How entrepreneurs use experiences in Hawaii to uplift the Philippines

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Elvin Laceda says his experience in Hawaii was life-changing.

“This allowed me to see things differently, and how it can be applied in the Philippines,” he said.

While a student at Brigham Young University-Hawaii, he created RiceUp — a program that helps farmers “rise” out of poverty through financial literacy education and a mobile app that connects them directly to consumers.

“You can eradicate poverty faster by developing agriculture,” he said.

The project won first place in the US social entrepreneurship competition Enactus three years in a row — in 2018, 2019 and 2020 — and has been launched in multiple countries.

The Philippines project serves 1,300 farmers. Laceda runs it from his home in Pampanga province, about 90 minutes north of Manila

He partnered with local banks and created a tech platform Sakahon to perform forecasting and fulfill orders.

“That allows us to know what the market needs three to six months in advance, so we can guide farmers in producing crops,” he said.

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“Farmers are not financially illiterate, they don’t know how much they actually earn, they don’t even keep records,” said farmer Ricardo Reyes, Jr.

“If they are given enough capital, by the country’s government, it will be easy for the whole country to raise itself,” said Elaine Timbol.

It is revolutionizing the agricultural industry in the Philippines by reducing food waste and increasing sales. Especially at a time when rising inflation is eating away at farmers’ income.

“It costs a lot. So they help us with financing,” said farmer Judith Turla

An idea that was seeded in Hawaii, like the Hawaii-inspired Aloha Nui hotel in Candon City in the province of Ilocos Sur.

Owner Romeo Remolacio returned to the Philippines after 20 years in Hawaii.

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“It’s good to start something to add to the pension you get when you go home,” said Remolacio.

Another Hawaii-born business — Connext Global Solutions — is headquartered in Honolulu with offices in Pampanga. From outsourcing staff to investing in real estate – Filipino officials say Hawaii entrepreneurs are helping to drive the Philippine economy.

“Filipinos abroad are investing a lot in various activities, franchise forms can be a form, buying condominium units, building their own businesses here,” said Emil Fernandez, Philippine consul general in Honolulu. “That’s why the contribution of overseas Filipinos to the development of the country is so great.”

That’s why trade missions and sisterhood agreements are more important than ever.

The Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii recently renewed its partnership with its Pampanga counterpart.

The exact economic impact is unknown because most entrepreneurs usually start micro and small businesses in local provinces that are difficult to monitor. But the Chamber says its investment rate is about 10% from trade missions.

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“There are no hard numbers but simply anecdotal observations of Hawaii residents investing in their country,” said Rose Churma, of the Hawaii-Philippines Business & Economic Council, which serves as an advocate for dual citizens who consider the same home. Hawaii and the Philippines. “We’re not talking about multi-million investments but small ones (perhaps up to $100K) of people interested in helping relatives build a business or ensure a source of additional income in retirement. Some have set up poultry farms, or invested in real estate to use as boutique hotels or as rentals.”

These are just a few of the ways Hawaii entrepreneurs are helping to drive change in the Philippines.

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