(PIA) — From the usual scheme of presenting government programs to entrepreneurs, the Benguet small and medium entrepreneur (SME) yearly gathering though the Adivay Festival took a new twist to entrepreneurs project pitching with stakeholders.

This time the entrepreneurs were on stage presenting to a panel composed of concerned agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Agriculture, the Benguet State University – Agri-based Technology Business Incubator/Innovation Center and financial institutions and the provincial government providing inputs for product enhancement, for business matching, funding opportunities and other forms of assistance.

Project Pitching

DTI Provincial Director Freda Gawisan said they made the strategy different from the usual government agencies and other sectors presenting their programs in SME summits or fora which entrepreneurs are already aware of. This time, SMEs themselves present their projects and their concerns.

It is also a sharing of experiences for other SMEs present for them to learn the processes, the pros and cons and encourage them to talk and get inputs from the presenters or the panelists.

Presenters who were graduates of the DTI Kapatid Mentor Me program and who have leveled up volunteered for the project pitching.

Jaya Marsan of Cosmic Farm pitched in for health and wellness sector ; Adeline Timoteo of Garden Secret Food Products for processed food; Jeffrey Sotero of Tublay for agri-production, and Ariel Layugan of Kulibeng Handicrafts for handicrafts sector. Their products were also on display during the occasion.

Gawisan said the business plan presented underscores the focus and main concerns of the SMEs and some of the programs which may be provided by the panelists or directions as to whom they shall be approaching for the needed assistance.

The province’s Livelihood Coordinator Camilo Alumit said the project pitching scheme is more specific and focused on the direct needs of the SMEs which the panelists may address.

Support to SMEs

As part of SME matching to sectors contributory to product improvement, national suppliers of packaging materials were also invited for SMEs to collaborate with for appropriate and proper product packaging.

One of the problems of entrepreneurs is the absence of readily available packaging materials which come in various sizes, said Gawisan. Suppliers accept only minimum orders which they could not meet. What they can do is for a cluster to come together and ask for the minimum orders they can avail, she added.

Governor Crescencio Pacalso expressed strong support to SMEs citing the creation of a livelihood coordinating office, cooperative development services office, selling area for products, agriculture and trade fair such as the Adivay Festival to promote their produce and services, and financial assistance among others.

University of the Cordilleras Vice President for Administration Leonarda Aguinalde who was the keynote speaker, challenged the entrepreneurs to have a mindset of, “With or without you, I am moving on” and not to depend only on government assistance.

Aguinalde presented some thoughts on achieving excellence in service in the SME sector such as having willingness, acting simply, timely delivery of service, having good attitude, and good manner of communicating.

Best SMEs for 2018

Indeed, SMEs who continue to strive even without government assistance can survive and stand on their own. This is exemplified by these five best SMEs who displayed exemplary performance, achievements and contributions to the livelihood sector and were accorded recognition.

These are the Emorej Food Products in La Trinidad, Dulche Chocolates in Tuba, Golden Livelihood Association in Itogon, Garden Secret Food Products in La Trinidad, and Lejar La Trinidad Food Products. (JDP/SCA-PIA-CAR, Benguet)