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Taking Care Of Business





Jose Ma. “Joey” Concepcion III promises the full support of the government and private sector for businesses—specifically micro, vsmall, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)— because the whole country will benefit from it. As the founder of Go Negosyoand the Sector Lead for Jobs and MSMEs, he encourages capable people to go into business because the private sector and government will support them. MSMEs comprise 99 percent of the business sector, says Concepcion who dubs them ‘survival entrepreneurs.’ He adds, “They’re there because they’re trying to make a living; we can see that the level of income is not as high.”

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 1.08 million businesses operated in 2021. MSMEs comprise 99.5 percent of the total enterprises in the country, which generated more than 8.57 million jobs for that year. Employment is needed for the economy to survive and recover, especially in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. MSMEs also contribute to “25 percent of the country’s total export revenue,” says the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). It estimates that 60 percent of all Philippine exporters are from MSMEs, who are usually subcontractors or supply exports to other companies. “If we can elevate their negosyos (small businesses), then we will elevate their lives,” Concepcion stresses.

He was born on June 23, 1958, to Jose “Joecon” Concepcion, Jr. and Maria Victoria Lopez Araneta. His love for people stems from his father, who served in the Pasay City government before their family transferred to Makati City. “He started the Pasay City Citizens League for Good Government. He was very active when it came to relief [operations]—typhoons, floods, and fire in Pasay. [The last of which] was so frequent,” says Concepcion.

They lived in a compound with his uncle Raul “Ronnie” Concepcion, Joecon’s twin brother. As a result, Joey became close with his cousins, the Hechanovas, growing up. “A simple house. Normally our house gets flooded 50 percent of the year. That’s how Pasay City was at that time,” he explains. Joecon was the president and chief operating officer (PCOO) of Republic Flour Mills (RFM) Corporation from 1965 to 1986. A pioneer in the flour milling industry, RFM diversified into poultry, animal feed milling, meat processing, and livestock after acquiring Swift Foods, Inc. Now it’s one of the biggest food and beverage companies in the Philippines, managing consumer brands that have become household names. But no other set of names mattered more than the nation’s future leaders.

Joecon and Mariano Quesada founded the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) in October 1983. Following the assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. in September, Joecon gathered 20 concerned citizens in Quesada’s home—businessmen, church leaders, housewives, and students—to discuss the rising political turmoil in the country. NAMFREL is the pioneer in election monitoring in the Philippines, committing to clean and honest elections. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) granted it official observer status after releasing its unofficial, untampered count of the 1984 legislative elections. Since then, it has been accredited to conduct Operation Quick Count in 21 electoral exercises.

During the 1986 snap election, over 500,000 NAMFREL volunteers gave their time and energy—some sacrificing their lives—to ensure the sanctity of the ballots. “It was the biggest movement that he did, which galvanized the entire nation to really guard the ballots and have clean and honest elections,” Concepcion recalls fondly.

If NAMFREL was his father’s most significant contribution to society, it’s Go Negosyo for Concepcion, citing Joecon as his inspiration for starting it. Go Negosyo is a non-stock, non-profit organization of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE) that shapes competitive Filipino entrepreneurs. It brings all key stakeholders and enablers together, partnering with some of the biggest companies in the country to make Filipino enterprises more viable.

Its project, 3M on Wheels or 3MOW (the 3Ms representing the three entrepreneurial goals: Mentorship, Money, and Market), changes the mindset and attitude of Filipinos through entrepreneurship mentoring. This in turn uplifts the lives of their fellow countrymen.

Initially called Mentor Me On Wheels, 3MOW rolls all over the country in partnership with the DTI and the Department of Agriculture (DA). Held every month, Joey says it has been focused on equipping entrepreneurs with the necessary business skills through face-to-face coaching sessions. “Almost every two, three weeks, we have this [event] in different malls: Robinsons, Ayala, etc. Why do it there? Because all of the entrepreneurs are there—and a lot of the MSMEs are also there so it’s accessible,” Concepcion explains.

For the past eight years, Go Negosyo has worked with entrepreneurs to make sure their businesses are feasible. Once this happens, they’ll have access to additional funds and the market, with the potential to corner it. With close to 700 mentors, 3MOW is the organization’s biggest success, and it’s not limited to the Philippines.

Go Negosyo launched the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN) in 2017. Managed by the Japanese government through the Japan- ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF), the AMEN has adopted what Go Negosyo practices with 3MOW. Concepcion claims that in Go Negosyo, their events are always uplifting and inviting. “In most of our events, everything is positive. We don’t talk about negative things. We frown upon people saying it’s the end of the Philippines; we avoid all these ‘political intramurals.’”

He knows it well, having served as the presidential adviser for entrepreneurship for former Presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (PGMA) and Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD). Now he’s the sector lead for jobs in President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.’s (PBBM) Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC). Concepcion says that MSMEs are the key to unlocking a more comfortable life for Filipinos. “So if you have the MSMEs, they have more money to hire people. Then these people have the ability to spend with their salaries so it goes back to the economy. Everybody benefits from a growing economy.”

MSMEs contribute 62 percent of jobs in the Philippines, Concepcion adds, which can generate 20 to 30 percent more jobs in two to three years. That is if the government prioritizes increasing and scaling them up. “So if MSMEs grow—micro becomes small, small becomes medium, and medium becomes large—they will employ more people. That’s the strategy,” Concepcion explains.

