#CommuniCart: SM Supermalls offers affordable mall space, free mentoring to MSMEs

Julian Cirineo

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#CommuniCart: SM Supermalls offers affordable mall space, free mentoring to MSMEs
'The Startup Package' is picking 100 MSMEs to pilot the program

Editor’s note: CommuniCart features stories for and about MSMEs. It’s a space where small businesses can advertise at friendlier rates and also find helpful resources they can use to grow their brand. Work with us by emailing

Should there be space in your business plan or budget for a brick-and-mortar store?

So much of retail business has migrated into the online world that we can no longer discount the contributions e-commerce brings to businesses. People these days would rather shop online and have products delivered at their doorstep because it’s faster, more convenient, and safer than going outside. So the question of whether or not having a physical location can still benefit you is valid.

In an online forum hosted by SM Supermalls, three successful entrepreneurs were brought together to share why they still continue to invest in building branches in malls, and why they recommend entrepreneurs to try it out if they can afford it.

Among the entrepreneurs invited was Patty Ang who is known for her high fashion creations. She recently launched an athleisure-wear brand called PATTON. Ang shared that although they have benefited a lot from having an online presence, much of their clientele still prefers finishing transactions in physical locations. 

“When you go shopping, you use all your senses. You want to touch the fabric, you want to experience the store and even your relationship with the [sales] person. People will want to try, touch, feel. And everything boils down to their relationship with your brand,” she said.

This was something that Jerald Sze, managing director and founder of 365 Designs Retailing (Straightforward), echoed as he talked about having both digital and physical channels as drivers for sales.

“Filipinos are still mall-going people, and SM is among those modern-day plazas,” said Sze. He added that using both digital and physical channels would help retain their engagement with customers, and joked that SM malls always have the best aircon, which Filipinos undoubtedly appreciate. “I feel like everyone should catch up with this: people should know how to connect with their audience more”

Nina Ellaine Dizon-Cabrera, the founder of makeup brand Colourette, also spoke about riding on the reputation of bigger brands like SM. “SM is very popular. We already know that. It’s such a household name that when you need something you just say, tara punta tayo sa SM (Come on, let’s go to SM),” she said.

But the big disadvantage in physical stores is of course affordability, seeing as it costs next to nothing to start an online shop. This is why SM created a new program called the SM Startup Package, designed for small businesses trying to claim a foothold in the retail industry.

SM Supermalls has a soft spot for small businesses as its late founder, Henry Sy, Sr., started the now large conglomerate with a single footwear shop called ShoeMart. From that one small location in downtown Manila,  SM has since grown to 77 malls in the Philippines, plus more abroad.

In the forum, SM Supermalls representatives introduced a new offering for small business owners called the SM StartUp Package. 

The package offers features such as start-up-friendly rental rates and the use of kiosks or carts free of charge. The package also includes marketing assistance to give small businesses free exposure in SM online assets and ad spaces inside malls, financial assistance through BDO, and mentorship from SM experts on operations and marketing.

The StartUp Markets, as they will be called, will be situated in prime mall locations within 13 regional and premier malls in major cities: SM North Edsa, SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia, SM Southmall, SM Pampanga, SM Clark, SM Grand Central, SM Sta. Rosa, SM City Cebu, SM Iloilo, SM Bacolod, SM CDO Downtown Premier, and SM Lanang Premier.

“We created The SM StartUp Package because we saw how Filipinos persevered in the past year. Very much true to the spirit of Henry Sy, who always said he worked harder during bad times,  many MSMEs did not let the pandemic stop them from providing good service and products – even from their own homes. We want to give them a chance to further grow their businesses and brands, and enable them to start their own SM shops which they can one day grow into business empires, just like our founder once did.,” said SM Supermalls president Steven T. Tan.

The pilot of the program starts with 100 businesses, and the first requirement for those who want to apply is to be registered with the Department of Trade and Industry. For more information, you can visit –

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Julian Cirineo

Julian is a senior content producer for Rappler's BrandRap. Before joining the team, he worked for an NGO focused on plastic pollution, and was also a managing editor for a magazine. He started his career as a producer and writer for a TV news network.