Entrepreneurship in the Philippines
Dr. Kelly Dye is a Management Professor at the F.C. Manning School of Business at Acadia University. She and her husband and research partner, Bruce Dye, have recently returned from their fourth trip to the Philippines. Over the past three years, they have worked closely with a not-for-profit organization that provides services to ‘missing-middle’ entrepreneurs—entrepreneurs who have grown from micro-enterprises, originally supported through microfinance, and now requiring more formalised business services and loans. They are considered to be the ‘missing-middle’ because they are too big for microloans but not eligible for bank loans, due to their lack of formalization and record keeping. The partner institution, the Foundation for Enterprise Management and Innovation (FEMI), was looking for help to design and deliver culturally relevant business training to their clients (called benepartners) when they met Kelly and Bruce at a Microfinance conference in Manila in 2013. Kelly’s interest in the empowerment of women (most benepartners are women), and Bruce’s interest in economic development through entrepreneurship, drew them to the project.
Since 2013, they have made site visits to the benepartners’ homes and businesses, conducted many interviews and focus groups, and designed, tested and delivered training modules. Building on their existing management skills, benepartners have been introduced to financial management systems specifically suited for missing-middle entrepreneurs. This has also resulted in preparing benepartners for more advanced training in financial analysis and effective business decision making. Kelly and Bruce have also delivered ‘train the trainer’ sessions with FEMI staff and they are now in possession of several tested and proven training programs including both content and delivery methodology. These efforts are making a small, yet useful, contribution to the development of the Philippines. In the words of Manuel Avancena (FEMI founder),
We are throwing a pebble into the pond. Manuel argues that change is incremental and that it is better to throw that pebble into the pond than not to.
From the Philippines to the Classroom
Kelly claims to have learned as much as she has taught in the Philippines. Her partnership with FEMI has contributed to her understanding of the missing-middle, the challenges of doing business in a developing nation, and the resilience and tenacity of Filipino entrepreneurs. In a country fraught with extreme poverty, corruption, and few social safety nets, the resilience of the people is what truly amazes her. Never has she met such incredible women who have pulled their families (and communities) from poverty through entrepreneurship. Notions of family, faith, charity, community development, and bettering the lives of others rarely appear in Western discourses of entrepreneurship, yet they are central to the success of these entrepreneurs. All of this rich experience and learning comes directly back to Kelly Dye’s classroom at Acadia. Examples are drawn from the Philippine experience to bring theory alive and to encourage students to think about business from multiple perspectives. Western notions of what it means to be an entrepreneur are challenged and new paradigms emerge. Students have also been directly involved in the project, helping to create curriculum documents and training manuals. There may be more opportunities for hands-on engagement with the project at a later date. The world is her classroom!
Acadia University’s Fred C. Manning School of Business is located in the town of Wolfville in the beautiful Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. Home to over 600 undergraduate students it offers a four-year Bachelor of Business Administration program with majors in six areas including accounting, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship and innovation, employment relations, and technology management. Students enrolled in our program may also take advantage of international study and co-op education opportunities. More information can be found on the Fred. C. Manning School of Business homepage.