Almost thirteen years ago, from being an events host, a TV personality, an author, columnist, and a public speaker, RJ Ledesma has come a long way to become a founder of a platform for budding food entrepreneurs. As a man wearing many hats, it is really fitting that the business venture he co-founded, Mercato Centrale, evolved to be as distinctive and as salient as he is.
The road not taken
Ledesma took the entrepreneurship road when it was still a path less traveled by many Filipinos. Fortunately, he made a difference triumphantly. It all started with an irritation on the lack of night markets in the country which can cater to both consumers and entrepreneurs. Comparing it to many ASEAN countries wherein night markets are prevalent in cities to showcase local cuisines, our country did not have a food market where people can appreciate Filipino foods. This prompted him to build an ecosystem for startup food entrepreneurs.
Pioneering in 2010, Ledesma started Mercato Centrale with co-founder Anton Diaz, outlining that the inspiration was taken from a marketplace of the same name in Florence, Italy. His idea was to replicate a similar setting and incubate many stand-alone food vendors. Owing to what he had seen and experienced in the other countries, he wheeled this inspiration back at home in the Philippines. Through digital platforms and social media, he effortlessly spread the word for his start-up enterprise among influential groups of Filipino foodies.
Milestones with Go Negosyo
Even before he got married to his endearing wife Vanessa, RJ has been part of the Go Negosyo family for the past twelve years. Since then, he is one of the top choices in hosting Go Negosyo programs and events. Through these engagements, he was able to meet many entrepreneurs from different fields.
Years after, his hard work and perseverance paid off as he was lauded during the Agora Awards 2018. He bagged the Outstanding Achievement in Entrepreneurship – Small Enterprise for his tireless vision to incubate and expose micro and small food business through Mercato Centrale.
In his acceptance speech, Ledesma highlighted how vital his Go Negosyo experience is. Truly, Mercato is improved by his stay in the Go Negosyo community.
In addition to this, last October 24, 2018, with the aim to engage and harness food entrep-mentees under Go Negosyo programs, Ledesma together with Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo Founder Joey Concepcion signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would make the mentees be a part of the Mercato Centrale Food Incubator Program.
According to him, Mercato is a perfect example of somebody who has gone through the Go Negosyo journey. From learning, to executing, and to succeeding. If he can do it through Go Negosyo, so are those who aspires to be.
Incubator of future champions
On its 8th year mark, Mercato Centrale continues to be the next big star in the food market industry. The secret behind the success? RJ shares, “First is to identify the problem. Would you be able to know the cure without knowing the grounds?” Ledesma, starts the paradigm in distinguishing the first pin point. Next is addressing the possible solutions. Now if you already have the problem and got the right guts to resolve it, go. Then, there are two important things that should be considered: linkage and mentorship.
Nothing will stop RJ from fueling his passion in extending help to his MSME kapatids, so from being just a platform for food businesses, Ledesma decided they had to amplify their goal and become an incubator of aspirations.
On giving back
Mentors help mentees providing them not just technical knowledge and skills but also life hacks and opportunities. RJ and Mercato are both products of exposure to mentorship and market. To give back, RJ will continuously champion his pursuit to incubate and widen MSMEs network and platform.