by Patricia O. Calora, DOST-MIMAROPA Regional Office
     Mark Kevin A. Yara, DOST-MIMAROPA Regional Office

DOST-MIMAROPA continues to support the development of a vibrant and sustainable technopreneurial environment in the region by implementing the second leg of the Mentoring Program in Marinduque.

The Mentoring Program is the first of its kind in the DOST system that aims to help micro, small, and medium enterprises innovate ideas and navigate their way to business success. The main objective of the program is the development of concrete, timely, and effective business plans through the collaborative effort of target MSMEs, and a local mentoring team. The initiative targets DOST’s SETUP-assisted firms and community-based enterprises to enhance their skills and capabilities through one-on-one consultations with mentor-consultants, firm visits, and trainings on financial, marketing, production, and organizational management. The program utilizes multiple approaches, such as one-on-one and group/flash mentoring, to ensure that the beneficiaries are effectively impacted by the program.

Graduation Ceremony of the MSME beneficiaries of the Mentoring program in Romblon

In 2015, the first ever Mentoring Program was successfully implemented in Romblon. A total of 38 MSMEs participated in the kickstart activity which involves the group/flash mentoring. Out of 38 MSMEs coached, 12 firms were guided by a well-respected entrepreneurship guru. Mentees’ business operations, management, and mindset were all positively impacted by the mentoring program as they were able to develop new ideas, establish new and expand business, and most importantly, increase their sales.

A year after, DOST-MIMAROPA implemented the program in Marinduque, with 15 mentees participating in the initial group session. After which, 10 of them were guided by a primary mentor-consultant and five other local mentors through one-on-one mentoring sessions for six months. These mentors conducted a visit to the mentees’ respective firms to identify possible areas of improvement. In addition, they addressed the mentees’ concerns and challenges faced regarding business mindset, operations, and management.

According to the mentor-consultant, unlike the mentoring program in Romblon, the mentoring program in Marinduque posed more challenges in terms of organizational management since community-based enterprises (CBEs) have a more complex organizational structure as compared to sole-proprietorship or partnership firms.

Primary mentor- consultant conducts a group mentoring session for the MSMEs in Marinduque State College

The local mentoring team made up of experts in different business aspects also guided the MSMEs. From October to December 2016, these local mentors conducted group/flash mentoring sessions, which tackled product development, marketing strategies, customer service, and business accounting. The overarching goal of these training sessions was to allow the mentees to develop their own business plan, and present it to Ms. Tiong-Aquino for evaluation before their graduation in December 2016.

The first training session in October 2016 focused on product development and customer service handled by professors from Marinduque State College. In November, a proprietor of one of DOST-MIMAROPA’s most successful assisted firms, provided inspiration to the mentees as its marketing strategies were shared first hand. Furthermore, the last training session held in December, focused on the financial aspects of a business.

These training sessions enabled the mentees to identify appropriate customer services, devise their own marketing strategies, and learn basic accounting systems – all of which contributed to their business improvement plan.

Since the program started, a significant increase was observed in the sales of the mentees. The Balanacan Multi-Sectoral Credit Cooperative (BMSC), for example, increased its sales by 54% after the program. Their product, vacuum-fried dilis, even has the potential to penetrate international markets. According to the cooperative’s president, many clients have expressed their interest to export the product. Other firms, such as the Batayang Pamayanag Kristiyano-Holy Cross Parish Chapter (BPK-HCPC) and the Mogpog Vegetable Growers Association, have improved the marketability of their products – candles and coconut candy, respectively – by coming up with new designs and packaging and labeling.

Primary mentor consultant conducts a one-on-one consultation with the Balanacan Multi-Sectoral Credit Cooperative (BMSC) in Marinduque.

As a testament to its success, a mentoring extension program will be implemented by MSC starting July 2017. Before that though, the mentor-consultant will be assessing the progress of the mentees first, before turning over the mentoring to the local mentors. The mentoring extension program will not only enhance the expertise of local mentors, but also ensure that the mentees continue to apply and improve on what they learned from the Mentoring Program.

Indeed, the Mentoring Program has consistently shown its potential to create a sustainable conducive technopreneurial environment. Through the program, DOST-MIMAROPA was able to form collaborations with MSC, PCCI-Marinduque, and LGU-Marinduque. In addition to these collaborations, those formed among the CBE mentees will all contribute to a robust environment.  From its pilot implementation in Romblon to its implementation in Marinduque, the program has shown tremendous results. It has sought to improve the overall operations and competitiveness of MSMEs in MIMAROPA, and has demonstrated the ability to do so.

The continued implementation of the program, this time in Occidental Mindoro, signifies DOST-MIMAROPA’s staunch dedication and steadfast commitment to enterprise development in the countryside.