Small businesses uplift local communities
Perhaps every Filipino grew up in a street with a sari-sari store nearby. This ubiquitous neighborhood shop provides a variety of goods and services, and is usually owned by an “Aling Tindera” or female shopkeeper.
These micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are regarded as the “backbone of the Philippine economy.” According to the Department of Trade and Industry, small businesses comprise more than 99 percent of enterprises in the country and employ 64.67 percent of local workforce.
As of 2019, the Philippine Statistics Authority recorded more than a million business enterprises operating in the country, 56 percent of which are run by women.
UK Greetings, the leading supplier of cards in the United Kingdom, states in a report “How small shops and businesses are good for local communities” that MSMEs thrive in local environments due to their diversity. Here, we will explore the impact of women-led small businesses on their local communities.
1. Small businesses act as driving factors in local economies
MSMEs not only bring a sense of local pride to communities, but also provide a central point for local trade, says the report. They are also a catalyst to bring together a community through programs.
Luzviminda Sunit’s goal was to provide for her family with her small business. But her humble enterprise invigorated a community. Sunit, who hails from Medellin, Cebu, started in 1975 with an initial capital of P4,000. She tried her hand at selling fish. To prevent wastage from the unsold fish, she ventured into the dried fish business.
Fast forward to 2004, Sunit now offers dried fish wholesale and retail through her two commercial stalls. When the pandemic disrupted her business, she hired fisherfolk partners and other workers who had lost their livelihood. And instead of just providing cash assistance to her employees, she funded their small businesses such as an eatery and a food cart. Sunit also bought sidecars so that other workers can ferry passengers for extra income.
In 2021, Sunit won the Citi Microentrepreneurship Award.
2. Microentrepreneurs help stimulate economic growth by providing employment opportunities
Small businesses serve as the building blocks of the economy by employing those who are unemployable by large companies. A small business that hires 10 or more people can automatically uplift employment rates within the area.
Local fashion brand Bayo is a firm believer that women hold up the world with their delicate yet sturdy hands. This belief propelled Bayo to turn a crisis into an opportunity. The brand even found a way to help protect medical front-liners during the pandemic. Instead of making ready-to-wear clothes, Bayo started producing personal protective equipment from sustainable fabric for hospital front-liners and medically-reviewed masks, which allowed the fashion house to keep its production workers and employ additional skilled sewers.
Anna Lagon, chief executive officer of Bayo, says that the only goal back then was to help others remain afloat as the pandemic lingered. “Being focused on helping others not only motivated our whole team to continue being productive, but it opened up strategic partnerships that helped sustain our operations, give livelihoods to more people, and even inspired product innovations.”
3. Local firms serve as “incubators” for innovation and creativity
“Love local” is a clarion call for entrepreneurs whose businesses are focused on tourism and hospitality. Small businesses encourage a range of innovative and creative products by shining a spotlight on local produce and artists.
“This can give a shop, business, and the local area, a community feel by making it a creative and a vital collaborative area. Honoring local artists and creatives highlights amazing talent within the area,” the UK report says.
At 13, Isabela Blancas started One Closet, the first formal wardrobe rental shop in the country that channels profits to charity. This social venture stemmed from her great love for fashion and her desire to help the poor children in Mindanao.
One Closet is a gown rental shop that calls for donations of quality new and “gently used” formal dresses from all over the country. She began calling for donations in 2017 through emailing letters and posting on Facebook. And to her surprise, top Filipino designers responded to her call and sent over beautiful pieces of pre-loved gowns.
Thus, One Closet somehow became the go-to place for wardrobe rental in Butuan, whether it’s for prom attendees or even brides. Not only does this social enterprise showcase top-notch Filipino fashion; it supports the circular economy by upscaling old pieces of garment.
“We can salvage parts of them and turn them into new fashionable dresses. If we get to do this, we not only protect the environment from old garment ending up in dump sites, but we also provide employment to a few seamstresses,” Blancas says.
4. Small businesses find ways to effect lasting change
Small and medium enterprises have the ability to effect change by using their unique perspective and resources. They are well-equipped to make a positive impact in their ecosystem by solving problems, generating ideas and creating new products and solutions.
Philanthropist and social entrepreneur Nanette Medved-Po, who once played the role of “Darna,” wants to achieve the heroic task of cleaning up 80 years of plastic waste.
Thus, the initiative called the Plastic Credit Exchange (PCEx) came to life. It aims to reduce postconsumer plastic waste through the ‘waste to cash’ model. It is the world’s first nonprofit plastic offset organization that mobilizes 100 sari-sari stores run by women microentrepreneurs.
A sari-sari store operator nominated by the local government will receive a 20- or 10-foot container where single-use plastic waste can be collected.
In return, the “Aling Tindera” will receive incentives and monetary benefits. PCEx created a grassroots-and market-based system that monetizes the collected plastic waste. PCEx will then haul the collected waste to be processed and recycled. The organization works with selected cement coprocessors that comply with environmental standards to use plastic waste as feed stock.
To date, manufacturers such as Nestle, Unilever, PepsiCo, Dunkin Donuts and Shakey’s have joined the program.
5. Valiant small businesses inspire communities with “bayanihan” spirit
Microentrepreneurs are always ready to give back to the community that has supported and helped them grow.
This became more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new study from Manulife Philippines found that four in 10 Filipinos had established micro and small businesses during the pandemic. Some grew out of a genuine concern to improve the living conditions of the poor.
By now, Ana Patricia Non has become a household name. She is the driving force behind the Maginhawa Community Pantry, which had set up food banks to help those in need. Her efforts resulted in at least 6,700 community pantries sprouting nationwide within weeks.
Over time, the community pantry evolved to become a microeconomy. “We buy from local farmers, fishermen, food hawkers and vendors, even from closed-down restaurants in the area,” Non says. This microeconomy lives to this day albeit in a different form.
On Valentine’s Day, Non started a new initiative to benefit local farmers. She and her fellow organizers started selling “gulay bouquets,” which featured vegetables instead of flowers. This was to rescue farmers who were grappling with low farm-gate prices. Non says that all proceeds went to the vegetable rescue operations of farmers. Non, like other entrepreneurs who started their journey during the global crisis, relied on the “Bayanihan” spirit—a Filipino tradition of working together as a community—as a strong motivator.
The Manulife report says these new enterprises gained considerable community support, with 65 percent of respondents saying they have patronized local small and micro businesses. Also, up to 50 percent of Filipino business owners who just started during the pandemic say they are very likely to continue their operations in the new normal.