Coca-Cola PH continues to empower micro-retailers with the launch of new centres to provide entrepreneurial skills

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Students of iSTAR during a learning session at the Center for Entrepreneurship in Tagum City

MANILA, Philippines, 08 July 2024 — Coca-Cola Philippines aims to empower more micro-entrepreneurs nationwide with the launch of Centers for Entrepreneurship (CFEs) under the digital Sari-Sari Store Training and Access to Resources (iSTAR) program in seven key areas. The CFEs, located in Davao del Norte, Cagayan de Oro, Taguig City, Nueva Ecija, Cebu, Bacolod City, and Camarines Sur, will serve as sustainable hubs offering training, mentoring, and financial support to help small business owners thrive.

The iSTAR program is designed to empower individuals in entrepreneurship and equip them with the necessary skills through the use of digital platforms for starting and managing retail businesses.

“At Coca-Cola Philippines, we are committed to supporting the entrepreneurial spirit and unlocking the potential of aspiring entrepreneurs. The launch of the iSTAR Centers for Entrepreneurship is a testament to our dedication to foster economic growth and sustainable development at the community level,” said Coca-Cola Philippines President Tony del Rosario during the launch of the CFE in Tagum, Davao del Norte.

The program is the result of a public-private partnership between the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and Coca-Cola Philippines. This collaboration supports Coca-Cola Philippines’ broader economic empowerment strategy to break the cycle of generational poverty.

For more than a decade, this partnership has expanded with seven regional microfinance and non-governmental institutions across the country, making iSTAR’s modules free and accessible nationwide through the TESDA Online Program.

iSTAR aims to address key barriers that hinder the development of women entrepreneurs, such as limited access to training, resources, and mentorship. Through its expanded digital platform, iSTAR has empowered over 150,000 micro-entrepreneurs, surpassing its 2025 target of 100,000 graduates. Earlier this year, the program was showcased at the 68th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN Headquarters in New York.

“These CFEs represent hope, opportunity, and the collective effort of our partners like TESDA and the Tagum City Council of Women Foundation Inc., whose dedication is instrumental in making this initiative a reality. Together, with a shared vision of economic empowerment, we can bridge existing gaps and create a truly inclusive environment where micro-entrepreneurship can thrive,” added del Rosario.

TESDA also acknowledges how the iSTAR program helps bridge the digital divide among micro and small businesses. “The Philippines is lagging behind in digitalization, but with Coca-Cola Philippines introducing this digital platform to educate and empower women, we are heading in the right direction,” said TESDA Deputy Director General for Special Concerns Felizardo Colambo.

Coca-Cola PH and partners with iSTAR graduates in Davao del Norte

Building a network of sustainable support

The CFEs represent a strategic expansion of the iSTAR Program by establishing regional hubs that aim to provide business development, training, and support to micro-entrepreneurs.

The hubs will be managed by a network of trusted partners, including microfinance institutions, cooperatives, civil society organizations, and the local government units of the hubs’ locations. This initiative reinforces Coca-Cola Philippines’ commitment to building the capacity of Filipinos in entrepreneurship and empowering them through the strategic use of digital platforms and the fostering of business networks.

“When the CFE was offered to us at the Tagum City Council of Women Foundation (TCCWFI), we accepted it with open arms, without hesitation. We immediately saw the need for it, not just in our area, but throughout Mindanao. We are grateful to the City Government of Tagum and Coca-Cola Philippines for bringing this initiative to our city,” said TCCWFI President Alma Uy.

Scaling impact with technology

The iSTAR Program and CFEs are among Coca-Cola Philippines’ projects that seek to leverage technology to amplify the reach and impact of its support for micro-retailers. It’s  similar to the Tindahan Extra Mile (TEM): Balik PET Bottle program, which utilizes innovative methods to promote the circularity of plastic packaging.

TEM, in collaboration with the Basic Environmental Systems and Technologies, Inc. (BEST) and the Philippine Association of Stores and Carinderia Owners (PASCO), aims to support  micro-retailers as frontline environmental advocates by helping transform their sari-sari stores and carinderias into collection points for recyclable PET bottles. With increased visibility and proximity to these drop-off bins, consumers are encouraged to dispose of their plastic bottles. Micro-retailers earn environmental points for collecting bottles, which can be redeemed for cashback and products, thereby strengthening their businesses.

Graduates of the iSTAR program are provided support to join Coca-Cola Philippines’ network of TEM partners so they can continue to grow their businesses and inspire their communities to keep their surroundings clean.

Learn more about Coca-Cola Philippines’ community  initiatives by visiting the Coca-Cola Philippines Sustainability Hub.

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