Whenever we talk about innovation, the common response or idea that would come to mind would be technology or digital development. Yes, this is majority of the innovation that we are seeing today. But looking at all the innovative enterprises and entrepreneurs we have interviewed for the past years, I learned that innovation is more than just a ‘click of a button.’ Innovation is, and must be into all enterprises. Continuous innovation is key to starting and growing the business. Ignore innovation is like ignoring the business.
Innovation can be in the product output, design, features, benefits, or it can be in the processes that produce such output. Innovation should drive up excellence and differentiation in product or service features and benefits. It should also bring down cost in any business processes, and enhance efficiencies in operations.
Recently, in partnership with US Embassy, we had the Mentor Me: Innovation Forum together with Senior Adviser to the US Secretary of State, Amb. David Thorne and all the global innovators that flew in to continue the commitment of the US government to foster entrepreneurship and support inclusive growth.
As emphasized by Amb. David Thorne, the Obama administration values entrepreneurs that is why they have the Young Southeast Asia Leadership Inititative (YSEALI) which is a program empowering young leaders and young entrepreneurs. Also, they are hosting a Global Entrepreneurship Summit which will feature inspiring global entrepreneurs and innovators who are trying to create new opportunities for partnerships and collaborations. It is encouraging to know that international governments and organizations are interested in strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem globally. We have this partnership as well with the UK Embassy. This inspires us that our little act of advocacy here in the country contributes to the common goal of inclusive growth.
Sen. Bam Aquino shared three inspiring stories: Purple Passion of Davao, Kalasag Farmers of Nueva Ecija, and Melvie and Myrna Rojo of Iloilo. Purple Passion is a social enterprise which has engaged farmers to produce ube jams and ube powder which they now sell to industrial clients. Kalasag Farmers was featured in our agri book as they are directly selling their onions to the largest fast-food chain in the country, Jollibee. Lastly, Melvie and Myrna Rojo are both former OFWs in Brunei but upon returning in the country, they consulted the Iloilo Negosyo Center and met Mutya, a business councilor assigned in the said center. Mutya was able to mentor the Rojo couple and guided them through the whole process – from idea formulation to application of loans and improvement of business model. All these are inspiring for many micro and small entrepreneurs who with innovation can level up with the aide also of the Negosyo Centers.
One of the highlights of the program is the Innovators’ Forum with Manny Ayala of Endeavor Philippines, Mike Cassidy of Google, Deborah Magid of IBM Venture Capital Group, Jason Fischer of UL’s Asia Pacific, and Sheel Tyle of Seed Practice. Amb. David Thorne also joined the discussion. They have shared how using innovation as an engine for growth helped their companies.
When asked how can one build the mindset of innovators, here are their noteworthy answers:
“People are always imaginative. We need to celebrate the success of ideas. Second, we can work together in small things, so work with other people.” – Deborah Magid
“Think bigger. Given that you have an innovative mindset, why not solve a really big problem.” – Sheel Tyle
“Ask help. We are here because we want to hear and help you. mentors are very important in any entrepreneurship journey” – Jason Fischer
“People must be very observant, self-confident, and humble. Taken together are the recipe in innovation.” – Manny Ayala
Aside from these global innovators, we also had Filipino innovators such as Julius Paras (Kalibrr), Henry Lim Bon Liong (SL Agritech), Carlo Calimon (MobKard), Ryan Chua (Navegar Fund), Jay Fajardo (Launchgarage), Dianne Eustaquio (IdeaSpace), Dr. Ed Canela (K+e Ventures), Rebecca Ricalde (Voyager innovations), Bryan McClelland (Bambike), , Gian Javelona (Orange Apps), Benedict Carandang (HIA), Sofia Ang (1EXPORT), Rommel Juan (Philippine Utility Vehicle), Koh Onozawa (Loudbasstard), Scot Frank (One Earth Designs), Jason Magbanua (videographer), Kim Lato (Kimstore), and Krie Lopez (Messy Bessy).
This forum encouraged the students and entrepreneurs to start their innovative idea and transform it into a successful enterprise. It also fulfills our mission to mentor young and aspiring individuals by sharing them the stories of creative and innovative entrepreneurs.
As part of our advocacy, we are rallying behind the MSME sector by providing mentorship programs for the aspiring and micro entrepreneurs. Aside from the Mentor Me: Innovation Forum, we are proud to say that we have activated the second phase of the plan to help level-up and scale-up MSMEs through our Mentor Micro Entrepreneurs (Mentor ME) program. This coaching program in partnership with institutions such as DTI, DOST, MRI-CARD and several enabler institutions that will help provide mentorships such as PCCI, FINEX, Kalye Negosyo, Assn, of Filipino Franchisers, Phil. Franchise Association, PACE Culinary School, HURIS, HR group, Supply Chain Assn. and many more who will form part of the pool of experts to help guide the selected micro entrepreneurs in each Negosyo Centers who have the strong commitment to level-up.
We recently had the first Mentor Me session in Mandaluyong Negosyo Center, which DTI Asec. Bles Lantayona, Mandaluyong Councilor Charisse Abalos, Go Negosyo Executive Director Mon Lopez and members of entrepreneurship community attended.
Next week will be the launch in Calamba Laguna, as another pilot run for the Mentor Me program and we will bring this to more Negosyo Centers in the future. With the 150 centers established across the country to date, micro and small entrepreneurs will now have the access to the coaches and business experts from different institutions to improve their enterprises.