An entrepreneur’s innate ability to fish deep for innovative ideas to propel his fishball-making business to success earned him the top spot in the 2018 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA), a program funded by the Citi Foundation and hosted in partnership with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc (MCPI).
The CMA is a signature initiative of the Citi Foundation aimed at generating economic opportunities for low-income people, including youth, around the globe.
Erwin Ramos, who turns bidbid fish into fishballs and other processed products, was presented the CMA Microentrepreneur of the Year award in ceremonies held at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Manila.
Ramos was joined by other awardees: Maria Elena Estadola, nito handicrafts business owner, Regional Awardee for Luzon; Rosario Amoroto, calamansi processing business owner, Regional Awardee for Visayas; Arnold Viado, balut producer, Regional Awardee for Mindanao; and Mary Grace Bayalas, midwife and owner of a birthing home, Youth Microentrepreneur of the Year.
The Special Award for Agri Micro-business was given to two equally deserving winners this year: Estrella Balnao, a coffee farmer and producer; and Romeo Ponio, a corn and vegetable farmer. The Special Award for Community Leadership went to Jessette Oquendo, owner of a pasalubong (souvenir) center for Palawan crafts; while Marisa Ganding, a spa and wellness center owner, received the Special Award for Startup Micro-business.
In 2011, Ramos, together with his wife Lanie, experimented with the use of bidbid fish—considered a nuisance in bangus fishponds—as base ingredient for fishballs. In time, they ventured into dried fish processing and fish chicharon (crispy skin)-making. An initial loan of PhP5,000 from UPLIFT Philippines, Inc. helped Ramos launch their own brand, Erwin and Lanie’s Fishball. His production facility in Paombong, Bulacan churns out freshly made fishballs and other products on a daily basis. No part of the bidbid fish goes to waste; even the innards are used as feeds in prawn farms. To this day, Ramos continues to make product innovations while relentlessly marketing his products to clients in person.
This year’s winners received close to PhP2 million in cash and non-cash prizes that include life and health insurance coverage for one year; laptops and IT training; and grassroots entrepreneurship training at the Citi Microenterprise Development Center, another Citi Foundation program in partnership with Bayan Academy. The winners will also be highlighted during celebratory town halls in their respective hometowns after the awarding ceremony.
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