TESDA-trained women retailers' encounter with Coke's top gun (Philippines News Agency)

It is a pleasure for some 1,000 women retailers taught to be good entrepreneurs under the Sari-Sari Store Training and Access Resources (STAR) Program of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to meet Muhtar Kent, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Coca-Cola Company.

Kent, dubbed as one of the world’s most greatest entrepreneurs, together with other Coca-Cola executives, witnessed the graduation of women sari-sari store and “carinderia” owners who have undergone training under the STAR Program in partnership with Coca-Cola Philippines and TESDA on Monday at the covered court of the TESDA Complex in Taguig City.

Kent will be in the country from Aug. 17 to 19 to visit various Coca-Cola corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects throughout the Philippines.

The program is part of Coca-Cola Company’s goal to economically empower five million women within its value chain and to provide access to skills, training, resources and peer mentoring to 200,000 women sari-sari store and carinderia owners and operators all over the country by 2020.

A total of 34,589 Filipina retailers have already graduated since the STAR Program was implemented in the country in 2011 up to July this year.

TESDA Director General Joel Villanueva thanked Kent and the other executives of Coca-Cola Company for continuing to put premium on women as business movers.

Mr. Kent’s belief in empowering women within and outside the walls of Coca-Cola has produced an army of entrepreneurs in Philippine communities, Villanueva said.

We hope to make the entrepreneurial spirit flourish that will result in sustainable livelihood and improved lives, he added.

The qualified women scholars have to undergo free basic entrepreneurship and gender sensitivity training for four hours a week equivalent to 48 hours for a duration of 12 weeks.

Training kits are also provided free to all trainees which will be eventually enhance their capacity as entrepreneurs in their communities

After training, beneficiaries will have more chances to avail of soft loans from the microfinance institution, if they so desire to increase their capital to expand business.

Kent was accompanied by Ahmet Bozer, Coca-Cola International president; Lain McLaughlin, Coca-Cola ASEAN Business Unit president; Atul Singh, Coca-Cola Asia-Pacific president; Diego Granizo, Coca-Cola Philippines president and general manager; and Adel Tamano, Coca-Cola Philippines vice president for Public Affairs and Communications. (PNA)