The COVID-19 crisis has devastated thousands of businesses nationwide, with severe impact especially on small and micro businesses, forcing many entrepreneurs to stop operations temporarily, while inducing others to close their businesses permanently. Others, however, manage to thrive.
BPI Direct BanKo, the microfinance arm of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), recently launched a multimedia campaign called Project Ngiti, with the tagline, “May ngiti ang bukas mo”.
The campaign features entrepreneurs who found ways to pivot and continue to operate amid the ongoing global health crisis. BanKo hopes that it will inspire more entrepreneurs to make use of financial products and services to help them bounce back.
“The number of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country is indicative of the Filipinos’ burning entrepreneurial spirit. Amidst the current challenges, we want microentrepreneurs to know that BanKo is here to support them in keeping and growing their businesses,” said Rod Mabiasen, Jr., BanKo Financial Inclusion and Microfinance Solutions Head.
For its first features, Project Ngiti puts the spotlight on two inspiring clients who availed of BanKo’s NegosyoKo loan—Filipina microentrepreneurs Manelyn Dela Cruz Rabulan and Teresita Negrido. Their stories will be posted on BanKo’s social media pages and in their branches around the country.
Ms. Dela Cruz owns Manelyn Ice Cream, which she and her husband have patiently grown for over a decade. They started their business in 2010 with a small capital of P5,000 in a bid to augment the growing expenses of their family. Back then, Manelyn Ice Cream could only afford six carts and a few ice cream machines until they took a loan from BanKo to invest in equipment to expand their production.
Seeing her dream of growing her business become a reality was every bit as sweet as her ice cream itself. From six carts in 2010, Manelyn Ice Cream had 12 carts moving around the streets of Biñan, Laguna, to GMA, Cavite, by the end of 2019.
When the pandemic hit and the government imposed strict lockdowns in early 2020, Manelyn Ice Cream was unable to continue selling on the streets. “The lockdown really affected our sales. Since we were not allowed to go out, we had to stop our operations,” she said.
The need to survive compelled her to find ways to adjust to the situation. She marketed her product on Facebook and luckily found customers there.
“My husband and I learned a lot from this crisis. First, we should practice saving while our business is doing well so that we will be prepared during rainy days. Second, we should take care of our staff because they are the ones who will help you get back on track. And third, we should trust God,” she said.
As the pandemic has shaken even large multinational corporations, many small entrepreneurs are understandably skeptical about their ability to carry out their business plans. Ms. Dela Cruz, however, believes this should not stop them from pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams.
“The pandemic taught me about the importance of having practical knowledge of your chosen business so that when the time comes that you have to lay-off, you are able to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. One should also know that there will be people or organizations that will help us, just like how BanKo helped us grow our business and buy our own space,” she said.
Coffee for delivery
For her part, Teresita Negrido is another inspiring woman who pursued her entrepreneurial dreams and created her own coffee brand, Pure Angel Coffee. From selling only 200 boxes a day when she first started in 2017, she reached an average of 5,000 boxes per day by the end of 2019.
Pure Angel Coffee was borne out of Ms. Negrido’s hope to sip and enjoy a cup of coffee without triggering her hyperacidity.
Determined to find a solution, she tapped her relative, who is in the food production business, to find a way to neutralize the acidity of the coffee and develop a blend that will allow people to enjoy drinking coffee without having to deal with stomach discomfort. While it was initially meant for purely personal consumption, she eventually started giving samples to family and friends.
“People loved it. They started asking for orders themselves, and that was when I realized that I wasn’t alone in needing a product like it. There’s an entire market that could benefit from what we developed,” she said.
Before the pandemic, she used to run a small stall in Muñoz Market, which turned into a bigger office after she tapped BanKo to support her business expansion plans. But when the pandemic lockdowns came, she, too, was caught off guard.
“It was quite unexpected and we had to close our office to manage our poor cashflow and declining onsite customers. We reached out to them through text, call, and chat, and my kids were the ones who are delivering our products to them. We also had to secure a permit just so we could deliver continuously,” she said.
When the government eased quarantine restrictions, she tried reopening her Muñoz Market office for a month, but it did not fare well as people were still wary about going out.
Ms. Negrido remained undeterred, saying: “We should never let the situation get the best of us. We have to move and find solutions or many people will lose their jobs. They need us.”
Recalibrating her business strategy, Ms. Negrido shifted to e-commerce, which enabled her to sell around 1,000 to 2,000 boxes every week. She also offered free coffee to help promote her products to more people.
“If not for the loan from BanKo in December, I would not have been able to purchase supplies from the manufacturer in bulk. The loan allowed us to sustain operations today,” she said.
With these inspiring stories, Mr. Mabiasen, Jr., said BanKo aims to introduce more financialproducts and services in the coming years that will enable more Filipinos to realize their entrepreneurial goals and for more businesses to grow.
“Microentrepreneurs are fueling our economy through their creativity, hard work, and innovations. And we remain committed to help them become more successful and for their businesses to become more sustainable through our financial solutions,” Mr. Mabiasen said.