2013 was yet another incredible year for the Manitoba Filipino Business Council, consisting of growth, new opportunities and strengthened ties in the community. MFBC President Jon Reyes shares his thoughts on the upcoming year and the future of the organization.
Q: Jon, tell us about your history with the MFBC.
A: I decided to start the MFBC because my wife was part of a group called Women Business Owners of Manitoba (WBOM). It’s an organization made up of business owners and they held meetings once a month. There was a keynote speaker every meeting talking about marketing, human resources, time management, etc. It was a great networking event and an opportunity to share trials and tribulations with other business owners. As you know, being in business isn’t easy – if it was, everyone would be in it.
I liked the idea of it, and thought to myself – why don’t we have one of these types of organizations in the Filipino community? I took it upon myself to get together with a bunch of other business owners, and we established the MFBC. Here we are, three years later, with two galas under our belt. I am very proud we were able to recognize business people and owners who are involved in our community.
People I look up to who have been very involved in the community include Larry Vickar – he’s always given back to the Filipino community, and has been instrumental in helping give me guidance on running the organization. I also have to thank RBC, as they’ve been supporting us as a key sponsor since the beginning. Holly Toupin always wanted this to be a win/win for both organization. We know our community is large and it’s great to partner with the largest financial institution in Canada.
Q: What are some highlights from 2013 for the MFBC?
A: In 2013, we had some really great speakers throughout the year. Our membership has also grown substantially without an aggressive membership campaign. Unofficially, we have just over 60 members, and it has tripled in size in year three. What we’ve done has attracted business owners and new members, and it helps to have the Filipino Journal as a media partner for exposure. Social media has also been a huge help – that’s a tool any smart business owner should use to get the word out.
Another highlight from this year is the trade mission. Our objective was to meet with people in the public and private business sectors in the Philippines, and find opportunities for our members to do business overseas, should they choose to. We found out a lot about the Philippines – they call it the emerging tiger in the Asian economy. There are a lot of industries setting up offices in the Philippines as distribution centres for services and products in the ASEAN market, as Filipinos are known for their strong English skills and education. Some of our members are already taking advantage of these opportunities.
To top it all off, we signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce. It’s great to get recognition overseas, and our members can contact this organization when they travel to ask questions about doing business there.
Another great highlight was the 2nd Annual MFBC Awards Gala. It was a sold-out event, and it’s nice to see business owners and leaders in our community getting recognized for their hard work and passion for entrepreneurialism.
Q: What’s in store for 2014?
A: We now have people volunteering on various committees, and it’s made my job a lot easier as President because as the founder, you had to wear a lot of hats. Now there are people just as passionate as I am, who share the same vision and goals as I do, and want to see the MFBC grow. I have dedicated committee members who want to see the MFBC succeed as much as they want their own businesses to succeed.
For the next few months, we will be working with the Constitution Committee to formalize and finalize this document. We have legal representation helping us with this – it’s a document really important for the future of the MFBC, so we have a clear cut mandate, vision, and strategic plan moving forward.
We are also in the works of putting together a publication guide. We’re always getting questions from the Filipino community asking “how do I start a business.” One of our goals is to get a guide out for people to use to answer questions like: should I get incorporated, what do I have to look at financially, and what kind of grants are out there for business owners.
Q: Where do you see the MFBC growing 5 or 10 years from now?
A: Down the road, we’d like to see the MFBC have their own office. Eventually, the MFBC will become a Chamber of Commerce – but there are rules and regulations that come with that. Perhaps we’ll eventually have a paid Executive Director for the organization, because right now it’s run by volunteers – so the challenge will be sustaining what we currently have.
Q: Can you share a recent success story of an MFBC member?
A: We’re all successful and have benefited from the membership in many ways. Currently, one of our members – Darin Hoffman – is on his way back to the Philippines as part of the trade delegation. He’s benefitted from the trade mission and is setting up an office out there. Without this agreement, he wouldn’t of seen the international opportunities from a business standpoint. He’s not limiting himself to do just business here in Canada – he’s looking at other opportunities, like all business owners should.
Q: What are some benefits of being a member?
A: As a member, you have networking opportunities during our meetings. You develop relationships with other business owners, and there’s an educational benefit from listening to the guest speakers we bring in. We always try to get feedback from our members surrounding what topics they’d like to hear about as a business owner. Thanks to the relationships we’ve developed with other chambers in the city, we’ve been able to connect outside of the Filipino community.
We have about 70,000 Filipinos in our province, and that speaks volumes compared to 10 or 15 years ago. We now have a generation that’s very entrepreneurial-minded. It’s not like the generation from our parents where they immigrated here, and nothing against what they’ve done, but they’ve come here to work, get benefits, and give their children opportunities to get further educated. We’re part of a generation that thinks differently – we’re into self-employment, and not being dependent on working for a private or public firm. Some people just want to get into business, and we want to be that resource to guide and help them.
Q: What are your plans beyond the MFBC?
A: As a business owner, it’s in my blood to always look for other business opportunities. Personally, I always want to work on my professional development. I like to be busy. I like to keep active. I am currently on the Board of The Kidney Foundation, which I enjoy greatly. I’m going into my tenth year as a football official, and that certainly keeps me busy. Obviously, I want to spend more time with my wife and kids.
After the MFBC, when that time comes, I would like to leave the organization when it’s stable with a strong foundation to remain sustainable. As the founder, I’ll always be involved and will continue to be passionate about being a Filipino Canadian and business owner. Giving back to the community is something I’ve always wanted to be involved in.
Q: Lastly, do you have any advice for business owners?
A: When I started out, I used a resource called the Canada-Manitoba Business Service Centre. It was a great resource for me. The great thing about being a Filipino Canadian is that if you’re a new immigrant here or thinking about going into business, there is an organization like the MFBC to help answer your questions. Many of our members are very helpful and can steer you in the right direction, and connect you to people you need to know – whether it’s for legal, accounting or marketing advice. We have a wealth of knowledge at the MFBC, so membership dollars go a long way – you basically get back what you paid for by ten folds by just connecting with key people in our organization.
I’m very excited for what 2014 has in store. I hope people who are interested in business come by to our events, and always stay tuned to our Facebook page, social media accounts and website.
Finally, I want to give a big thank you to Ron Cantiveros from the Filipino Journal for continuing to be our Media Partner in 2014, and for giving us incredible exposure in the Filipino community and beyond.