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Recognizing the dauntless Filipino entrepreneurial spirit

Converge Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Anthony H. Uy (second from left) receives the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2022 award last Nov. 21.

By Bjorn Biel M. Beltran, Special Features and Content Assistant Editor

Ideas are powerful machines of progress. Even as the global business community struggles with a disruptive and volatile economic landscape, innovation continues to drive progress and unlock possibilities in various fields, from healthcare and medicine to information and communications technology. Adversity, after all, is the most fertile ground for the seeds of invention and discovery.

Yet, ideas are nothing without the people determined enough to make them reality. It is the combination of a ground-breaking idea and the truly driven entrepreneur that can make miracles.

This is the reason for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year, the globally prestigious annual awards program that honors the world’s top entrepreneurs for their contributions to the economy and society. In the Philippines, the Entrepreneur of the Year awards have supported the entrepreneurial cause in the country for more than a decade, coinciding with the government’s focus on fostering entrepreneurship and grooming local entrepreneurs to take on the world market.

With the theme of “Undaunted. Unstoppable.,” the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines (EoYP) 2022 gathered 18 finalists who have exemplified excellence in management and leadership amid an increasingly challenging business environment. Supporting the program as co-presenters are the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the Philippine Stock Exchange. The EoYP Awards is organized by EY Philippines through the SGV Foundation.

For 2022, Converge Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dennis Anthony H. Uy was recognized as the Entrepreneur of the Year and Master Entrepreneur for his pivotal role in bringing digital connectivity to more Filipinos across the country.

“It is my distinct honor to receive this top entrepreneur award. We believe, at Converge, that digital access is not a privilege of a few but a right of everyone. Thank you for recognizing our mission and what we’ve been doing to make this a reality for Filipinos,” Mr. Uy said during the awards banquet at the Grand Hyatt Manila.

“We operate in an industry where access to technology means more opportunities for growth and wealth. We strive to broaden this access and achieve inclusive digitalization because we believe that businesses should serve a higher purpose, not just to expand their bottom line.”

With this recognition, Mr. Uy will go on to represent the Philippines at the World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, to be held in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2023.

Jollibee Foods Corp. President Tony Tan Caktiong was the previous and only other Filipino to receive this honor, when the fast food titan was named World Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004.

For its 14th year, the EoYP program once again celebrates the Filipino entrepreneurial spirit that pursues progress against all odds. Mr. Uy, alongside the other winners, are exemplary individuals who thrive in the age of disruption and lead enterprises that can transform communities and uplift the nation.

As this year’s Master Entrepreneur of the Year, Mr. Uy has also been recognized as an individual who has maintained management excellence over a sustained period of time. Dennis and Grace Uy founded Converge in 2007 in Angeles, Pampanga with a vision to provide world-class ICT services to Filipinos. Today, Converge has the biggest fiber to the home network in the Philippines with 6.7 million fiber ports deployed, serving 1.85 million customers.

For the Small Business Entrepreneur Award, Francisco D. Magsaysay, CEO of Carmen’s Best Dairy Products, Inc., was recognized for demonstrating management excellence in a business with assets (excluding land) of less than P100 million in value. He started Carmen’s Best from his garage, and now it is the first artisanal ice cream brand to become a household name, distributed through 400 channels and served on multiple airlines.

The awards also named Leandro Antonio L. Leviste, CEO and president of Solar Philippines Power Project Holdings, Inc., as the Young Entrepreneur Award for establishing one of the largest solar energy production companies in Southeast Asia. The company is now building utility-scale solar farms in multiple provinces and a large-scale solar-battery baseload project, with the goal of generating cheaper and more reliable electricity to Filipinos. Mr. Leviste received the award to recognize his being an exemplary role model for management excellence for the Filipino youth.

The Technology Entrepreneur Award was taken home by Steve S. Sy, CEO of Great Deals E-Commerce Corp., for creating the leading e-distributor in the Philippines which carries multinational brands and offers various services such as digital content production, digital marketing, warehousing and fulfillment, inventory, and marketplace listings management. The award recognizes Mr. Sy’s skill in innovatively leveraging technology to transform and enhance the delivery of products and services to customers, grow the business and create a positive impact on their stakeholders and community.

Lisset A. Laus-Velasco, chairman and CEO of Global Cars Philippines, Inc., was named the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year for being a trailblazer in her industry, with her experience in various business units guiding her leadership of the company and the many dealerships under its portfolio.

Last but not the least, the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year was awarded to George Royeca, CEO of DBDOYC, Inc. (Angkas) for establishing and leading the first Philippine app-based motorcycle ride-hailing platform. Through his passion and perseverance, Angkas has survived shutting down thrice and has become a vehicle for his advocacy to legitimize and professionalize motorcycle taxi service and provide a livelihood and vital skills and safety training for many motorcyclists.

“The business environment today is filled with immense challenges and opportunities. We have seen new business models, products, processes, and services enter the market and become instant sensations. At the same time, we have also seen many businesses and industries struggle to evolve and survive. Yet, in the face of enormous adversity, we believe that the fundamental spirit of Filipino entrepreneurship remains as strong and dynamic as ever,” SGV Foundation Chairman Wilson P. Tan said.

The EoYP program is assessed regularly in terms of its categories, nominees, finalists, and winners’ profiles in tandem with recent changes in the business environment. All nominees were screened using a system developed by Entrepreneur of the Year in the United States and used in all countries that participate in the program. Qualified nominees were interviewed and given the chance to submit additional information as necessary. The list was further screened to determine the finalists. An independent panel of judges will select the winners from among the finalists.

The SGV Foundation launched the program locally in 2003 and presented its very first EoYP award to Mr. Caktiong. Socorro Cancio-Ramos, founder of National Book Store, was next named Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines in 2004, followed by Lance Gokongwei, president and CEO of Cebu Air, Inc. (2005); Senen Bacani, chairman and president of La Frutera, Inc. (2006); Wilfred Steven Uytengsu, Jr. of Alaska Milk Corp. (2007); Ambassador Jesus P. Tambunting of Planters Development Bank (2009); Tennyson Chen of Bounty Fresh Foods, Inc. (2010); Erramon I. Aboitiz, president and CEO of AboitizPower Corp. (2011); Jaime I. Ayala, founder and CEO of Hybrid Social Solutions, Inc. (2012); Ben Chan, chairman of the board of Suyen Corp. (2013); Nix Nolledo, chairman and CEO of Xurpas, Inc. (2015); Natividad Cheng, chairperson and CEO of Multiflex RNC Philippines, Inc. (2017); and Benjamin O. Yao, chairman, president and CEO of SteelAsia Manufacturing Corp. (2019).

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