ATENEO  OPENS  WORLD'S  FIRST  MALL  FOR  STUDENT  ENTREPRENEURS

MANILA
, FEBRUARY 20, 2007 (STAR) BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET By Wilson Lee Flores - (Pearls lie not on the seashore. If thou desirest one thou must dive for it. — Ancient Chinese proverb)

(Every great achievement is the victory of a flaming heart. —Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Recently I encouraged college students of the Philippines’ finest universities not just to seek comfort and security in high-paying jobs in top multinational corporations (or prestigious Makati firms) after graduation, but to someday also consider the exciting yet risky and arduous adventure of entrepreneurship.

I did this in speeches before the Asia-Pacific Student Entrepreneurship Society (ASES) conference, led by president Justin de la Cruz and conference director Meryll Dy, and at the AIESEC Ateneo de Manila University, led by president Ermain Balois and vice president Gino Banson.

More Universities Now Offer Entrepreneurship Courses

Congratulations to the Ateneo de Manila University, led by its president, Fr. Bienvenido Nebres Jr., and its John Gokongwei School of Management (JGSOM), led by Dean Rudy Ang, for inaugurating the P8 million JGSOM Student Enterprise Center or JSEC — probably the world’s first-ever campus mall for student entrepreneurs — last Valentine’s Day. In this season of politicking and elections, it is good to witness a new project that encourages entrepreneurship among the youth.

Fr. Nebres said that by 2009, the Ateneo will be celebrating its 150th anniversary. In the past, the school has always been a part of Philippine history by producing many top leaders in politics. However, he said that in these changing times, when the needs are in business and technology, he hopes the Ateneo will continue to lead by producing top leaders in business, technology, the arts and other fields.

The Ateneo’s unique idea of a campus mall for student entrepreneurs is part of the positive trend among Philippine schools of offering good entrepreneurship courses and programs, including such schools as De La Salle University, UP, Far Eastern University (which has won various international student entrepreneurship competitions in recent years), UST, the Asian Institute of Management and others.

The guest of honor at the launching of the Ateneo’s mall was John L. Gokongwei Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth. In his extemporaneous speech, he said: "I’m astonished to see this beautiful mall here at the Ateneo. This could be a model for other similar small malls which could be set up in at least 1,000 smaller cities and towns throughout the Philippines — no need for air-con, not much electricity is used, the place is clean, the food is good — you can add other things in the future. This is an excellent idea."

He predicted that this campus mall might someday produce the future Jollibees or Chowkings of the Philippines.

Dean Rudy Ang said: "We believe entrepreneurship can be taught in schools, and it is best learned when students are given opportunities to put theories learned inside the classroom to actual practice in real-life settings, under the guidance of their teachers. The John Gokongwei School of Management of the Ateneo has made entrepreneurship its educational focus, and over the years, we have launched many pioneering programs that have allowed students to practice entrepreneurship even while still in school, confronting the challenge of developing a culture of entrepreneurship in a community where our best students are aggressively recruited by multinational corporations."

Instead Of Lawyers, Produce More Entrepreneurs, Agriculturists, Engineers

Ateneo business student Miguel Cruz, one of the tenants of the JSEC mall, shared his experiences: "For us student businessmen and women, the JSEC is also a laboratory for us to re-learn, by applying to real life concepts we learn from books and in the classroom. Here, accounting, operations management, and marketing are not just paper concepts anymore, but daily disciplines that are vital to our business."

For Cruz and his partner, Rej, it was truly a proud moment when they first opened shop. "But as the days pass, I feel more and more humbled by the experience," he says. "I think I speak for all of us student businessmen here when I say that this experience has been a crash course in Real Life 101.

"It has been an opportunity for us to learn firsthand the inglorious but essential work that goes on behind the scenes, the practical work that keeps the business alive. Going to the palengke to buy meat, for example, negotiating face-to-face with suppliers to get a good deal, pakikisama with employees, among others — these are not the usual images that will be conjured up in the minds of students when the subject of running a business is mentioned. These are the day-to-day realities that cannot be learned if you stay buried in books and cloistered within the four walls of the classroom."

Cruz says it has been humbling to realize how much he didn’t know. "It is one thing to have a business plan and put it on paper. That’s actually the easy part. The hard part is execution — putting all those plans into action, because when you’re running the stall, you realize that those plans that were in your head encounter the reality of the students, the reality of finding suppliers and scheduling deliveries and pickups, the reality that so much has to be considered and taken care of, that you realize already when you are actually running your business.

"Most importantly, I think we have all learned that to be an entrepreneur means not to feel entitled — entitled to high regard and honors, for example, something which, many say, Ateneans have a penchant for feeling," Cruz continues. "To be an entrepreneur, I learned from my personal experiences here, means to earn — to earn the trust of your suppliers by being honest in your transactions, clear with terms, and prompt with your payments. It means earning the respect of your employees by respecting them, doing the work with them, listening to and learning from them. Earning the trust of your customers by providing them dependable service, good products, and real value for what they pay for. ‘To earn’ reminds us that nothing precious comes easy; the things that are truly important are striven for."

Instead of over-producing too many lawyers (who will go into politics) or graduates of management (what will they manage in the future?), I hope our universities will offer more practical courses in entrepreneurship, agriculture, sciences, technology and other programs that will help increase the productivity, dynamism, efficiency and global competitiveness of the Philippine economy.

It is tragic when I see the sickening lack of quality (and qualifications) and dubious ethics of our many election candidates. The whole campaign period reminds me of a circus with all sorts of pigs and monkeys. Don’t be misled by their propaganda promising the moon, the stars and the heavens, for the great future of the Philippines does not lie with them but in our hardworking entrepreneurs and the innovative, gutsy, and risk-taking entrepreneurs of the future.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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