Thursday, March 15, 2012

Social enterprises ‘the future’

Social enterprises ‘the future’
By Mia A. Aznar
Sun.Star Cebu
March 15, 2012

Beyond helping the less fortunate, social enterprise is the best business model for the future, said an entrepreneur.

Speaking at the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) general membership meeting, Microventures Inc. president Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV said social enterprise simultaneously addresses spiritual, material and environmental divides in society.

While he lauds the Filipinos for being charitable, especially during times of calamities, he believes there are some poor people who do not need charity. Instead, they need help acquiring skills to better themselves.

Aquino, who organized the Hapinoy stores with his business partner Mark Ruiz in 2006, likened successful social enterprises to “a new form of people power.”

“There is dignity in livelihood. If they (poor) are able to build a business on their own, there is a dignity there that can’t be bought,” he said.


He explained that by building business skills of sari-sari store owners and connecting them with companies, they are empowered to support themselves.

“As their stores grow, so will they, as individuals.”

Aquino said that as they grow their businesses, they also become better family members.

Microventures services microfinancing organizations and their clients through the Hapinoy Store program.

Aquino said that their company started with a dream to make the “lowly” sari-sari store powerful.

With the sari-sari store being at the bottom of the retail chain, Aquino said they want to bring hope to microentrepreneurs, about 800,000 of these being sari-sari stores.

He said organizing owners of these stores allowed them to create a network of sari-sari stores and “transform their mindsets” from being a poor, helpless store owner to an entrepreneur with a business that can be scaled up with proper management.


While he admitted initial steps introduced to storeowners are often met with resistance, he said they will later on willingly implement more discipline in running their stores and see things differently.

The Hapinoy Program won the United Nations’ Project Inspire award against 400 other social enterprises. He and Ruiz were also named Asian social entrepreneur of the year by the World Economic Forum’s Schwab Foundation for social enterprises.

Aquino also joined the board of Rags2Riches in 2007, a business that helps underprivileged women weave rags and turn these into fashion accessories.

He hopes that in five to 10 years, a similar model of the Hapinoy Program will flourish in other developing countries.