Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part blog series by Joseph Paulini, a businessman and entrepreneur based in northern Virginia who recently headed up a Business as Mission trip to the Philippines with another longtime Five Talents supporter, Jeff Johnson. Five Talents is seeking to deepen its work with proven micro-entrepreneurs in the Philippines. Joseph notes that his reflections on the trip are shared by Jeff. Click here to read part two.
Five Talents has long wanted to develop an Entrepreneurship Training Program in the Philippines that would go beyond the basic two-day training program that we have used since about 2005.
Having visited the program two previous times, first in 2002 and again in 2005, I was recently enlisted to return to the Philippines and help to move this agenda into the action phase.
I traveled with my dear friend and long-time Five Talents volunteer, Jeff Johnson, a graduate of George Mason University (1973).
Our current training program is an excellent introduction to business practices for the newly emerging entrepreneurs. By ensuring a basic understanding of a business plan outline, accounting/bookkeeping, marketing and cash flow management, we are equipping budding business people with the skills that help businesses succeed.
Even though we were at first focused on helping businesses get started with loans ranging from $50 to $300, we knew that some would grow beyond the "mom and pop store" level. The wonderful news is that some indeed did and now we are preparing to give them the extra support that they desperately need.
To make this a reality, we are partnering with Dr. Jorge Haddock, Dean of the School of Management at George Mason University, and some of his staff, as well as with one of Five Talents' partner organizations in the Philippines since 2002, The Center for Community Transformation (CCT).
The enhanced certificate curriculum is for more seasoned entrepreneurs in need of more advanced business concepts. The program is expected to run weekly on Saturdays, for a half-day, for six months at a time. The students will have homework assignments and are expected to include either a spouse or one of their grown children to ensure there is an individual learning skills to back up the student.
(This is important because if the student were to be unable to be at work, someone would be trained to step in and keep the enterprise going. Up until now, in many cases if the business owner wasn't able to show up, the business stayed closed.)
This is heady stuff. When I first volunteered with FTI, my imagination was captured by the idea that small amounts of capital lent to poor individuals to start micro-businesses could have an impact in lifting individuals and their families out of poverty. Sustainable impact was the key. To see that many have graduated beyond micro-loans and are now seeking larger amounts of capital to expand their enterprises is extraordinary.
That is where more the advanced training comes in. Five Talents, in partnership with George Mason University and CCT is positioned to bring the next logical step in helping the poor to succeed. We know from experience that capital without education makes building and sustaining an enterprise difficult at best. This partnership between three powerful organizations is a recipe for success for everyone.
Before returning to Manila, we visited with a CCT loan recipient who now had 30 individuals working from their homes producing ladies shoes and sandals. The storefront was a beehive of activity. The brother of the store owner, Mario Monteri, had to stop chatting every few moments to collect payment and make change. His concern was that he no longer qualified for micro-loans, but still needed loans to operate and expand his business, a theme we would hear over and over during our visit.
Mario and his brother could sell more shoes, but they are limited in the amount of raw materials they can afford to keep all the shoe-makers producing. They are also limited by the fact that even the best shoemakers were only able to produce about 30 pairs of shoes a day.
They need larger amounts of capital to keep expanding and eventually purchase a machine to stamp out soles and to stretch the leather on the forms prior to gluing to the soles.
And to think: This is a company started just a few years ago on a micro-loan. Micro-credit works.
Photos courtesy of Joseph Paulini (Top photo L-R: Joseph Paulini, Five Talents Director of Program Suzanne Schultz, CCT CEO Ruth Callanta, Jeff Johnson, Dr. Jorge Haddock; Bottom photo: Shoes on sale at Mario Monteri's shop in Manila)