CBM 2023 Entrepreneurship Summit: Future-proofing Cebu’s Businesses Through Innovation and Collaboration

Participants from various industries gained a renewed sense of inspiration and fresh insights on business trends from a stellar clique of speakers who graced the Cebu Business Months (CBM) 2023 Entrepreneurship Summit on August 30–September 1, 2023, at 38 Park Avenue Showroom, Cebu I.T. Park.

Steered by the theme “Cebu ‘Ta Bai”, the CBM 2023 Entrepreneurship Summit organized by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) became a powerful stronghold for delegates to connect and affirm their shared vision to shape a prosperous business landscape in Cebu through collaboration and innovation.

“Our aim is to create an ecosystem where partnerships flourish and where ideas find their perfect collaborators by facilitating connections between entrepreneurs, experts, and industry leaders,” said Mr. Charles Kenneth Co, CCCI President in his opening remarks.

Mr. John Paul Chiongbian, CBM 2023 overall chairman, described the summit as the fitting platform to revisit the basics of commerce — essentially founded on the tenets of business and entrepreneurship — as well as reexamine the purpose of doing business, which is to build a brighter future for the next generation.

CBM 2023 Entrepreneurship Summit Chairperson, Ms. Gretchen Choa, and Co-Chairperson, Mr. Niko Basubas, shed light on issues zeroing in on food sustainability and security that require business solutions for logistics, transportation, and finance management, among others.

Aligning with the summit’s theme and noble aspiration, Mr. Ricardo Alba, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Univet Nutrition and Animal Healthcare Company (UNAHCO), outlined the potential of agriculture in Cebu province. He underscored the untapped potential of the agricultural market significant for Cebu to prosper and grow.

Mr. Alba also noted that with Cebu’s substantial agricultural land area totaling 227,275.36 acres, with key agricultural products being sugarcane, coconut husk, bananas, and sweet potatoes, the province is contributing more than half of the agricultural production in Central Visayas, prompting him to describe the province as “self-sufficient.” The business challenge, he said, lies in maintaining the synergy of agriculture as a means to keep food costs down and at the same time attract investments in sectors such as tourism.

Day 1: Capitalizing on Cebu’s food security and sustainability

The first day of the Entrepreneurship Summit successfully tackled issues on food security and sustainability. Following the opening ceremonies and the keynote speech was a roundtable discussion that featured agri-preneurs who shared their experiences, optimistic views, and business insights on agri-business in the country.

These agri-preneurs include Mr. Bobby Adan, Owner of Prutasan ni Adan, who got the remarkable idea of supplying hotels and restaurants in Cebu with premium fruits; Mr. Alvin Hing, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Excelsior Farms Inc., whose business supplies fresh eggs to more than 550 major supermarkets nationwide and maintains more than 30 stores in Cebu; Mr. Jonathan Unchuan, Owner of Barili Milk Station, whose business started from producing fresh goat and cow’s milk; and Mr. Chris Fadriga, Chairman of Chris Fadriga Nursery and Plantation, who found success in cacao farming; and Mr. Gumero “Mhy” Cogal, Owner of Mhy J’s Refreshment and Dragon Fruit Farm, who successfully marketed dragon fruit through his farm where he offers refreshments like shakes and his own dragon fruit empanada.

A raffle draw from sponsoring companies like GCash hyped the crowd before proceeding to a video presentation by Ms. Gwen Sala, Deputy General Manager of City Di Mare, who featured City Di Mare as a new center for investors.

Another roundtable discussion commenced in the afternoon, which involved the same panel from the morning’s fruitful dialogue and, this time, joined by esteemed representatives from government agencies and organizations dedicated to the progress of the agricultural sector in the country. They collectively emphasized the significance of a strong collaboration between the business and government sectors to boost the local economy.

The government representatives include Ms. Ma. Elena Arbon, Regional Director at the Department of Trade and Industry; Dr. Wilberto Castillo, Regional Technical Director for Research and Regulation-Regional Field Unit No. 7 of the Department of Agriculture; Engr. Jesus Zamora, Jr., Regional Director at the Department of Science and Technology 7; and Ms. Ma. Elena Limocon, General Manager of Lamac Multipurpose Cooperative.

RD Arbon encourage our farmers to produce value-added products because the region needs them as it strives to keep up with the demands from various industries. Mr. Castillo and Mr. Zamora reminded entrepreneurs of the value of research for agriculture, which is one of the services provided by the government, in order to improve their expertise, innovate their products, and upscale the business. With LAMAC, Ms. Limocon shared how her organization is proof of successful innovation, partnerships, and collaboration that have helped LAMAC adapt to the changing tides of the business landscape.

The summit also featured Mr. Grant Clark, Head of Business Development and Industry Affairs at Vivant Infracore Holding Inc., who shared the innovative solutions on water management as a basic necessity in the growth and development of any agri-businesses venture.

Moreover, Lalamove Cebu Manager, Mr. Nelson Judaya shared the importance of creating job opportunities for drivers and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises across the country in the delivery of their goods and services.

The first day of the summit ended with a robust Q&A segment that covered diverse topics such as corporate accounts for ordering products, challenges related to water problems in Cebu, the impact of the pandemic for Lalamove’s business operation, and potential solutions to water crises. Moreover, JC Marquez Law Office offered documentation services of the proceedings of the session.

Day 2: Highlighting innovation and collaboration in the digital realm

The second day of the CBM 2023 Entrepreneurship Summit exposed delegates with strategies of enhancing their businesses through marketing, innovation, and digitization.