Fortunately, MSMEs are the priority of the current administration which ensures its revival. During Go Negosyo’s MSME Summit 2022, Marcos promised that the government will work with stakeholders to protect and provide opportunities for MSMEs. This will help it recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and grow and thrive in this modern age. The government is doing everything in its power for MSMEs because it acknowledges its crucial role in economic regeneration, job creation, and poverty reduction. Concepcion notes that the Philippines is not yet on track for jobs because they’re created overseas. “As one of the largest suppliers of maritime workers, construction workers, and nurses,” he says other nations will have a problem if the Philippines stops supplying manpower.

“But in our own country, we have to create enough jobs for people so that everybody will have enough money to live and spend—contributing to economic growth. Once again, the cycle continues.” One proposal is a “ladderized” program for nurses, which the University of the Philippines Manila (UPM) already implements. Upon course completion, and with enough experience, midwives who will return to serve the UPM community can study nursing under a two-year scholarship program. The sector lead acknowledges the country’s difficulties should not hinder it from seeking help from big businesses. “If you want the country to be prosperous, you’re gonna be just prosperous with us: big business. We are basically 1 percent of the entire negosyo community,” he says.

The Concepcion clan is “naturally entrepreneurial.” Concepcion belongs to the third generation, composed of “more or less 30 Concepcions” involved in entrepreneurship. Jose Concepcion, Sr., Joey’s paternal grandfather, established Concepcion Industrial Corporation (CIC) after retiring as an accountant in 1962. CIC provides world-class air-conditioning solutions in the Philippines with some of the most esteemed air-conditioning brands. To this day, his cousins and siblings are involved in CIC as members of the board of directors apart from their own entrepreneurial endeavors.
Salvador and Maria Victoria Araneta, Joey’s maternal grandparents, founded the Far Eastern Air Transport Incorporated (FEATI) University and the Araneta Institute of Agriculture (now De La Salle

Araneta University) in 1946. Salvador established RFM in 1958 after sensing an opportunity to create jobs and establish a domestic mill.
Like his father, Joey also saw the opportunity to help others through one of the people who inspired him: PGMA. “She was actually one of those who convinced me that, in a way, I could follow my father’s footsteps,” Concepcion recalls.

Joecon stepped down from RFM in 1986 to become DTI secretary under the Corazon Aquino administration. PGMA also worked with him, and would later tap the younger Concepcion to help her administration. “Well, you know, at that time when I started Go Negosyo, that’s the time when PGMA asked me to be her adviser for entrepreneurship,” he recall

“So if MSMEs grow—micro becomes small, small becomes medium, and medium becomes large—they will employ more people. That’s the strategy.”

The position did come with some difficulties because of the nation’s instability—state of rebellion in 2001, Oakwood Mutiny in 2003, state of national emergency in 2006, and the Ampatuan massacre and Martial Law in Maguindanao both in 2009. “We had a lot of coup d’état during GMA’s time, the transition. But that was normal. There was a lot of pessimism during that period. We just have to push forward, which is very important the way I see it,” he expresses. The Office of the Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship was funded and supported by the private sector. Persistent and determined to push forward and put “MSMEs in the forefront of awareness,” Concepcion recalls, the country “eventually went on the right track.”

“The more fulfilling thing is helping people create wealth for themselves,” he adds. Never using his position to amass a fortune or garner public influence, Concepcion helped the government for free, even as the adviser. “I’ve proven myself that for 17 years now, no matter how popular, Go Negosyo will never be used for political purposes,” he says. All he wants is to give entrepreneurs their market edge, which has become easier thanks to technology.

“With digitalization, [starting your own business] is more achievable now. Prior to digitalization, it was a struggle because everything was offline— shopping centers, supermarkets, we control it. But with digitalization, it’s a very democratic platform; you list your product on Shopee, Lazada. You become an influencer, able to promote your own product or service,” Concepcion says. He’s glad that every Filipino can be great. With mentoring from Go Negosyo, anyone can make it big. “If you’ll be able to meet a mentor, that mentor might be able to provide you with the answer to your problem, “he says. With 60 pages worth of mentors on their website from every type of business in the Philippines, learning and earning never stop.
3MOW is not Go Negosyo’s only program. PCE partnered with DTI for Project KAPATID to coach MEs on business operations (Mentor ME), give them access to shared service facilities (Adopt-an-SSF), and link MSEs into the value chains of large companies (Inclusive Business model).

When COVID-19 hit, DTI and PCE developed the Kapatid Mentor ME- Money Market Encounter (KMME-MME Online). This 10-module mentorship program propels MSEs to survive and thrive by giving access to the 3Ms.

“With digitalization, [starting your own business] is more achievable now. Prior to digitalization, it was a struggle because everything was offline—shopping centers, supermarkets, we control it. But with digitalization, it’s a very democratic platform; you list your product on Shopee, Lazada. You become an influencer, able to promote your own product or service.”

Even with all the resources available, a business can still flop. “Putting up a negosyo is not a sure thing. The chance of failure is higher than success, but people try. For those who are existing, it’s a matter of putting in your best effort. It’s a game, a competition, it’s like basketball,” Concepcion stresses. As a former micro-entrepreneur who sold cotton candy at a mall at 18, Concepcion says keeping one’s market share requires being literally the best in the business. “In the end, the consumers benefit because they get the best products and services because of competition.”

One thing is for certain: Go Negosyo’s sole objective is to equip entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to thrive and survive. Its all-inclusive advocacy of helping all businesses is its guiding principle. \

“We’re trying to not leave anybody behind,” Concepcion ends.

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