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Women mean business

By: - Reporter / @neltayao
/ 05:10 AM November 30, 2018

Over 40,000 globally and more than 1,000 here in the Philippines.

These are the number of women who are part of #SheMeansBusiness, an international initiative by social media network Facebook that aims to help female entrepreneurs, both aspiring and established, enhance their businesses through the platform.

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And behind those numbers are stories such as those of Catherine Taleon and Daisy Catague-Cababasay—both of whom say their respective businesses wouldn’t have reached the level of success they now enjoy without Facebook.

“I was inspired by my fellow entrepreneurs, the insights they shared,” says Taleon, founder of cacao products shop Balay Tablea from Iloilo. “It’s what gives us strength—the connection we developed with one another.”

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Present in 21 markets worldwide, #SheMeansBusiness educates these women through a series of workshops.

Here in the Philippines, Facebook has partnered with Connected Women, a community of female entrepreneurs founded by British-Filipino Gina Romero, who came home to the Philippines in 2011 to bring to life her advocacy to give these women access to professional development and training regardless of race, location, education and financial standing; Bayan Academy for Social Entrepreneurship and Human Resource Development, a social development organization which offers entrepreneurship, management and education training, as well as livelihood and skills training courses; the Department of Information and Communications Technology; and the Department of Trade and Industry.

It was through Bayan Academy that Taleon learned of #SheMeansBusiness.

Initially hesitant about maintaining her shop’s Facebook page, she says she saw how useful the platform’s tools were only after attending one of the workshops.

“I was able to attract more customers, especially here in Manila. Before, I had none in Metro Manila, and that’s always our challenge as entrepreneurs—how to reach our target market. After attending the training, I felt very grateful because the tools we needed were introduced to us, and at the same time, these workshops developed our character, made us optimistic,” Taleon says.

A retired schoolteacher, Taleon adds that she finds herself more fulfilled as an entrepreneur.

“When you’re a teacher, you reap what you sow many years after, when you see your students becoming successful. In business, I am happier now because I see the return is immediate,” she says.

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Cababasay, on the other hand, learned of #SheMeansBusiness through Connected Women. Like Taleon, learning how to maximize the platform’s business tools helped her attract more customers, and has made responding to inquiries much easier.

“It was one of my children who helped me set up a Facebook page because, apparently, people don’t just pray anymore before eating, a custom I am used to—they take photos of the food first!” says Cababasay. “I first set up the restaurant in my garden, and I wasn’t really serious about it at first—until I realized people wanted to try ‘laksa’, ‘satay.’”

Cababasay established Takuri Cafe after learning about Malaysian cuisine during her travels with her husband. She says she was encouraged to join a #SheMeansBusiness workshop in Zamboanga after seeing Connected Women’s ads, also on Facebook. “Connected Women and #SheMeansBusiness really gave me the strength to be an entrepreneur,” she says.

Aside from increasing her clientele, maintaining her social media presence has also allowed Cababasay to continue pursuing photography as a hobby, as she herself takes photos of her dishes right after she cooks them.

Romero says the workshops aren’t really gender-specific, but rather focus on business in general and the online tools women entrepreneurs can maximize, particularly those on Facebook. They accept both experienced and aspiring entrepreneurs—even those who have no idea yet what kind of business they want to run.

“We do have a session about being a woman in business,” Romero adds. “At Connected Women, we aim to educate female entrepreneurs on digital tools so they can scale their businesses and reach a global market while staying close to home.”

Christopher Kuzhuppilly, Facebook Philippines public policy manager, says that between 2017 and 2018, the #SheMeansBusiness program offered 13 workshops in 12 cities all over the country.

The company will expand its coverage next year by offering more workshops in more locations nationwide.

“The Facebook community has around 2.3 billion people, and around 80 million of them have Facebook pages. What does that mean for small businesses? It’s really about providing that connection to your target audience. It’s not just about marketing your products online, but more of establishing that day-to-day connection with people that matter most to you,” he says.

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