Women Power

February 25th, 2013

We are living in an era where women are regarded as equally capable as men. If we look around, our country alone has seen several women holding key positions in the government, in the academe, and even in business and the private sector. In fact, majority of the startup businesses in the SME category are established by women who are based at home to take care of their families. That is why it is important for Go Negosyo to recognize women who have shown passion and determination to succeed in their businesses, because their stories will inspire other Filipinos to take the entrepreneurial route and be successful in life.

On March 1, we will be awarding three Women Entrepreneur Icons and eleven Filipina Entrepreneurs during the 5th Filipina Entrepreneurship Summit at the World Trade Center Manila. Here are their stories.

Go Negosyo Women Entrepreneur Icons

At 99 years old, Dr. Helena Z. Benitez continues to actively devote her time for the welfare of Filipinos. Her parents, who are both educators, heavily influenced her, and this is the reason why she guided the Philippine Women’s University to become the leading academic institution for women’s education. During her term as senator, she authored laws on women’s rights and protection of the environment. Later on, she became the Philippine delegate in important international conventions such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the UN Environment Program. Up to this day, Dr. Benitez remained steadfast in promoting her causes, and she even continues to attend board meetings and organizational gatherings on a regular basis. She was once asked what was her secret in keeping up with the things that she do, and her answer was this: “You must be a picture of what you want to show. Prove by doing and being. You cannot successfully teach what you do not do.”

Socorro Ramos is an entrepreneur for all her life. She started working at 12 years old, taking on various jobs. She knew beforehand that she would not succeed in life if she continued to be an employee, so Nanay Coring and her husband established their own business more than 70 years ago. Despite the obstacles that the business faced, she brought National Book Store to become the industry leader for so many years. Now that she is 90 years old, she continues to inspire people by sharing her story and teaching the lessons that she learned during her long entrepreneurial journey. For Nanay Coring, the most important thing that an entrepreneur must do is to work hard. “If you have the passion for what you do, then hard work is not a sacrifice at all.”

For Vibal Publishing House, Inc.’s Esther Vibal, entrepreneurship is more of a social responsibility. “It’s not about money matters alone but it’s about improving your life, developing a concern towards others, having a desire to look into their situation and giving back by making it possible for others to improve their lives too”. This has been the reason why she remains as a steadfast supporter of Go Negosyo. She and her husband started as a part-time publisher in 1957, and from there she led Vibal Publishing to become the pioneer publication company of quality books and instructional materials. She has maintained her entrepreneurial eye in spotting business opportunities in spite of being 86 years old, as proven by the recent launch Vibe E-Bookstore, their newest endeavor that involves technology and publication in teaching young minds.

Go Negosyo Filipina Entrepreneurs of 2013

Maria Fe Perez-Agudo finished her degree in Accountancy at the St. Scholastica’s College as a full scholar, and after graduation she worked to send her siblings to school. From starting in sales, she shifted to real estate and has remained there for 20 years. Her biggest break came in 2001 when she was given the task of running Hyundai. Doubts were casted by the veterans in the automobile industry, as they are wary about what a woman can do in a male-dominated field. But twelve years later, she has proven her competency by moving the brand up as one of the top automobile companies in the country.

Cynthia Villar made a mark not only because she is the wife of a prominent political figure, but because of her own efforts in social entrepreneurship. Together with her husband Manny, they established a business in real estate. As the business flourished and as Manny entered politics, Cynthia’s vision grew further, and she saw the need to help other Filipinos to establish sustainable enterprises. The Villar Foundation emerged from that vision, and for more than 20 years they have been helping Filipinos to build their own lives.

Charita Puentespina may be a Cum Laude graduate back in college, but she preferred to work hard and get her hands dirty. Puentespina Orchids and Tropical Plants, Inc. was the result of her passion, and it was through her initiative of introducing technology and discovering techniques in growing orchids and potted plants that raised the bar of quality in the field of horticulture.

Another woman who carved her own niche away from the shadows of her well-known husband is Dr. Preciosa Soliven. She, who was married to the late Max Soliven, is a social philanthropist who is deeply concerned with the quality of education that Filipino kids get. Dr. Soliven went abroad to study directly under the guidance of Maria Montessori’s son. Soon after, she established O.B. Montessori, Inc. in the poorest area in Sapang Palay during the late 70s, and since then the institution has been providing an alternative means of learning to its students.

PR Gaz Holdings, Inc.’s Siu Ping Par, who is one of Go Negosyo’s active advocates, took it upon herself to make sure that PR Gaz is accessible, and this prompted her to open their brand for franchising. Eventually, this became the reason why the company boosted its sales, and PR Gaz set an industry trend to franchise LPG products.

Tina Maristela-Ocampo is a real game-changer. She made an impact in the Philippine fashion industry by organizing the Professional Models Association of the Philippines, a move that instituted modeling as a profession in our country. Later on, she successfully broke into the international fashion scene, not as a model but as an entrepreneur through the Celestina mini-audieres that she designed.

Via Mare’s Glenda Barretto learned how to cook from her mother at a young age, and this has developed her love for Filipino cuisine. When she and her husband established their own business, her creativity kicked in and they put up a restaurant that gave a twist to the dishes that everyone grew up with, making us love Filipino food even more.

As a doctor, Dr. Eleanor B. Tan of Healthway Medical knew the importance of taking care of one’s health. But she is also aware that due to time constraints, people would choose to be with their families instead of visiting the clinic during their spare time. Her vision paved the way for “Alagang Healthway” to come to reality, where her medical clinics are located in major malls for healthcare to be more accessible to the public.

An events management company is always filled with tension, but Bambi Verzo’s relaxed but organized management style keeps her employees at bay. Concertus Manila’s goal is to bring excellence and quality to their clients, and to do that, it is important for her team to be calm yet on their toes. Her team’s work ethic has been a factor why her company was able to successfully stage foreign acts and world-renowned plays such as The Phantom of the Opera and the upcoming show Dirty Dancing this year.

Dr. Vivian Sarabia of Vivian Sarabia Optical was able to make a name for herself by introducing style and fashion to the otherwise dull eyewear. Aside from running her company, she has also taken an active stance in improving the optometry industry as the Chairperson of the Professional Regulations Commission – Board of Optometry and the Director for External Relations of the Philippine Association of Professional Regulatory Board Members Inc.

Lastly, Heny Sison of the Heny Sison Culinary School made a major shift when she decided to focus on baking instead of pursing a job related with her degree in Political Science. Her “garage classroom” where she started teaching in 1985 has grown to become the country’s most prominent baking school, having produced talented chefs and food entrepreneurs in the process.