Sanitary Care Products Asia, Inc (SCPA) celebrated its 25th anniversary through a program called HIIGENE which stands for Human Impact x Investment Grant for Entrepreneurship and Empowerment.
They partnered with Asian Institute of Management – Dado Banatao Incubator (AIM-DBI) to search, assess, and award emerging startups that operate under people-first principles. On top of a P500,000 equity-free cash grant, the awarded startups Eskwelabs, Mayani, and Payruler went through a 3-month long HIIGENE Mentorship and Milestone Monitoring with SCPA Founders and AIM-DBI Executives from July to September 2021.
“We didn’t know walking into this what would we expect but it’s been worth it. The hunger, the idealism, the struggle and hustle, maybe even the desperation I saw were so inspiring. It reminded us of the things that we need to do and so we’ve learned that whatever we invested here including the time is more than worth it,” says Ven Sio, President of SCPA.
Every other Saturday, HIIGENE Cohort gathers to deep dive on specific topics including Purpose of Business, Strategies, Operations, Finance, Sales and Marketing, then People Management with SCPA mentors. In-between weeks, the startups process the learnings from each session with AIM-DBI for milestone monitoring.
“I’m amazed with the amount of decks you need to prepare for this on top of running your businesses and I’m going to miss having conversations about people and business in general. It’s not easy to find people to have honest conversations with — entrepreneur to entrepreneur, it’s valuable and does good to mental and emotional health. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey.” says Lea Sio-Pacis, Sales and Marketing Director of SCPA.
Eskwelabs, a startup that focuses on data upskilling to democratize opportunities in the future of work through data skills education, summarized their insights with a coined term TISSUE for technology and issue. According to its co-founder, Angela Chen, she realized that solving an issue with technology is shared between a 25-year-old company like SCPA and a 2.5-year-old startup like Eskwelabs.
“The issue with technology and solving issues with technology are therefore universal and timeless. It’s very comforting to know that even a successful business like SCPA is still trying to figure things out. It’s comforting that there is no one person to give us the answer, the right way to do it. It makes us feel we are on the right track.”
SCPA Founder, Renato Sio also shared his personal reflections on HIIGENE being present every Saturday to mentor; “every after session with you, you inspire us with wonder on how something can be done in a short amount of time using technology. It seemed like you, startups, have coached us more than we have coached you.”
Mayani, a startup that aims to uplift the lives of smallholder farmers through an end-to-end digitized supply chain via ag-ecommerce platform was inspired to implement some of people-first activities of SCPA like Cinematuto and Merienda Townhalls. Cinematuto is one of SCPA’s Learning & Development programs that creates an avenue to learn “tuto” through films. Merienda Townhalls are SCPA’s weekly initiative that gives free healthy meals to all employees including all production workers to assure that they get at least one healthy meal per week.
“Maybe we will start with much simpler meals. Since vegetables are what we have, maybe we will serve talong, okra, and tomatoes. We want to make everybody feel that everyone is with us as we grow,” says JT Solis, co-founder of Mayani.
AIM-DBI Executive Director, Prim Paypon gave a heart-warming message during the culmination program, “SCPA became a new acronym for School of Creating People as an Asset. As we officially close, may this forever remind us of our HIIGENE Saturdays. That in our busy lives when sun rises almost earlier and sunsets are always never seen, may we continue to find time of solace every Saturday to reflect on what have been accomplished, revisit what needs to be done, and be grateful of the team that continue to propel the vision and mission of our respective businesses.”
Payruler, a startup that offers a comprehensive, customizable human resource management system which automates, integrates, and streamlines HR processes that span the entire employee life cycle, emphasized how HIIGENE was a dream come true for them. According to its co-founder, Timmy de Jesus, it gave them the opportunity to address some aspects of their people-first operations that really needed optimization in preparation for their next stages of growth. “When we were still vying for the program, we were thinking: is this legit and authentic or is it just another program? But what we saw throughout HIIGENE was it’s real and it’s possible to be successful as a business while being focused on people.”
SCPA mentors, Lea and Ven closed the culmination with a common message that being a people-first company doesn’t require a P500,000 budget for learning and development. That it’s really the intentionality at the bottom of it that would make its way to create avenues to put people first.
“I really believe the entrepreneur determines the height of the enterprise but it’s also the team that dictates the growth of the company. No matter how highly technical your solutions become, there is always an idiot behind the keyboard who we need to manage and love and care for. Sometimes, that idiot is us; so we really need to have some time to reflect on ourselves and the journey we’re taking,” Ven Sio concluded.