PHOTO CAPTION: Co-founder of Mercato Centrale, RJ Ledesma with Joey Concepcion

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.

Food and ambiance at Mercato Centrale. Photo courtesy of Mercato Centrale Facebook Page.

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.