Training program empowers women entrepreneurs | Inquirer Business
COKE STAR INITIATIVE

Training program empowers women entrepreneurs

By: - Reporter / @amyremoINQ
/ 07:24 AM April 05, 2015

Her name wasn’t on the list. She wasn’t even among those originally invited to be part of the program for women entrepreneurs.

Yet, Lolita E. Mendoza has become one of the most successful graduate of the STAR program, which stands for Sari-Sari Store Training and Access to Resources, an initiative run by Coca-Cola Philippines and the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

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“I only saw a flyer about the program from a relative,” recalled the 50-year-old Taguig resident. “I asked for one and was told there were no slots left. But I was insistent,” she said in an interview Saturday.

So persistent was Mendoza that she presented herself to Tesda to be part of the program. “I had been running a small sari-sari store for about six months when I learned of the STAR program,” she said.

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After three months of training from March to May 2014, Mendoza’s small variety store and carinderia (street canteen) started earning from P1,300 to P2,400 a day, a far cry from the P500 to P700 she used to make before she joined the STAR Program.

“From the program, I learned the proper way of computing the right mark-up for products,” Mendoza said. “I also learned to understand my customers as well as my competitors.”

 

Not extension of kitchen

Most importantly, her family learned “not to treat our sari-sari store business as an extension of our kitchen,” said this mother of four, of the most common pitfall of small store owners. “I have learned to practice the important discipline of limiting household expenses within the profit earned from daily sales,” Mendoza said.

“We also learned the leadership skills necessary to succeed as entrepreneurs and gained the confidence to dream big,” she said of her fellow STAR program scholars, with whom she started STAR Eagle Marketing Cooperative, a wealth-building co-op where the group developed its own platform for making loans available for business purposes.

Mendoza, who serves as president of the co-op, shared her success story during the STAR program Women’s Month celebration at the Mall of Asia with no less than President Aquino, Coca-Cola and Tesda officials, and over 5,000 other beneficiaries.

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The March 25 event also featured a powerful line up of speakers who discussed ways of empowering women in the decision making process.

Pillars of business

Filipino women, especially full-time homemakers with small children, often choose to put up sari-sari stores and carinderias to augment their household income as these small businesses are often home-based and can be managed on top of doing the chores and tending the kids.

As such, Coca-Cola puts special focus on these women entrepreneurs, whom it has identified as the pillars of its business in the Philippines. These small store owners are among the five million women across the globe that the beverage company hopes to empower economically by the year 2020 through its 5by20 program.

The program allows Coca-Cola to address the most common barriers women face in the marketplace. It also offers them access to training on business skills and financial services, and connects them to peers and mentors to buoy up the skills and confidence they need to build a successful business.

“At the Coca-Cola Company, we believe there is no better investment than women to spur economic growth and foster sustainable development,” declared Coca-Cola Philippines president Diego Granizo during the Women’s Month gathering.

“Women are pillars in the communities where we operate and they are critical to our local and global business success. Women control $20 trillion in spending worldwide, representing an economic impact larger than the US, China and India combined. Studies also show that women are much more likely to reinvest their income on food, education and healthcare for their children and their families,” Granizo added.

 

More women leaders

In the company itself, Granizo said, the proportion of women leaders has been rising steadily, from 23 percent to 30 percent among senior-level executives. Globally, Coca-Cola company’s external recruitment of women leaders rose from 13 percent to 29 percent in 2013, he said.

Locally, this global goal has been translated into the STAR program which started in 2012 and has, to date, benefited over 34,000 participants across 43 locations in the country, Granizo said. Aside from Coca-Cola and Tesda, the initiative is supported as well by a local convergence team composed of micro-finance partners, among them local government units, Alalay sa Kaunlaran Inc., and ASA Philippines Foundation.

“We at the Coca-Cola Company are gratified and excited about how the program impacts the lives of hundreds of thousands of women across the world,” Granizo said. “We have gathered inspirational stories about the many roles women play within their families, their businesses and their communities. We call them chains of inspiration and we honor the impact they make on the lives of others… We are humbled by the many amazing women we get to know with their incredible stories, like Lolita, who continue to be an inspiration,” he added.

Mendoza’s story is bound to be replicated across the country soon, said Adel A. Tamano, vice president for public affairs and communications of Coca-Cola Philippines.

Robust and sustainable

There are plans to further expand the program, which is deemed to be “very robust” and sustainable as evident in the high completion rates and low drop out rates among the women beneficiaries, he said.

Aside from doubling the target from the original 100,000 women, there are plans as well to expand the program’s reach and scope and add more cities, although this year, Metro Manila remains the main focus. “We want to level up the program so it won’t cater only to sari-sari store owners but also owners of traditional food outlets (carinderias). We’re also targeting small groceries. So, there are different segmentation of women we are looking to empower,” Tamano said.

“There’s also that segment of women who are less marginalized but still in need of more training to become more successful in their ventures,” he added. “We’re thinking [along that line], and hopefully we can flesh that out within the year or by 2016. We’re doing a study now,” the company executive said.

But Tamano declined to go into the details of their plan, except to say that Coca-Cola Philippines will continue to hone women entrepreneurs at the grassroots level to become more effective and significant enablers in society.

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TAGS: Coke, entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Tesda, Training Program
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