It has been almost a week since our first in-person Mentor Me On Wheels event and I must say I am still pleased to remember the enthusiasm with which the seasoned business mentors and the aspiring entrepreneurs who have come to from them to learn, attended the event.
The one-to-one mentoring format gives small business owners access to technical knowledge and practical know-how on entrepreneurship in an accessible and convenient environment.
The Mentor Me On Wheels event this past April 9th was put together with the intention of expressing confidence. Confidence that the vaccines will protect all participants – even us, the organizers – from serious diseases and confidence in the role of MSMEs in reviving the economy.
The biggest bonus, however, was the palpable confidence among attendees that the Philippines can and will overcome the challenges of the pandemic and that MSMEs will be at the forefront of the spear fighting and leading the way for our economic recovery.
It was especially humbling to hear the stories of the up-and-coming entrepreneurs who made the effort to attend the event.
There was Rodrigo Ibantog who runs his own Patahian in Baguio. He sews everything himself and sells his products online via Facebook. Rodrigo told us he had spent about P1,200 bus fare to attend the event and was waiting at the Pasay City Bus Station from 12:00 this Saturday morning to be at Ayala Malls Manila Bay by 9:00 could. He was one of the lucky winners of our raffle and went home with P8,000.
But more than the cash prize, he received advice from David Charlton, the owner of David’s Salon, who mentored him not only on running the business, but on how to balance the growth of his business with his obligations as a single parent .
We also had people from the nearby Tiangges. One of them makes bags from upcycled material from upholstered furniture. He said he had heard of the Go Negosyo mentoring program before. As fate would have it, he saw the build up to the event as he tended to his shop outside of the event area. He said he didn’t think twice about signing up for the mentorship. He told my co-workers that his mentor had given him specific guidance on how to start his business and that next week after Holy Week he would go directly to the DTI and do the necessary paperwork. But the most important lesson he learned from his mentor is that even good products need marketing. The P8,000 he won as seed capital was a bonus, he said; The mentoring he received is priceless.
I have personally mentored Josh Mojica, an impressive 17 year old who started Kangkong Chips Original last year with just P3,000 in capital. Seeing the potential of his aunt’s kangkong chips recipe, he decided to box, brand and sell it online. His business is a resounding success, but he doesn’t stop there.
He attended the Mentor Me On Wheels event to find out how to get a loan to grow his business. I coached him on how to run his business now that it’s getting serious and what to do next: the paperwork,
proper packaging, increasing its sales. Josh understood the importance of mentoring in his journey as an entrepreneur.
He knows there are people who can and will answer his questions, and he appreciates how he can benefit from the real-world, first-hand experience of people who have been through what he is going through. I am amazed that he is doing very well; We have to help people like Josh.
On the other side of the equation are our mentors. They are generous people; They chose to spend their weekend that day, volunteering their time, and in some cases — by donating resources — to come and share their knowledge with complete strangers.
Your presence sends a message to aspiring entrepreneurs: there are people willing to help you.
Pepot Miñana of Jollibee Foods Corp., who served as one of our mentors, remarked on how much better in-person mentoring can be. He told us that the personal conversation with the mentees has a different energy.
I understand completely. It’s the subtle cues, the dynamic of the interaction, the simple joy of seeing how you’ve enriched someone’s life just by speaking to them.
Some of the mentors stated that the mentees had a wide range of questions and had a wealth of experience. Some asked very basic questions, such as which deal would be ideal right now, or very specific questions about the cost of capital. Some came with prepared business plans and submitted them to the mentors for review.
Seeing the number of participants at the event was a sign that people are now more confident about returning to normal life. Face masks were still worn, Ayala Malls provided us with a spacious and well-ventilated venue, and everywhere people were scrupulous about ensuring the safety of interactions.
I think we’re ready, but I think we should be more vigilant than ever. It took us a long time to get there – 25 months for Mentor Me On Wheels; we shouldn’t waste it. Get fully vaccinated, take your booster shot when it’s time and keep wearing your face masks.
It was a triumphant return for Mentor Me On Wheels and I look forward to running more of our mentoring events in person.