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A challenge for lady entrepreneurs

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ILLUSTRATION BY STEPH BRAVO

A boot camp might conjure up images of tasks that require participants to survive the most physically and mentally demanding activities in preparation for military service. That’s unlikely to be the case for The Young Women Entrepreneurs Boot Camp 2013 (YWEB) coming up late September but the stakes remain just as high, officials of the groups behind the advocacy say.

The project, which seeks to draw 30 participants across the country, is part of broader efforts to widen the participation of women in the economy, as various studies have argued on the economic benefits that follow.

The YWEB boot camp 2013, the latest advocacy toward this effort, is a project of the SamahanngmgaPilipinaparasaReporma at Kaunlaran (SPARK) and the United States Embassy. The boot camp will run for three days from Sept. 23 to 25.

“Countless studies have shown that countries that encourage economic participation and entrepreneurial activity from women tend to do better overall. We need to empower more women to do business,” SPARK! Philippines president Mel Alonzo says during a press briefing to announce the YWEB activity early this week.

The figures revealed by officers of SPARK did paint a compelling picture.

For instance, Asia-Pacific could hit $89 billion in annual growth “if women were able to reach their full economic potential.” This, according to the study Access to Trade and Growth of Women’s SMEs in APEC Developing Economies released in February 2013.

It was a project by the Asia Foundation for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the region’s leading economic forum.

Opportunities remain large, with the same study noting small and medium scale businesses represent 99.6 per cent of all registered businesses in the Philippines account for 32 percent of the economy and employ 70 percent of the work force.

“There remains an under-representation in the numbers of women entrepreneurs among established businesses, suggesting a set of factors that limit (Filipino) women when it comes to managing and operating a business,” according to the study.

Those constraints include family responsibilities that prevent them from putting more time into a business, SPARK officials note.

Women likewise favor activities “that allow them to balance family with entrepreneurial responsibilities such as trading, food preparation or home-based piece work,” they add.

The influence of women entrepreneurs has indeed been growing. Businesses run by Filipino women today account for 40 percent of entrepreneurial activity but male-led enterprises experienced better growth, it was announced this week.

A separate report by the Global Economic Monitor found that Filipino women tended to generally own nascent businesses, which typically refers to new ventures or concepts, at 69 percent, while men more often owned established businesses, or 66 percent.

“Women need to be included in economic activities in order for countries to truly experience development and peace,” notes US Embassy Economic Officer Katy Bondy.

The YWEB Boot Camp is being eyed as just another step in providing an avenue for young women businesses owners to be “mentored” by experts and successful entrepreneurs.

The launch this week saw experiences shared by Figaro Coffee founder Pacita “Chit” Juan of ECHO Store and Noreen Bautista, a self-described accidental entrepreneur whose company EcoIngenuity produces bags, journals and gadget covers from water hyacinth under the Jacinto&Lirio label.

Interested participants for the YWEB Boot Camp must submit a company profile describing their business, products or services, accompanied by a copy of their Department of Trade and Industry registration papers and their financial statements for the past two years.

Ten participants each from Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao will be chosen to join the three-day workshop.

The top prize is $5,000 for the best and most innovative business plan. Three runners-up—one each from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao—will receive $1,000. Deadline for application is on July 31 and can be submitted to yweb.manila2013@gmail.com.

Speakers from Google, Citibank and other organizations will mentor the YWEB participants on strategic topics. Other firms and organizations contributing to the event are the Micro and SME Development department of the Department of Trade and Industry, Small Business Guarantee and Finance Corp. Planters Development Bank, Card Bank, Primeiro Partners and more.


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