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More than 90 percent of enterprises are micro-enterprises and 70 percent of new businesses are started by women. This just goes to show that women do most of the startup negosyos, and not many make it to becoming medium and large. The challenge for the Go Negosyo community of successful entrepreneurs is to help inspire and mentor them to be able to grow. This is the reason why we hold our annual Women Entrepreneurship Summit in March, the month that celebrates and honors women.
For this column, the four women featured who have reached the golden age of 80 have continued to share their precious time with Go Negosyo in the past and still continue to do so in the present. These are the matriarchs behind some of the country’s largest businesses and they’re exemplars of a successful woman, and we believe that they serve as the best inspiration to Filipinas everywhere.
We begin with the woman behind National Book Store, the largest chain of Book Stores in the country: Socorro “Nanay Coring” Ramos is one of the most respected matriarchs in the industry. She is even PLDT SME Nation’s 2012 Grand MVP Bossing. Nanay Coring is a Go Negosyo trustee and has been one of the first and most loyal supporters of the advocacy of entrepreneurship. She can still be seen at many of our events, the most recent of which was the launch of our seventh book on young entrepreneurs, which we held in front of National Book Store in Glorietta 5. She is still more than willing to present awards and promote our campaigns with the zeal of any young person.
Though today it may be hard to imagine not having a National Book Store in the nearest mall, there was a time when the business thrived in very difficult times, such as during the Japanese Occupation when many books were censored or ripped apart, forcing them to turn their bookstore into a kind of sari-sari store — shelves filled with household items instead of books; or the time when their newly rebuilt store was demolished and, after rebuilding it again, was suddenly struck by catastrophe that forced their business to start again from nothing.
But Nanay weathered all of this, and she couldn’t emphasize more how hard work is the most valuable trait. “The most important thing is to work hard,” she says. “If you have the passion for what you do, then hard work is not a sacrifice at all.”
Nanay developed her entrepreneurial skills early on, being from a family of entrepreneurs, and she also experienced at a young age what it was like to work very long hours to help the family. Hard work, she shares, is the key trait, and she believes that this is best taught by example. “Hard work is something na namamana ng mga bata dahil nakikita nila sa’yo,” And to this day, Nanay Coring still works in the office, goes to meetings, even attends our Go Negosyo events to support our advocacy.
Nanay Coring is still the general manager of National Book Store, while her children, emulating her example, have become entrepreneurs themselves and expanded the business with the setup of Powerbooks, Bestsellers and Music One.
Another business matriarch who is still very hands-on and manages her own business to this day is none other than Esther Vibal. Vibal Publishing is one of the leading book-publishing companies in the country.
Esther is also a Go Negosyo trustee and one of the strongest supporters of entrepreneurship. She has already helped our advocacy in many ways, helping us inspire and educate thousands of Filipinos through the Go Negosyo books she prints for us, as well as making special appearances at most of our events. It’s amazing to see her with so much energy, finding time to join us on many occasions.
Esther is a natural leader and entrepreneur, and her dedicated staff can attest to that. When asked where she developed her managerial skills, she says she owes it to motherhood. “When you’re a mother, you’re a manager. Motherhood is a role that sharpens your management skills,” she says.
Esther started as a writer for The Manila Times, where her husband, the late Hilarion Vibal, also worked as a business editor. Esther would join Hilarion as he started Vibal Publishing House, initially publishing trade journals. When her husband passed away, Esther took the wheel and learned the tenets of running a publishing company, and steered the company to greater heights. Focusing on a competent staff and new technology, Vibal Publishing soon became the leading publisher of textbooks and other educational materials for elementary and high school.
Perhaps the reason why Esther is one of the strong supporters of entrepreneurship is because she believes it is a way to look after the welfare of other people. She says, “Entrepreneurship is more of a social responsibility. It’s not about money matters alone but about improving your life, developing a concern for others, having a desire to look into their situation and giving back by making it possible for others to improve their lives, too.”
Then, we have Julie Gandionco, the matriarch of the now-ubiquitous Julie’s Bakeshop — one of the very first entrepreneurs we featured to inspire fellow entrepreneurs and women. As we were pooling some of the country’s most prominent entrepreneurs, we couldn’t miss out on Mrs. Gandionco. How can we not make her an icon when her bakeshop can be seen in almost every city, with locals lining up early in the morning to get their “daily bread?” One of Go Negosyo’s first awardees, Julie was awarded back in 2007 as one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs in Cebu.
Her struggles as a young woman built her resilient character and helped develop the enterprising, optimistic, and persevering attitude that would lead to the success of her bakeshop. Julie’s Bakeshop was founded when she was 50; in the years before that, Julie went through different forms of industry and the journey was not always easy. She ventured into the sari-sari store business, sewed custom-made dresses, managed a sugarcane plantation, and was a canteen concessionaire.
But it would be the founding of her bakeshop that would finally give Julie her big break. With the success of Julie’s Bakeshop, she has left the management to her kids and her family can now claim around 475 branches nationwide.
Dr. Helena Benitez is another icon in the country, whether in education, government or civil society. Intelligent and dynamic, she is the epitome of what a woman should be. Tita Helen was one of our first-ever Women Starpreneurs, awarded in our first Women Entrepreneurship Summit in 2009. We called her the “Mother of All Mother Entrepreneurs” that year.
Among the many roles she assumed in her lifetime — from being a legislator, to a diplomat, to an environmentalist and civic leader — Tita Helen is known best as an educator, and this has been her lifelong commitment. She is the chair of the Philippine Women’s University, which was founded by her parents, who were also educators. Education is Tita Helen’s passion. “All schools have the responsibility to raise the standards of society,” Tita Helen says.
The success of these four women is what we wish for all other Filipina entrepreneurs. Their stories are the reason we want more women to aspire to greater success, as these matriarchs were also once small entrepreneurs.
The 4th Women Entrepreneurship Summit and Expo on March 2 will be another opportunity for women and other aspiring entrepreneurs to learn from the most successful female negosyantes. It will be a whole-day affair offering seminars, skills training, and inspirational talks as well as an exhibit of various negosyo ideas. We hope that you can join us and learn how to become the next matriarch of a highly successful negosyo.