Ecosystem of support for small entrepreneurs

Ecosystem of support for small entrepreneurs

/ 05:12 AM March 03, 2024

Tokyo Tempura

GROWING BRAND Tokyo Tempura fills mass market demand for affordable tempura. —TOKYO TEMPURA FACEBOOK PAGE

Frustrated by the lengthy queue for shrimp tempura at buffet restaurants, entrepreneur Jorge Miguel Wieneke IV saw an opportunity in 2012.

Working with his father and co-founder, Jorge Noel Wieneke, he set out to establish the Tokyo Tempura food cart in Cainta, Rizal, where they served Japanese-style battered shrimps at affordable prices.


The business was a big hit and quickly earned a reputation among customers as the go-to place for low-priced tempura.


READ: Original fries guy finds new niche in shrimp tempura

When mapping out their expansion plans, the younger Wieneke knew they needed to establish  presence in SM Supermalls, the country’s biggest chain of shopping centers.

“We champion the notion that once you’re in SM, you’ve made it,” he says.

“This is exactly what we feel, because SM is very supportive of MSMEs,” he adds, referring to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

Tokyo Tempura opened its first branch in an SM mall in 2014 and has scaled up to more than 100 outlets over the past decade.

Nurturing startups

Although it is a P1-trillion conglomerate with ownership of the Philippines’ largest real estate and banking enterprises, the SM Group has consistently supported the MSME sector, which is recognized as a pillar of the Philippine economy and a crucial source of livelihood for millions of Filipinos.


More than that, the SM Group was once a humble enterprise itself when it was founded by the late taipan Henry Sy Sr. in the 1950s.

Teresita Sy-Coson

Teresita Sy-Coson

Building strong and enduring business relationships was one of the keys to her family’s success, says SM Investments Corp. vice chair Teresita Sy-Coson, daughter of the late tycoon.

“We deeply value the relationships we’ve built, from when we were a small business selling shoes in Manila,” Sy-Coson says. “The relationship with our partners remains strong. And I believe it will continue to remain strong in the next generation,” she adds.

At present, the SM Group continues to support more than 90,000 MSMEs through its malls, commercial establishments and retail businesses.

READ: Helping MSMEs realize their dreams

Among its significant initiatives to aid the sector is The SM StartUp Program, which was inaugurated in 2021 at SM Megamall.

MSMEs get prime location benefits from the foot traffic at SM malls, marketing support through extensive digital platforms, access to cashless payment systems as well as microfinancing options in partnership with BDO.

As of now, the program has expanded to include 29 malls across the nation, with 228 MSMEs participating and numbers continue to increase.

A growing number of MSMEs are finding success with the program as their launchpad. After it was launched, about 30 small enterprises have evolved from participants in the SM StartUp Market program to become established in-line tenants.

Among these successful enterprises are fashion accessories maker Malanne at SM City Clark, The Signature Homestyle Ice Cream at SM Lanang Premier in Davao, Rue’s Oven at SM City Sta. Mesa and SM City Valenzuela and granola producer Mamanola, which has locations at SM North Edsa and SM Southmall.

Handicraft store BinibiniCo is also one of the participants that have successfully graduated from the SM StartUp program to an in-line tenant.

Funding support

One of the biggest challenges for small businesses is raising the required capital. The SM Group provides financial support through BDO Network Bank, which has disbursed over P6 billion in loans to MSME partners as of end-December 2023.

Even in remote areas without traditional bank branches, BDO Unibank and its community banking arm BDO Network Bank continue to provide financial solutions to address banking needs.

One example is BDO Cash Agad, where access to funds is facilitated via partner agents such as sari-sari stores, gasoline stations, water refilling stations and mini-groceries.

As of end-2023, there were 9,764 Cash Agad partner agents covering a remarkable 92 percent of the total municipalities nationwide.

Another way SM Supermalls supports MSMEs is by hosting thematic and seasonal bazaars.

Multiplier effects

Other community-based enterprises include the Kababaihan ng Maynila, made up of women entrepreneurs who create sustainable parols for Kultura, an affiliate of SM Retail Inc.

The SM Group is also mobilizing its logistics businesses to support MSMEs.

2GO Getters of logistics arm 2GO Group offers MSMEs free delivery services to support budding business communities. Airspeed, another SM logistics firm providing end-to-end solutions, also offers services tailored to fit the needs of small and medium-scale enterprises.

For her part, Sy-Coson emphasizes the powerful multiplier effects that these partnerships create.

“Competition is important to continue improving businesses. But there are areas where we can collaborate. While competition can improve our business, collaboration can help us build ideas that can contribute to making a positive impact on the world,” Sy-Coson says.

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“Entrepreneurs, no matter how big or small, should help each other,” she adds. “In order to grow, we also need to build relations and nurture partnerships. This is why SM and BDO (Unibank) continue to work with businesses to support their growth, as their success contributes to our success.”

TAGS: Entrepreneurs, msmes, SM Group, startups

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