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Christmas season is the busiest time for all negosyantes. There are many startup entrepreneurs, mostly women or “mom-preneurs,” who make use of their passion and skill for baking or cooking to earn through delicacies and products that are perfect for the holidays. Seventy percent of the gifts I receive are food (which are also definitely fattening). Some are so innovative that I continue to look for them each year.
Christmas is indeed a great time for any business. It is also the time for the birth of many budding entrepreneurs. Let me share with you the stories of some “holiday entrepreneurs.”
Foods With Grace
Mary Grace Dimacali, the woman behind Mary Grace Foods, is a perfect example of a successful Christmas entrepreneur. The start of her success can be traced to those holidays she spent baking fruitcakes and selling them door-to-door to her neighbors. Foodies also discovered her delicious signature pastries like ensaymada and cheese rolls in Christmas bazaars.
Baking has always been Mary Grace’s passion, and as a fulltime mother to five children, starting a home-based baking business came naturally to her. That way, she was able to watch her children grow while doing what she enjoyed.
Aside from her passion for baking, Mary Grace is also very entrepreneurial. She finished her master’s degree in Entrepreneurship at AIM, where she learned how to grow her business in five years. She is proud that she was able to achieve that feat. She opened her first kiosk in 2001, and by 2006, she welcomed her customers to the very first Mary Grace Café at Serendra. Today, Mary Grace Foods already has seven cafés and nine kiosks all over Metro Manila.
Mary Grace’s advice to those who want to start their own negosyo is to strike a balance in all aspects of life. Despite her busy schedule, Mary Grace, a Marian devotee, does not forget to give thanks and give back for all her blessings by encouraging others to pray the Holy Rosary and by leading the improvement of their community.
A Dragon in the Fireworks Biz
Filipinos love to celebrate almost all occasions with fireworks. Joven Ong, a Filipino-Chinese who is also fond of fireworks, saw that there was an opportunity for safe and good-quality fireworks in the market. In 1992, he actualized his vision and put up Dragon Fireworks when fireworks were legalized in the country.
Dragon is now the largest fireworks manufacturing company in the country, but it started out in a small facility in Bulacan. Joven first introduced 10 pyrotechnic products that match the quality and safety of those manufactured abroad. Currently, it has more than a hundred variety of fireworks distributed all over the country and it has become a trusted name for pyrotechnics in the Philippines.
For the future, Joven hopes that his negosyo will not only be the largest fireworks manufacturing company in the Philippines but also the largest in the world. His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Just jump into it and don’t be afraid. The more you think about it, the more reasons you’ll find not to do it. And for those who are in business, just keep at it. Keep on learning from your mistakes.”
Raise High the Pinoy Lantern
For Filipinos, the parol is the symbol of Christmas. But for Roland Quiambao of Rolren’s Lanterns, the parol is the symbol of hope and success. He’s a former OFW who stayed in the Philippines and turned his passion into a successful negosyo.
When he came back from Saudi Arabia, Roland repaired parols, but when he realized that there’s a market for new designs, he began creating his own lanterns. In 1995, San Fernando, Pampanga, was devastated by the lahar and he was one of the artists approached to help revive the city. In three years, San Fernando was back on its feet and Rolren’s Lanterns has caught the eye of Filipinos all over the country. Today, his products are also bringing smiles to other parts of the world including Dubai, Korea and the United States.
For Roland, passion is more important than skill. He believes that for an entrepreneur to succeed, he must first love what he does. Everything else, with patience, can be developed. That’s the reason why Roland takes time to train young people with passion to continue the art of parol-making and to encourage them to utilize their God-given talents.
Exporting Christmas Decor
Another inspiring entrepreneur in the décor industry is Albert de Rivera. He is the president of Alriver Export Corporation, a manufacturing company of Christmas décor that specializes in the Nativity, angels, Santa Claus and other icons.
Despite being in export, Albert also started small and worked his way to success. With about P50,000 that he borrowed, Albert set up his negosyo, which distributed native baskets, in 1987. After a few years, he shifted his focus to Christmas décor when he realized that clients would always be willing to spend more during the holidays.
Albert admits exportation is a complicated business to maintain, but he always believes in staying enthusiastic. This positive attitude is also what carried them through when they almost lost everything to a fire in July of this year.
As part of his advocacy, Albert leads the Philippine Chamber of Handicraft Industries in encouraging entrepreneurs to continue their negosyos and always come up with innovations. It’s his way of helping his fellow exporters while helping generate more jobs in the country.
Recipes for Success
Elenita Jacinto of The Original Dolor’s Kakanin by Mommy’s Malabon Pride found a recipe for success and since then, more and more Filipinos families have enjoyed her traditional Pinoy desserts, especially during the holidays. Elen inherited the recipes and the negosyo from her tita, Dolores Santos. In 1996, after retirement, Elen took over the business and continued the legacy.
Starting with a few kilos of ingredients, she continued making the kakanin that people from all over Metro Manila would drive out to Malabon for. One of the reasons why Elen is a successful entrepreneur is that she listens to her customers’ needs. She brought her delicacies closer to her customers. Now Dolor’s Kakanin has five outlets and can be found in major supermarkets here in the country. Her sapin-sapin, ube-halaya and relyenong bangus are also being sold in the US, Canada and Japan.
She believes that maintaining the quality of her products is key, but Elen also continues to innovate. Dolor’s Kakanin is the only one that offers sugar-free kakanin to those with special needs who still want to enjoy her sweet desserts.
Events to Remember
Mary Rose Bautista of Cut Unlimited, Inc. has been organizing events since she was 21 and has found satisfaction in helping Filipinos through the events she organizes, like the International Food and Beverage Expo. But during the holidays, what keeps her busy is the longest-running festive holiday shopping event in the country. For 10 years now, Mayose has been putting together the Noel Bazaar, a fundraising event participated in by more than 1,000 merchants.
Her brother, Noel, who passed away 12 years ago, was the one who inspired it. Mayose shares that her brother stirred her to be a better person. She admits that when she was starting out, her focus was on earning a good living and establishing her career. But the loss made her realize her mission in life and inspired her to do something for others. Two years later, she came across the opportunity to organize an event for a good cause, which then became the Noel Bazaar. Now the event benefits six charities, including the GMA Kapuso Foundation, the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation and the Sts. Peter and John Parish.
Mayose is indeed fulfilling her mission of enriching other people’s lives by doing what she loves. Whether it is by bringing joy to thousands of holiday shoppers or by providing opportunities to workers, she is happy to share her blessings with others. She is also proud that, in her own way, she is molding new entrepreneurs who will provide more employment in the future.
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