For the past four years, I have had the privilege of meeting a number of genuinely inspiring entrepreneurs. While every entrepreneur has as different success story to tell, each story has a different learning experience and a distinct inspirational side to it.
The stories of Nanay Socorro Ramos, Dr. Helena Benitez, and Mrs. Esther Vibal are inspirational and moving. At an accomplished, experienced and thriving age, they maintain the right attitude towards life and they ensure that the family they have continues their legacy. Their efforts are geared towards helping communities.
They are the “grand” entrepreneurs whom we regard with utmost respect and admiration. Their level of success, strength of reputation, optimistic outlook in life, and the sacrifices that they have made are only some of the reasons why we consider them as legends.
Do you ever get tired of telling your story? This was our first question to National Bookstore (NBS) Founder and General Manager Socorro Ramos or most fondly known as Nanay Coring. With her signature motherly smile she said, “Sa totoo lang, yes.” But, she also takes pride in sharing her tips and the story of her entrepreneurial journey, most especially when a lot of people are inspired and encouraged by her tale.
At 87 years old, Nanay Coring still keeps busy with her work in the office, attends to different meetings, and also checks their company bodegas. This is what she refers to as hard work. This, according to her, is what you need to establish a name and a legacy. “Hard work is something na namamana ng mga bata dahil nakikita nila sayo. May fourth generation na ako at natututo sila because of what surrounds them,” she shares.
At present, National Bookstore now has 122 branches nationwide. When asked how did this happen, Nanay Coring simply replied, “Araw-araw, magtrabaho ka.” NBS has been in the business for decades because of the work attitude and the passion that Nanay Coring has passed on, not only to her family but also to her employees and staff. “Check your stores and maintain quality service and products. Also, meet your people and teach them what they need to know.” These are her tips for entrepreneurs who would like to last in their venture.
As for the balance of family and negosyo: “Madali iyon!” she exclaimed. “It’s just a simple life. Kapag negosyo, andoon ka sa store. Pero, there is always a time for family,” said Nanay Coring. “Hindi naman ako mahilig sa dancing-dancing. I focus on work and my family.”
(In putting up a business) Does age matter? “I don’t think so,” said Nanay. “Experience is the best teacher. At 87, sa tingin palang, alam ko na kung may mali. The older you are, the more experience you have.”
“The most important thing is to work hard. If you have the passion for what you do, then hard work is not a sacrifice at all.” These are definitely words of wisdom from our very own Nanay Coring.
Dr. Helena Benitez is also known as an icon, who has selflessly served as an educator, civil society leader, women’s advocate, legislator, stateswoman, diplomat, environmental pioneer and nationalist. As she turns 96 this June, we are proud to have her as a part of this advocacy.
Coming from a family of educators, Tita Helen, as she is fondly called, has been exposed to various types of education. Her parents, Conrado and Francisca Benitez, were founders of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU). Her commitment to the school is a passionate choice.
How does one become a “Helena Benitez”? A woman who is considered to be an epitome of an accomplished Filipina? “First you have to succeed,” said Tita Helen. She explained that when a person succeeds, he will have followers, and eventually, there will be believers. “This is how you earn the trust and the loyalty of people,” she added.
Tita Helen’s level of dedication to her work and to her advocacies remains unwavering. She has kept going for nine decades, and she shows no signs of stopping. How does she do it? “Prove it yourself,” she said. “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.” One of her skills, which helped her in many different ways, is her ability to sell. “People have good ideas but they do not know how to sell. It just happens that I’m successful in that part.”
For those who would like to follow in the footsteps of Tita Helen, especially in committing themselves to an educational institution, she has some words of wisdom to share. “All schools have the responsibility to raise the standards of the society. Make sure that students practice what they learn to improve. You can have all the degrees, but if you do not make use of it for society, then it is useless,” said Tita Helen.
For more than five decades, Vibal Publishing House remains a forerunner in our country’s publishing industry. Behind its success is Esther Vibal, who says she is lucky to belong to a generation with no credits cards. At 85 years old, she calls on and remembers her staff by their first names.
Being a housewife and a mother did not stop Esther from being an entrepreneur. “When you’re a mother, you’re a manager. Motherhood is a role that sharpens your management skills”. She believes that “in managing your life and a household, you perfect these skills. As they become more distinct, you discover your other abilities. You may find leadership as one of them”, she added.
Esther received prestigious awards commending her efforts as an entrepreneur and a leader in socio-civic works. “Those (awards) are wonderful things, a way to inspire other people and be of good example. At the same time, they made me more conscious of being an example and drew me to think ‘what else I can do to help more?’”.
Esther believes that entrepreneurship is not just about economic welfare but it is also the exercise of looking and being aware of other things in your surroundings. It is about having the concern and awareness of the welfare of other people. “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,” Esther says.
Her advice for all budding entrepreneurs: “Aim to raise yourself further from where you are today. Lift up yourself. You have to accept that you cannot do things on your own and by yourself. You are not good just because you think you are good. Acknowledge that there is a Higher Being. This awareness will guide you to know and master your kakayahan. The mere fact that you can lift yourself up from where you are is an indication that you can get moving and develop an awareness of your environment, of the people around you and their social conditions.”
These three women continue to be blessed with a long life. But more than that, they are also blessed with a truly rewarding life, as they fulfill the purpose that God has given them. This is the ultimate success, being able to reach your full potential and being able to use the resources that God has given to do good for others. I pray for me and my wife to also be blessed with a fulfilled and long life.
Thank you Nanay Coring, Tita Helen and Tita Esther for being part of Go Negosyo, as we continue to give hope to Filipinos to continue to triumph over poverty.