Mr. Nas Arcayan, CEO of Mothership Global and an expert in cognitive marketing, imparted the importance in achieving market allegiance, profitability, branding, and growth in business, as well as the significance of building connections with clients.

Presenter, Mr. Gov Daswani, CEO of Romulus Group, examined the prospects of innovation and engineering in shaping a dynamic future for Cebu. He encouraged the perspective of viewing change as an ally rather than as an adversary to nurture innovation and appreciate its effects on society.

The conversation then shifted to new technologies and financial technology (fintech), with Mr. Sevastian Romberg, Founding Partner of Morningtide Capital, highlighting the advantages and access the current generation has to technology. He discussed proven tactics that drive growth in emerging market businesses and fintech, with the advice to entrepreneurs to slowly adapt to innovation to avoid experiencing stress and fear.

Another vibrant Q&A segment during the summit gave a spotlight on implementing business processes with the support of technology and data management while observing organization and transparency. The speakers advised the summit participants on the use of technology to augment human capabilities and solve specific customer-centered needs.

In the afternoon, speakers from GCash and PLDT Enterprise explored the digital landscape of the country. Mr. Ganymede Macabit, Area Channel Distribution Manager for Central-Eastern Visayas at GCash, shared the changing terrain of digital transaction payments gateways in the Philippines, as GCash demonstrated its transformation from being a simple digital wallet to a comprehensive financial super application inclusive to every Filipino.

Mr. Oamar Tabiliran, Business Head at PLDT Enterprise, highlighted the value of confidentiality, integrity, and availability in his company’s mission to safeguard data from cyber attackers and maintain its competitive edge in fintech.

For his part, Mr. Romberg returned to the stage in the afternoon session to talk about the concept of financial inclusion and its impact on emerging markets. He pointed out that while many think that there is a digitization problem, the reality is the public is facing a financial information problem.

Mr. Michael Rubio, Co-founder and CEO of Pathway Technologies, focused on sustainable road construction using soil stabilization for advanced infrastructure. He introduced his company’s sustainable solution called Roadpacker Plus Liquid Soil Stabilizer for hard-to-access far flung remote roads using the existing soil without the use of aggregates.

Mr. Justin Rafael Francisco, Co-Founder and CEO of Arkos Technologies Inc., discussed strategies to improve temperature control in the transportation of raw products and minimize in-transit losses. He introduced temperature control logistics and PCM Panels, an eco-friendly, cost-effective alternative to traditional ice-based temperature storage.

The second day of the summit concluded with a lively Q&A exchange that revolved around the importance of collaboration, financial inclusion, and data transparency in the Philippines. Participants discussed potential solutions and approaches to address these issues, such as regulatory changes and partnerships between financial institutions, and promote further economic development in Cebu.

Day 3: Shaping the next generation of Cebu’s entrepreneurs

The third day of the CBM 2023 Entrepreneurship Summit started off with a spirited roundtable discussion featuring businessmen and their children who are actively involved in their companies, including Mr. Robert Go, Founder and CEO, with Ms. Rissa Julene Go, Chief Financial Officer, both of the Prince Retail Group of Companies; Arch. Jose Diego Cañizares with Arch. Jose Mari Cañizares of the Canizares Architects Design Company; and Mr. Bunny Pages, Chairman and CEO, with John Owen Pages, Executive Vice President, of the Pages Food Group.

Session 3 tackled why “future-proofing” family businesses for the next generations is important and essential aspect in the succession of businesses. They also shared their challenges in communication and succession, as well as strategies to address them.

A rousing Q&A session followed the panel discussion, where summit delegates relearned the importance of embracing digital transformation to strengthen business operations and remain competitive in the rapidly evolving business landscape.

The panelists also emphasized the need to foster an inclusive workplace environment where everyone feels heard, valued, and free from prejudice. They explained that this commitment to inclusivity not only promotes diversity but also cultivates an open-minded culture that can better embrace the challenges and opportunities presented by digital transformation.

Afterward, Mr. Oliver Chan, Senior Vice President of Sales, Leasing, and Marketing Operations at Arthaland Corp. delved into his company’s sustainability initiatives, eco-friendly practices, and corporate social responsibility efforts in partnership with the Cebu local government unit, which are designed to support sustainable living in the province.

The summit participants engaged in an entertaining diversion that featured gift raffles from partner companies such as GCash, PLDT Enterprise, and GT Cosmetics.

The afternoon session of the CBM 2023 Entrepreneurship Summit gave the spotlight to three speakers who gave insights on mental health in the workplace.

Ms. Zarah Hernaez, Certified Mental Health First Aider through the U.S. National Council for Behavioral Health and a Stanford-Certified Positive Psychology and Well-being Coach, explained the significance of mental health and well-being in the workplace. She shared valuable perspectives and unique approaches for fostering the mental wellness for each team member.

Ms. Tanya Aguilar, Internationally Certified Yoga and Pilates Coach and Co-founder of One Life Movement and Mental Health, illustrated the intricate connection between the mind and the body and shared with the summit participants the benefits of practices like yoga and Pilates for holistic well-being.

Ms. Christine Dychiao, a Certified KonMari Consultant, imparted practical tips in managing stress through decluttering as popularized by Marie Kondo. She pointed out that tidying is helpful to one’s mental health because it teaches one to be present, as clutters represent attachment of the self of the past and fear of the future.

The CBM 2023 Entrepreneurship Summit ended on a positive note, giving the engaged delegates a deeper understanding of the mental health issues of and support for workers who, in their own ways, would ultimately contribute to Cebu’s economic prosperity.