Written by: H.E. Reuben Levermore
Building a business is no mean feat. I am very fortunate that my role allows me to meet and be inspired by successful businesspeople here in the Philippines as well as back home in New Zealand.
Earlier this week in Auckland, New Zealand, eight entrepreneurs from across Asia and New Zealand shared with a local business audience the secrets of their success in industries as diverse as shoe design, architecture and mobile apps. One of these entrepreneurs is Chris Chillip from Manila, whose range of interests include architecture, and who recently opened the Azumi Boutique Hotel in Alabang. Chris and fellow Filipino Jeffrey Tarayao, the president of the One Meralco Foundation, are visiting New Zealand as guests of the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Young Business Leaders Initiative.
This is a New Zealand Government programme designed to build the skills of young ASEAN business leaders to contribute to the development of their home economies and the ASEAN-New Zealand business relationship. Our visiting entrepreneurs in New Zealand will spend time with fellow New Zealander entrepreneurs and with the Icehouse, an organisation that provides mentoring, networks and funding advice to start-up companies.
We were also delighted to host Senator Bam Aquino in New Zealand last week, a champion of entrepreneurship with his Go Negosyo Bill that proposes to establish Go Negosyo centers throughout the Philippines to assist small businesses. Senator Aquino’s bill is named after the Go Negosyo network that exists to support entrepreneurs. On 25 July, Go Negosyo will hold its first AgriNegosyo Summit. Speakers will include Joseph Calata, who turned a small-scale family poultry supply business into Calata Corp., the Philippines’ biggest combined seller of agri-chemicals, fertilizers, seeds, feeds and veterinary medicines. Joseph has also visited New Zealand under the Young Business Leaders Initiative.
So why New Zealand? Other than our world-leading agriculture sector, New Zealand is also a nation of small and medium sized enterprises. Over 95% of all companies in New Zealand employ less than 20 staff. And although large conglomerates may seem to dominate the Philippine business landscape, 99% of business are micro, small or medium size enterprises that together generate 66% of all jobs. Successful SMEs are therefore important to stimulate economic growth, and employment, in both countries.
The New Zealand Government aims to foster a business environment that enables small companies to succeed. The New Zealand business environment is known as one of the most user-friendly in the world. The World Bank Doing Business Index ranks New Zealand number one for starting a business and number three, behind Singapore and Hong Kong, for overall ease of doing business.
Important as it is to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, it is also critical for governments to set policy frameworks that create an enabling environment to give small businesses the best chance of success. In New Zealand’s case, this is not in the form of subsidies or hand-outs either. We tried that with agriculture, for example, but we could not afford to prop up our largest industry and subsidies were withdrawn in the mid-1980s. Three decades on, and the result is a successful sector driven by market signals.
We hope that by bringing together young entrepreneurs from New Zealand and the Philippines, the sharing of ideas and experiences will help enable both countries to prosper.