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Nurturing successful microentrepreneurs at Citi Microenterprise Development Center

Every Filipino entrepreneur aspires for success – but the road is not always easy. How does one get the ample funding, right skills, and an effective network? Faced with these challenges, not everyone is able to turn their dream of owning their own business into reality.
Enter Bayan Academy, an organization established in 1997 which has since been spearheading a movement for building this nation from below. The organization is anchored on promoting change through the three E’s – Entrepreneurship, Education and Employment.
In 2007, Bayan Academy launched its flagship Entrep-Eskwela Program, also known as Grassroots Entrepreneurship and Management (GEM) Program, to assist participants in learning the various facets of enterprise management.
With the support of the Citi Foundation in 2010, the GEM program was customized to better serve low-income microentrepreneurs. Then known as Citi-Bayan Entrep-Eskwela, the program initially trained close to 200 microentrepreneurs. Buoyed by the successful results of this initial batch, Citi established the Citi Microenterprise Development Center (CMDC), a center of entrepreneurship that caters to the needs of various microentrepreneurs across the country. CMDC goes beyond classroom training by offering the Citi Small Business Advisory and Coaching Services (SBACS), where microentrepreneurs and students receive personalized coaching and mentoring sessions from experts in marketing, finance, human resources, operations, regulatory (requirements and applicable laws), and technical services.
“With the CMDC, the Citi Foundation is helping us build the nation from below. The CMDC has reached out to small and medium entrepreneurs — the ones who have the power to revitalize the economy and help those who are ‘below’ the economic strata. Through the various programs and trainings at the CMDC, the beneficiaries were given the opportunity to be guided and exposed to best practices that they in turn can implement in their own businesses,” said Dr. Eduardo Morato, chairman of Bayan Academy. “With their success, they are able to help their families, uplift their communities, and achieve their dreams of a better life.”
“We share Bayan Academy’s vision of democratizing entrepreneurship education for the poor. Citi Philippines in partnership with Citi Foundation is committed to create more wealth and opportunities in this country among low-income communities through entrepreneurship. CMDC is one of our many initiatives, and we are pleased to have opened doors for nearly 500 microentrepreneurs over the last three years,” related Aneth Ng-Lim, Corporate Affairs Director for Citi Philippines.
Since the launch of CMDC program last November 2011, the center has witnessed inspiring stories of Filipinos who have successfully used entrepreneurship as a tool to improve their lives and help the community.
Being Your Own Boss Makes Sense
One of these entrepreneurs is 38-year-old Fidel Seño of Baclaran, Parañaque, who has lived most of his life in a wet market.
“I started my own business in the markets of Baclaran after I got retrenched from my job as a machine operator in a plastics factory during the Asian crisis of 1997,” he shared. “I realized that being your own boss makes sense, so I started my own business using the very little money I received as separation pay.”
Fidel opened a meat shop, where he initially served as the butcher. Later on, as money came in, he got involved in other business activities. “I made profit from my businesses but I did not earn from them; money was always slipping out of my fingers even if I worked almost 24 hours a day.”
Fidel was recommended to take the training program offered at CMDC. He was at first skeptical as it will take him away from his business which meant losing profits, but was surprised that the days he spent attending the workshop proved to be life-changing. “I learned a lot from our trainers. I found out that managing your own business is not as easy as it seems. One needs to instill discipline in yourself and your employees and learn how to properly designate work to people,” he said.
Some of the changes he implemented affected his relatives whom he employed in the business. In particular, he applied lessons learned from CMDC’s training program on financial literacy. “I told them to value their work and their salary. I reprimanded them for not having the compassion to help the business prosper and for using their hard-earned salary to buy expensive gadgets or branded clothes that are mostly of decorative value.” Some of them did not take this lightly and quit, but most of his relatives heeded his advice. “I told them how important it is to budget expenses, from the house to the merchandise they are selling, even their salaries.” He extended this discipline to his wife and kids, and taught them how to save.

Mr. Seño being a hands on entrepreneur as he helps sell his meat products.

