Friday , January 21 2022

SM “Women at Work” webinar arms entrepreneurs with tools to grow their business in the New Normal

 SM recently held “Women at Work”, a free webinar for women entrepreneurs.

The event, which was held over two days (March 11 and 12) is the first webinar to take a complete and holistic approach to a very real problem: “How can I start and grow a business in the middle of a pandemic?”  Part of the panel invited to lend their knowledge and expertise included successful entrepreneurs and experts from multiple sectors of society:  finance, retail, government, and NGOs.

Tips, trends and inspiring stories

The invited speakers talked about the importance of self-mastery, a skill that many entrepreneurs feel is important to learn in these uncertain economic times.

“You have to take ownership of your life. Who do you want to be, where do you want to be, and what choices can you make to move forward?” said Gina Katigbak, a life coach and SM Supermall’s AVP for Leasing Strategy & Operations. She gave tips on how to own your power, find calm and create a roadmap for success.

Gina Katigabak, Life Coach, Asst. Vice President, SM Supermalls
“Refrain your limiting beliefs and ultimately create your breakthroughs in life.”

Gina Romero, co-founder of Connected Women, reminded entrepreneurs that the world’s biggest businesses had humble or challenging beginnings. She shared how to get the help you need—technology, partners, community—to overcome obstacles.

Gina Romero, Founder, Connected Women
“Sometimes when you feel a strong calling to do something right now, you just have to act on it.”

Successful entrepreneurs like Jamm San Juan of Frankie and Friends General Store and Felicia Atienza of the Chinese International School talked about how to survive and even thrive in a changing landscape: pivot your marketing, build a strong financial foundation, understand your customer and more.

Jamm San Juan, CEO, Frankie & Friends
“Passion is a result of compassion”
Fely Atienza, CEO, Chinese International School Manila
“Being a girl boss is all about believing in yourself, having that confidence to say I can achieve this.”

SM’s top executives also shared important retail industry trends. SM Supermalls vice president Gino Borromeo talked about new shopping behaviors and the rise of the “new essentials” or what people are willing to buy.  The SM Store senior vice president Aldwin Co shared consumer categories that are growing, and how to sell to the new online shopper. He illustrated this approach by talking about what The SM Store has done, like digital catalogues, Click and Collect, Call to Deliver, Shop SM and a lot more.

Funds and tools for aspiring entrepreneurs

For small entrepreneurs who need capital to start or grow their business, Karen Cua—who is the senior vice president and group head of BDO Network Bank’s MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) division—talked about how the financial tools available for women entrepreneurs.

Karen Cua, Sr. Vice President, BDO Network Bank
“We know that business urgently need a financial boost during these times and BDO Network Bank is ready to assist.”

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) undersecretary Blesila Lantayona also shared some free resources that women entrepreneurs can access from their local DTI office, from roving academies to shared service facilities like processing equipment.

Philippine Commission of Women (PCW) chairperson Sandra Montano, and WeEmpowerAsia country programme manager Rosalyn Mesina also graced the event, and talked about how companies and communities can work together to support women entrepreneurs.

Rosalyn Mesina, Country Program Manager, UN Women
“A diverse workforce drives innovation and market growth”

“Women empowerment benefits women, business and economy. A diverse workforce drives innovation and market growth, and builds trust and credibility with employees and stakeholders,” said Rosalyn Mesina.

Mesina adds that women need support—not just through promotions or financing for business, but help with the roles they’re expected to fulfil at home. Ideally, they should not feel pressured to “do it all” or have to give up one for the other. Families, communities and companies can all do their part to ease the burden, share the responsibility, and create work-life balance.

Community-wide support

“Women at Work” is a joint effort by SM and its advocacy partners, UN Women, Department of Trade and Industries, Philippine Commission on Women, Connected Women, and BDO Network Bank.

“SM’s affinity to SMEs comes naturally. SM started as a small shoe store in downtown Manila. We are an SME by heart and since SM started, we’ve worked closely with small businesses. Today SM is a community of 90,000 SMEs, from farming to artisan communities, from local manufacturers to shop owners, from food kiosks to restaurant owners,” said Chelo Monasterio, President of The SM Store in the webinar’s opening keynote address.

“SM is a company operated and led by women for women.”

“While we made a lot of progress in the past years in supporting women and SMEs, the pandemic has brought about unprecedented challenges. SM for SMEs learning series hope to help our partner tenants, suppliers and other entrepreneurs navigate and find opportunities amidst these challenges.”

Chito Manalo, president of SM Retail, shared that the event is part of the company’s commitment to empower the Filipina entrepreneurs. “We are grateful our business is in a unique position to provide livelihood and growth opportunities for women,”

The webinar was hosted by award-winning journalist and women’s advocate Karen Davila, and vlogger and entrepreneur Mica Davila.

For more information about SM events, news and advocacies, go to

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