Will mentors heed the call to help entrepreneurs?

Philippine Tribune
Philippine Tribune

I AM thankful for the opportunity to mentor and coach micro and small businesses who joined the Kapatid Mentor-Me Program (KMME Go Negosyo) in the development of their business improvement plan. As this program is usually government-supervised, the commitment of entrepreneurs to finish it is very inspiring.

I find myself allotting three weeks of time up to the day before the final presentation to give entrepreneurs, especially those in the countryside, all the support they need. These entrepreneurs usually juggle multiple key activities in their business, and making time to complete the program requires flexibility on the part of the coach.

That is a usual challenge I find when it comes to informal mentorships. Especially when either party starts missing meetings and interaction meeting dwindles. Structure is necessary to make each session count.

Last October 3, Payoneer launched its collaboration with Bridge for Billions to create an incubation program that will help entrepreneurs thrive and unlock their full potential as business owners. The program is part of Payoneer’s commitment to empowering aspiring small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the Philippines. It aims to support 70 Filipino entrepreneurs nationwide, who will also be supported by 70 mentors.

Payoneer is looking for independent gig workers, freelance agencies, and small and medium outsourcing firms operating in any sector in the emerging digital global economy in the Philippines to join it.

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Nagesh Nevata, SVP for APAC at Payoneer, said, “We are unique as we are supporting and empowering SMBs, freelancing agencies. This includes opportunities to find new business, access tools and scale the business to cross-border markets.”

Ideal entrepreneurs must have passed the ideation stage and started to test their business concept or have a minimum viable product they want to develop.

The entrepreneurship program will give participating entrepreneurs the solid foundation they need to grow their businesses. Their online incubation tools include: value proposition, competition map, stakeholder map, business model, marketing, pricing and business viability, financial projections, impact plan, and growth plan, among others. They need to complete the toolkit assigned week by week.

They will be matched with an expert in their field for one-on-one mentorship to nurture their ideas and progress. Entrepreneurs are responsible for leading the relationship with the mentor. They need to identify their needs, challenges, demand for support, and not wait for the mentor to bring all the solutions.

Businesses will also be introduced to a dynamic community with their co-participants and other mentors. After four months, they will refine their pitch skills to succeed post-program.

Bridge for Billions innovation-based entrepreneurship was inspired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship Concept. In the past eight years, the program has run 270 incubation programs in 134 countries. It has matched 3,709 entrepreneurs with 3,029 mentors. Out of these entrepreneurs, 94 percent rated the program as important to their success, and many saw their revenues jump up to 2.4 times.

Experts and professionals are also invited to join the journey as mentors. They need to have at least five years of professional experience in fields such as business, finance and innovation, among others. The ideal mentors are those who are passionate about entrepreneurship, want to develop their mentoring skills, and have a tangible impact on job creation and economic development of the country.

Mentors need to provide feedback on the entrepreneur’s submission to the toolkit and make time for weekly meetings to challenge and provide guidance.

What’s in for the mentors? As an adviser, they can generate a network of early-stage innovators with whom they can collaborate in the future. Joining also exposes them to upcoming innovation trends in their industry, and positions their brand within the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem globally.

Additionally, mentoring promotes diversity, equity and inclusion, especially for typically underrepresented groups. As mentors, they can create jobs, promote economic prosperity and innovations, and build impactful solutions for industry-wide challenges.

“Payoneer recognizes the rarity of incubation support for SMBs, which is why we wholeheartedly encourage them to become part of the Bridge for Billions Incubation program. This program is a testament to our dedication to fostering innovation and empowering Filipino entrepreneurs to scale up and achieve global success,” says Monique Avila, Payoneer’s senior director for customer success APAC.

Join the Bridge for Billions Incubation Program today. Entrepreneurs can sign up at https://programs.bridgeforbillions.org/payoneer-for-entrepreneurs.

Mentors can join at https://programs.bridgeforbillions.org/payoneer-for-mentors.

Applications will be accepted up to December 2023. Selected entrepreneurs and mentors will be announced in February 2024. The incubation program will be from March to June 2024.

The program will also have a pitch competition in June 2024, where three winners will get $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000, respectively.

John Caplan, Payoneer CEO, said, “It is our mission to help entrepreneurs in every small way we can.”

Bridge for Billions CEO Pablo Santaufemia believes that one actor can’t just change things. “Collaboration is necessary as together we can learn together and bring our expertise.”

Digital industries like information technology and business process management (IT-BPM) and freelancing continue to transform the economic landscape of the Philippines. The IT-BPM industry closed 2022 with revenues of $32.5 billion and 1.57 million employees. In 2020, freelance revenues noted a 208 percent growth from 1.5 million gig workers.

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