Youngest winner of Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards leaves a big mark with her micro business

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MANILA – Honie Krizia Navor’s story is what the annual Women’s Month celebration in March is all about.

Named Microentrepreneur of the Year in the 2016 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA), the 27-year-old Navor of Iloilo City has shown that gender and youth are no barriers to success if one has tenacity and determination.

At 18 and with a starting capital of only P1,000, the Ilongga  ventured into the  business of lapida-making (gravestone), and launched her career as an entrepreneur. While many people, including men, might have balked at the idea of making gravestones, probably even finding the business macabre, Navor only saw the potential of an enterprise whose products had a long shelf life and were constantly in demand.

Nine years later, her unflinching commitment and dedication to grow her enterprise have resulted in success that, while not etched in stone, is a record-setter. She is the youngest, at 27, to receive the highest honor of the 14-year-old CMA, an annual nationwide awards program hosted by Citi Philippines, in cooperation with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc. (MCPI).

Honie receives her CMA award from BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. (far left) and Citi Philippines CEO Aftab Ahmed (center). She is joined by Valiant Bank’s Technical Officer Rosauro Mayo Haro (2nd from right) and Microfinance Head Fred Arabejo (far right), who also received recognition for nominating Honie.

The CMA scours the countryside for the most outstanding micro business owners. It recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs with assets of P3 million or less, who have achieved remarkable growth as indicated by employment generation, profits and sales turnover, and have contributed to community development. Entrepreneurs should also have maintained healthy repayment records on loans even as they build their savings.

Funded by Citi Foundation, CMA was launched in 2002 to celebrate Citi’s 100th year in the Philippines. The program has since recognized more than 100 winners across the country and was embraced as a global program now implemented in more than 30 countries by Citi Foundation.

Long road to success

Navor started her business after her father died 15 years ago. Her family was evicted from their home and had to stay temporarily in an empty warehouse with no electricity and water. The young woman boldly faced the daunting challenge of helping the family get back on its feet.

Honie finds inspiration from her mother Ma. Liza Navor, who helps her with running the store, H.K. Stonecraft Trading.

She initially relied on informal money lenders, known as “5-6” financiers, for imposing a 20 percent interest on loans. As her enterprise grew, she partnered with Valiant Bank, starting with a loan of P40,000, to grow her business.

The bank also taught her to save. The young entrepreneur saves some 35 percent of her income and now has about P200,000 in savings at Valiant.

Now with assets of about P3 million, Navor is no longer just a lapida maker. Her business has expanded to include retailing/importing and installation of granite, tiles, stones and marble slates; hauling services, and building and home construction.  Her latest major project was the renovation of the University of San Agustin, a Catholic school in Iloilo.

From grossing P50,000 a month a few  years back, Navor’s business now averages P500,000 a month, and her net monthly income has risen from P20,000 to P135,000. With her earnings, she has sent her sisters to school and supports her church’s feeding program.

She now has 36 regular employees, all of them men except for her mother and secretary, and all of them several years her senior. All her regular employees are members of the Social Security System and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation. She has also taken out additional personal health and accident insurance for her staff. When needed, she also hires at least 10 casual employees per project.

Seen as one reason for Honie’s success is her commitment to quality materials and products, and her willingness to help others as her business grows.

The entrepreneur believes in the adage, nothing ventured, nothing gained. “If you have ideas, try them. Just believe and be happy in what you do,” she says. “Love what you do and be committed to your business.” Navor also thinks one reason for her success is she does not shortchange her clients, always ensuring that they get good quality products.

With her four sisters, Navor hopes to venture next into the restaurant business, as she and her siblings love to cook and to try new dishes when they travel.

As Microentrepreneur of the Year, Navor received P200,000 in cash and other prizes in kind. Navor and the 7 other winners were chosen by a National Selection Committee jointly chaired by BSP Governor Amando Tetangco, Jr. and  Citi Phlippines CEO Aftab Ahmed. The committee members are: Marixi Rufino-Prieto, chair, Philippine Daily Inquirer; Antonino L. Alindogan Jr., independent director, Philippine Airlines, Inc.; Jose Maria A. Concepcion III, president and CEO, RFM Corporation; Felipe L. Gozon, president and CEO, GMA Network, Inc.; Imelda M. Nicolas, former chair, Commission on Filipinos Overseas; Dr. Michael L. Tan, chancellor, University of the Philippines Diliman; Orlando B. Vea, president, Voyager Innovations, Inc.; and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, president, Ayala Corporation.

This is the first in a series of profiles we are running on successful microentrepreneurs, recently recognized by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Citi Philippines and Microfinance Council of the Philippines as part of the annual Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards. Watch this space for seven more highly inspiring stories of triumph against poverty.