Today, Fidel still maintains his meat shop, but he also takes care of his wholesale grocery business and sub-dealership of meat products from a well-known company. “It is still not an easy road that I am treading, but at least I have the tools and the confidence to pursue the goals I want to reach, thanks to CMDC.
To date, Fidel has 14 employees. His enterprise’s assets have grown by 35% since he enrolled in the course.
In the Ministry of Good Business
If there is one thing Pastor Bienvenido Manglo has learned, it’s that being a good entrepreneur does not necessarily mean having to create your own products.
“The idea of becoming a retailer dawned on me when I attended courses at CMDC. I discovered the possibility of creating a market for products being made by other people,” he revealed.
A native of Batangas, Pastor Bienvenido is a 51-year old engineering graduate who now resides in Biñan, Laguna. He used to support his family by selling load for prepaid phones, raising livestock and soap-making. His strong faith as a pastor has helped him weather various challenges as an entrepreneur. “Sometimes I am baffled why I try all these businesses when I don’t even get much return,” he confessed.
Struggling to achieve his business goals, Pastor Bienvenido was referred to CMDC by the microfinance institution Center for Community Transformation (CCT). He was hesitant at the beginning. “I was already doing my ministry in my church, so I wondered what good would I get from it,” he shared. The experience proved to be worth it. “I met all these wonderful entrepreneurs who made very good products but did not know where to sell them. One made eco-friendly bags made from natural fibers like rattan and abaca, while another made compressed smokeless charcoal. I found my true purpose, which is to help them find their market. I became their marketing manager.”
Pastor Bienvenido contacted his former classmates at CMDC and bought some of their products, which he sold to outlets like supermarkets and department stores. In a few months, wholesalers and retailers came to him for more orders. He now also sells handicrafts like table ornaments, wallets, displays and other items. He also helps other aspiring entrepreneurs at the CCT, as a trainer and inspirational speaker. “I have learned in this life that if you let God be your guide, he will take care of the rest. You just have to do your best,” he shared.
From two employees in January 2011, Pastor Bienvenido now employs 12 workers. His monthly income rose by 80%, while his assets grew by 54%.

Mr. Bienvenido Manglo showcases his products during an exhibit at SM Megamall.

Weaving the Fabric of Success
In Corazon Bautista’s house in Taytay, Rizal, all kinds of made ready-to-wear (RTW) clothes abound in one corner. “They are actually for delivery tomorrow,” the 42-year-old housewife explained as she sorted them out. What many people do not know is that her house used to be a makeshift structure just a year ago, without concrete flooring. Thanks to her determined spirit and the training she received from CMDC, she now earns a comfortable living making short pants, t-shirts and office wear. She also provides income and employment for people in her community.
Her situation was different only a few years ago. “I just relied on the earnings of my husband who is a painter for a subcontracting company. I was a plain dressmaker who used to do jobs for others,” she recalled. “I only got inspired to open my own business after my own employer became successful.”
A mother of two boys, this native of Albay came to know about micro-lending after she saw a few neighbors, mostly ladies of her age, converging under a tree for prayer meetings. She was eventually invited to join the group and discovered that it not only involved prayers, but also micro-lending for startup businesses. “Admittedly, I did not want to join because I didn’t want to incur debt,” she said. But when she realized that securing a loan could pave the way to start her own garments business, she approached Tulay sa Pag-unlad Inc. (TSPI), a micro-lending institution, to finance the purchase of two sewing machines on a rent-to-own basis.
Armed with a strong determination to succeed, she began selling RTW ladies and children’s shorts in the Pasig market. It did not take her long to sell her items: one wholesaler passed by and examined her products. She got the surprise of her life when the wholesaler purchased her entire inventory.
In 2011, Corazon was nominated by TSPI for the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards. She won and bested over 100 nominations from across the country. As part of her prize, the Citi Foundation sponsored her training at CMDC.
It was at CMDC that Corazon learned how to run a micro-enterprise and take care of her finances. “I learned to be realistic when it comes to dealing with others, to be aggressive and competitive,” she said. Now, she has about 25 employees. Corazon was also able to buy her own sewing machines, both for her in-house and outsourced workers.
Her newly renovated house includes a second floor, where her in-house employees, mostly people who asked her for a job, sew and cut a target number of RTW shorts set to be delivered in the next two days. “The good thing is that many of my employees earn a living from my own business. Through this business, my dreams for my family are slowly being fulfilled too,” Corazon said.
Impressively, her asset base recorded before the start of enrolling in CMDC increased by 150%. “I am very grateful to Citi and CMDC not only for teaching me how to maximize the potentials of my business but also for inspiring me to become a better entrepreneur. I would not have fulfilled my dreams without their support.”