EADCOOP: Breeding, Rearing Young Bicolano Entrepreneurs
At 28, Soledad Aycocho already has three businesses under her belt.
Soledad started early as an entrepreneur eight years ago. A fresh graduate at 20 years old, she jumped right into self-employment by seriously pursuing her college feasibility study: that of Chicharon Manok production and marketing.
But with no capital whatsoever and no track record to show for, she couldn't launch her business plan and gain the backing of mainstream financial institutions.
She immediately applied to be a regular member of the Entrepreneur's Alumni Development Cooperative (EADCOOP), conveniently located at her alma mater, Bicol University (BU).
Starting with a measly loan of PhP5,000, Soledad worked hard on expanding her business over the years, at the same time gaining eligibility for EADCOOP's higher relending programs.
Today, the "Bicol Special" Unique Chicharon Manok is being sold in more than 50 outlets across malls, groceries and convenience stores in the region, earning Soledad around PhP30,000 a month.
It was enough to build a small concrete house in Barangay Bascaran in Daraga town in 2005, where she now lives with her husband and two sons.
With continued financial support from EADCOOP, the Chicharon Manok enterprise also paved the way for the Aycocho family to open a sari-sari store in the same year and a bakery the year after, spiking their net income to more than a total of PhP50,000 a month, Soledad said.
Soledad is testament that EADCOOP does not simply breed young entrepreneurs: they rear them into full growth.
Like Soledad, EADCOOP had humble beginnings. In 1995, 18 Entrepreneurship majors and two teachers from what is now the College of Business Economics and Management (BUCBEM) put up the cooperative to create and organize a pool of resources to give fresh graduates and otherwise enterprising Bicolanos a fighting chance.
"EADCOOP continually seeks to provide members adequate capital for their businesses. We also promote personal savings, income for their families and employment for other people in their locality, thus fighting poverty and contributing to the growth and development of the Bicol region," EADCOOP's former Chairperson Maria Lourdes Pasobillo said.
EADCOOP started out with only PhP12,500 in paid-up share capital. Thirteen years later today, the cooperative has around PhP2 million in share capital, with the family expanding to 1,360 members.
Enterprises launched range from simple electronic loading businesses to more technical fare like photography studios.
Consequently, loan releases have grown to accommodate increasing beneficiaries. From a total loan release of only PhP10,000 in 1995, EADCOOP is now extending more than PhP10 million to borrowers.
Money lending is still the primary program of the cooperative, but over the years, as more rural entrepreneurs seek financial assistance and as more members' businesses expand, it has become more important for EADCOOP to tap into conduit partners and external funding sources.
One of their allies today is the Federation for Peoples' Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC), of which EADCOOP has been a member since 2003.
EADCOOP courses their existing PhP1.5 million social credit with FPSDC into the Self-Employment Response to Vertiginous Economy (SERVE) financing facility under their Cooperative Relending Program (CoRPro).
In contrast with EADCOOP's basic financing facility -- the Credit Assistance Program (CAP), which is designed for new members who are only about to start a business -- SERVE is oriented for the experienced member-entrepreneurs who can maximize a wider credit line and who can already afford higher loan interests.
"SERVE is designed for the expansion of a member's pre-existing business," Pasobillo explained.
Soledad herself started off with CAP loans to launch her Chicharon Manok venture, but is currently applied under the SERVE facility. Under SERVE, she borrowed PhP100,000 last year to invest in a van which she now uses for the delivery of chicharon and bakery products.
Soledad is also currently mortgaging bakery equipment from EADCOOP which were bought with a PhP100,000 term-enterprise loan they took out with FPSDC in 2004.
From their relending programs alone, it is already evident that EADCOOP has matured in their mission, not only facilitating the creation of businesses but also sustaining their growth.
It then comes as no surprise that their net income has also seen a steady increase through the years, from P58,470.88 in 2001 to P470,586 in 2007.
A summary of the cooperative's income statements from the same six-year period also shows that their net profit margin was at an all-time high for the past year, more than doubling from 6% to 15%.
More than loans
Like a watchful parent, EADCOOP inculcates healthy business values such as thrift and the sensible handling of finances among their members.
This was the thought behind their Membership Savings Operation (MSO) which facilitates the members' Savings & Time Deposits.
With SERVE loans also only having a 24% annual interest rate as compared to the 30% interest rate in most banks, Soledad said she remains loyal to EADCOOP because they allow her to reap more of what she sowed.
Above everything else, however, she appreciates the cooperative's humanistic approach.
"With banks, it's all business. They don't really care about your personal well-being," she pointed out.
Indeed, EADCOOP treats their members as equals and not merely beneficiaries. This is made apparent with the Cooperative's Community Projects (CCP), which are joint business ventures between EADCOOP and their members. Two in-school canteens and a catering service have been started under this program.
"We don't stop at loans. We also aim for mentoring, capability-building and follow-up with our members," Pasobillo said.
These trainings have also been opened to non-members through EADCOOP's Business Technical and Management Consultancy (BTMC) extension service, which would provide consultants and trainers from the cooperative to external clientele.
It was in 2005 that EADCOOP started reaching out to a wider public, when former cooperative directors launched a local radio show called "Maghanapbuhay Kita" (Let's Make a Living). The information and advocacy program tackled issues ranging from business research and development to management, finances and marketing.
"It was like an entrepreneur school on the air. It inspired listeners and led them to us," Pasobillo said.
Asked how EADCOOP was able to make steady progress for 13 years, Pasobillo attributed it to the expertise and sincerity of the employees: "The officers know how to handle the cooperative and the members because most of them are entrepreneur graduates themselves. Not only are they capable, they are also committed to helping other people," she said.
FPSDC has a hand in the skills EADCOOP passes on to their members and fellow Bicolanos. After all, EADCOOP benefitted from the training conducted by the FPSDC on credit management, fund management, human resource development, risk management and governance.
In 2006, EADCOOP also availed of an Institution Building (IB) loan amounting to P85,000 with FPSDC. The funds were used to acquire multimedia materials which ensured efficient training seminars and everyday operations at the office.
The EADCOOP office is now strategically located next to the faculty room of the BUCBEM building, easily accessible by curious students and staff should the calling for enterprise suddenly strike them.
As EADCOOP grows, it likewise sees its members through entrepreneurial maturity, encouraging their independence as businesspeople and empowering them as economic assets.
Soledad attests to the domino effect of being able to unlock opportunities: "We now have six workers for chicharon production, six for the bakery, and four for delivery. I have been able to help other people by giving them work," she said.
Soledad dreams of exporting outside Bicol, and she is assured that EADCOOP will see her through this next step as well.
"I've been with EADCOOP from the start and they've really taken care of me. When I need advice, I still turn to them. They're like my family now," Soledad said.