Monday, March 22, 2010

From poor to entrepreneur through Nestle's BOW

(Reprinted from March 8, 2010 article of Malaya Business Insight)

Click here for the original article.

For more than 10 years, Payatas residents and siblings Cris and Jimmy Besas, and their cousin Julius Sagaral, eked out a meager subsistence as tricycle drivers.

Life was a hard grind. A workday meant waking up before sunrise with their children still asleep, to commute to their tricycle route in Cubao, scrambling to earn boundary and gas money before being able to take any of it home.

Today, the two brothers and their cousin are building better lives for themselves and their families as micro-entrepreneurs under a Nestlé program called Business on Wheels (BOW).

The three, who are called BOWERS, sell a range of Nestlé products to carinderias within a territory assigned to each, with continuing guidance, help and training to enable them to grow their operations and income. There are now hundreds of BOWERS nationwide, with the numbers steadily increasing.

"BOW was launched late in 2006 as an entrepreneurship livelihood program. The country has thousands of carinderias which Nestlé wants to serve better while helping our distributors to strengthen their coverage," says Sunny Yu, Head of Channel Category Sales Development of Nestlé Professional, the company’s business unit which focuses on out-of-home consumption and runs the program.

"Under Nestlé’s corporate strategy of Creating Shared Value for both the company and stakeholders in society, BOW is about enabling marginalized Filipinos to become entrepreneurs, to learn skills and confidence in developing their own businesses," Sunny explains.

The qualifications for BOWERS are simple: no educational background is necessary except that they can read and write; they should know how to drive a tricycle; they need to be able to talk to people; they have to raise P15,000 of capital for initial stocks; and most of all, they must be hardworking and persistent.

"The idea is to enable participants to start earning above minimum wage, then to nurture their businesses as various BOWERS are now doing," says Sunny.

BOWERS are taught the nuts and bolts of running a small business, such as managing funds and inventories, and conducting sales calls among customers. The carinderias in their territories are mapped out for them and they are trained to plan daily sales schedules and trips. Eventually, a BOWER can grow his business as much as he desires, acquiring more tricycles and routes as he reinvests his resources.

Potential BOWERS are recruited by word of mouth and evaluated for the strength of their commitment to minimize attrition. Apart from close training and supervision, each BOWER is provided with a partly subsidized tricycle carrier which sports Nestlé brands on its sides, and wears a uniform while doing business. A major attraction to BOWERS is the flexible working hours, since the best period for supplying carinderias is between 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.

Fellow Payatas resident Ronie Dacuag attests to this. Ronie was a bus conductor whose work sometimes took him away from home three days at a stretch, while his wife Elma toiled as a seamstress for P150 to P200 a day.

Often, their children had to fend for themselves at home. Both spouses, now BOWERS with thriving sales routes, are able to spend more time with their children.

Another Payatas resident, Dexter Gorobat, who became a BOWER early in 2009, was a seaman who had to leave his family behind for six months on each deployment. While his seaman’s earnings were good, he wanted to be with his family and believes that BOW will provide them with a good livelihood

For his part, Mario "Toto" Radin, also a Payatas resident, was a janitor at a supermarket chain, trying to make ends meet on his limited earnings, when the chance to join the BOW program came

"The BOW program started out as work, now it’s more of a mission for us because we have seen how it is transforming participants. They are claiming their dignity and pride and awakening to their potentials," says Jon Antonio, Nestlé Professional’s Regional Sales Manager for Streets, "We asked BOWERS to write down their aspirations. First of all, they want to live in their own decent homes. We hope that in five years, they will achieve that and more dreams."

The well-known saying goes: "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime." In today’s real world, amid difficult times, the BOW program offers a concrete way to teach a man to fish.

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