MINERVA BC NEWMAN
CEBU CITY – Cebu’s top entrepreneurs seem to agree that agriculture-based businesses have proven to be the winner enterprises amid the pandemic and will continuously lead the micro, small and medium (MSMEs) entrepreneurs in the new normal and beyond.
In a virtual Coffee Table Discussion hosted by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) and part of the events lined up for Cebu Business Month (CBM) 2021, five top businessmen in Cebu with the government sector voiced out their opinions and insights on how entrepreneurship cope and navigate through the pandemic, its current trends and hopes for the future.
Rey Calooy, founder/general manager of RNC Marketing Philippines cited the resilience of agriculture and food sector as well as the strong market value of all agriculture-based products and by-products.
“The most sustainable and resilient business is in agriculture.” In many countries in the world, where agriculture is strong and developed, manufacturing industries, food and health products as well as cosmetics and many more are mostly agri-based, Calooy added.
Benny Que, president of Golden Prince & Suites agreed with Calooy because he shared with the panel his program idea with his employees by providing them with some funding if anyone wanted to go on backyard vegetable gardening or agriculture in general.
Que was elated to have seen the success of one of his employees who went into rice farming and backyard gardening. He encouraged his staff to go into backyard gardening and food production to compensate for losses of income from the hotel and accommodation industry.
Calooy and Que agreed that Cebu especially in areas where cacao, coffee and bamboo are in abundance can become brighter agri-based industries in the new normal and beyond. These two entrepreneurs are eyeing the commercial farming and production of the cacao as a growing food product.
“We want to position Carcar town as the cacao/chocolate capital of Cebu, empower the cacao farmers and improve on the ‘Tableya’ products, it is our dream,” Calooy said.
Calooy bared that he went into a mindset of massive backyard gardening and identifying the short/long term kinds of plants and he had identified 80 kinds of plants, herbs, spices and veggies which proved to be the best savings on food expenses and in family food security.
Another entrepreneur that continues to make her mark in the plant selling business sector is Shiela Ruiz, owner of Plant Momma whose passion with plants carried her to high-value, high-end ornamental plants.
Ruiz said that ornamental plants was just her hobby even before the pandemic. She saw the opportunity and the huge market in luxury plants amid the pandemic when almost everyone was into ornamental planting and backyard gardening either propagating veggies or ornamental plants.
“I started expanding Plant Momma with P10,000 capital and I converted my passion into a high-end ornamental plant hub where rare and most expensive plants are sold. In this business, one has to find your customers and your niche market. Plant Momma targets the luxury market,” Ruiz stated.
Boy Tiukinhoy, president of Virginia Foods on the other hand has been a survivor of many adversities in his business, to him, the pandemic was just another of those adversities. His shared with the panelist his insights to survive and thrive in business, no matter what.
“Work hard, act and make the toughest decisions, hire talented people and be a role model in your organization,” Tiukinhoy said.
Bunny Pages, president of Pages Holdings on the other hand is an optimistic entrepreneur. He has diversified food and restaurant businesses with his entire family being involve in all aspects of business operations.
Pages said that the pandemic brought setback to the dining preferences of people as there were massive lockdowns, but this did not deter the company to move forward and to always look for opportunities to innovate and cater to the changing landscape in food and dining.
Pages added to always think of the “Blue Ocean” opportunities, have that winner and positive mindset to continue and survive any adversity including this pandemic. “Everything has always its silver lining and this too shall pass,” he added.
Hon. Glenn Anthony O. Soco, Board Member of the 6th District, Province of Cebu
Meanwhile, Nanette Arbon, regional director of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI-7) here also shared her insights on how the government enables entrepreneurship to survive in this pandemic and to look positively to the new normal future of doing business in the country.
Arbon went on that the pandemic has taught the public sector several lessons, for one the DTI learn how to be in social media and engaging third parties for the conducts of webinars for business productivity using digital technology.
“Even before the pandemic, DTI had already been engaging in the technology community. We were already on the transition or into digital transformation advocacy, the pandemic has accelerated the transformation,” Arbon said.
She added that the government, especially the DTI has been a great enabler. It’s digital transformation and engagement with the tech community paid enough in helping start-ups and linking MSMEs to platforms and come up with tech/digital interventions in their various entrepreneurships.
“We have to think and look beyond the pandemic, we have three years of behavioral change and technology was thrown in hence, we must embrace innovations and digital transformation in our businesses and how we can harness our resources for the 21st Century,” Arbon stated.
She added that entrepreneurship must move to that direction and prepare a roadmap for creative content and even the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI).