cagulada Accounting Solutions, Macario P. Balali of East Asia Utilities Corp and Cebu Private Power Corp., Arlette L. Melgar of Development Academy of the Philippines, Ronaldo V. Puzon of Hotel and Restaurant Management of CITU, Cristina Florabel C. Lim and Neil Raymond N. Saletrero of the University of San Jose Recoletos, Engr. Phyllis May C. Sia of the University of San Carlos, Jose F. de Castro of Center for International Education, and Maria A. Bunao of PBSP.