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.


Memorandum of Understanding signing of Mercato Centrale co-founder RJ Ledesma with Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo Founder Joey Concepcion last October 24, 2018.

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.



Young Entrepreneurs Growing Local

A new generation of entrepreneurs have arrived and are successfully growing. Young entrepreneurs have been starting more businesses and have started to look for local food and beverages in the countryside to innovate—taking what is good out there and bringing it into the city.  These young entrepreneurs are truly strong advocates of supporting local products and the local community. They have exalted the Filipino brand through their skills and belief in Filipino craftsmanship.

As a Psychology major in De La Salle University, Erwin worked as an HR recruiter for outsourcing companies and as a Business Development Manager. After 3 years of working, Erwin quit his job because he felt that he wasn’t fulfilled and well-compensated for the number of hours he spent working every day. As a fresh graduate, it was expected that he would help out his parents but he couldn’t since his salary was limited and enough for just himself. Erwin decided that it was about time to be his own boss and opened his own business.

We can credit Erwin’s natural flare for business and entrepreneurship to his family who also runs a chicken by-product business. The first business he thought of was liquid soap but this didn’t last long since the business didn’t seem to click. Erwin then shifted to enter the food industry since he has always been fond of eating. He first consulted his parents whether it was a good idea to pursue his food business because he was unsure whether the income would be sufficient. Erwin made sure to make the most out of his resources by using what his family business already had—chicken by-products. Part of chicken by-products are chicken crops which is called “Butche” in tagalog. The product Butcheron originated in Bulacan, Erwin’s hometown. Since chicken crops has been part of the family business, it was easy for him to get ample supply. Erwin chose to pursue the “Butcheron” industry because not only is it unique and uncommon, but also because it can be considered a staple Filipino snack that can be eaten anywhere and anytime whether you’re at work, at home or just simply wanting something to munch on. It also represents Filipinos distinct fondness for eating “pulutan” like chicharron.

Soon enough, his brainchild “Supercrisp Butcheron” came to life.  Upon starting, Erwin was very hands on in the business. Erwin, together with his mom and cousin would clean, cook and package the “Butcheron” themselves. They started producing and selling around 30 kgs of “Butcheron” but with the success of the business, they are now continuously growing. Erwin didn’t expect his business to grow but within 6-8 months, he is now supplying in some areas in North Luzon and within Metro Manila. Starting the business was a case of trial and error since their very first struggle was guessing the seasoning of the product itself. At first there were complaints of it having an inconsistent taste but as a dedicated owner, he spent sleepless nights just to make sure to perfect the taste and recipe of his “Butcheron” with the use of local and original ingredients. From humble beginnings of cooking at the side of his parents’ factory, Erwin now has his own factory for his “Butcheron” business. With “Supercrisp Butcheron” making a name for itself in the market, he is now able to give back and help his parents. In the near future, Supercrisp Butcheron wants to be a household name and top of mind preferred brand when it comes to Butcheron.  It is surely the next famous snack and “pulutan” of the Philippines that people will definitely look for. Supercrisp Butcheron has showcased Pinoy originality in its very recipe. So the next time you think of a snack, think of Supercrisp Butcheron.

It was 2014 when the youngest Escalona, Arielle, came to join her family business. With the guidance of her father Dr. Alan Escalona, they created Pure Nectar. Like any millennial, she was determined to change and revolutionize their fruit drink business. She believed that innovation was the key to move forward so she decided it was time to rebrand and redesign to keep up with the growing digital world we live in today. Dr. Alan guided her in finding a way to move away from the traditional ropes of business to moving into modern strategies and that would make their brand newer, and fresher than it already is. Pure Nectar is a juice brand that was created with an aim to keep up with the on-the-go world today. Before Pure Nectar was Pure Nectar, its roots can be traced back to their original business, Fruit Magic. Their fruit drinking business started in 1993 and was taken over by Dr. Alan in 1999. They thought it was time for the fruit and vegetable juicing business to get an upgrade. From the shake in a kiosk model, it was time to advance it into a product that a regular health conscious individual would opt for and incorporate in their lifestyle. With the ongoing fitness trend, people started becoming more conscious of their food intake, they wanted to keep their products as fresh as possible, while conveniently bringing it with them anywhere they go. With the busy life we live nowadays, Pure Nectar provides all the nourishment you need with just a sip. Its healthy and on-the-go, it’s a convenient way of being nutritious, and definitely refreshing. Pure Nectar advocates supporting local farmers by creating freshly bottled juices made from natural ingredients. Pure Nectar seeks to share the importance of overall wellness and how juicing has made healthy living more practical yet delicious. This is definitely the future of juicing.

A graduate of Biotechnology, this young entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of Selula Hayagham Corporation – a Filipino-owned company that aims to become the largest diversified life science company with a focus on agriculture and industrial biotechnology. His company sources natural food products from small and independent local businesses and repackages it under their brand, Nipa Foods. Because he is young and would like to appeal to his age group, Stephen has recently launched a crafted microbrewery, Nipa Brew in 2015. Beer has been a staple in social gatherings by creating and maintaining generations of Filipino relationships. Stephen wanted to discover flavors that can showcase Filipino personality and has adopted a unique way of crafting beer by using local premium ingredients crafted with a Filipino taste in mind. They started experimenting with different ingredients inspired by Philippine flavors, climates and sceneries. They began construction on their Microbrewery in Makati and brewed their first beer in 2014 using their 200L brew house system – that beer is now known from their selection as Tropic Haze. In 2015, they began offering Nipa Brew to the public. The idea to develop this product sparked when he was still studying in UK.  When he finished his masters, he came home and immediately started his own brewery, Nipa Brew. The coined name “Nipa” is not only symbolic to Filipinos but it also falls under their mission to promote small industries under one roof. Nipa Brew is changing the Filipino beer industry one sip at a time by breaking away from traditional brewery, taking the local beer experience to a whole new level. Nipa brew aims to put their original wheat beer into the mainstream beer market.

As young entrepreneurs continuously thrive in the business industry, here are a few success tips

1. Don’t be afraid to take risks
Starting your own business is a case of trial and error. We never know the outcome of our efforts unless we actually do it. Try and try until you succeed.

Have a vision and know your goals
An entrepreneur is someone who has a vision for something and a desire to create it. Keep your vision clear at all times. Set goals and remind yourself of them each day. Having the end in mind everyday ensures you’re working towards it.

Believe in yourself and in your product
Believe that you can succeed, and you’ll find ways through different obstacles. There’s no doubt that running a business takes a lot of time. The only way to succeed in your business is to do work that you truly believe in.

Know your customers and learn from them
Know those you serve better than anyone else, and you’ll be able to deliver the solutions they need. You must know what customers want or need because customers teach you where your products and services can improve on.

Develop a competitive edge and be unique
Competitive edge is something that your company and product does better than its competitors. Your reputation is also important; therefore, it is important to build and maintain a favorable image in the minds of customers. Innovation is key and change is constant. A successful entrepreneur should be constantly looking for new and better ways to deliver a service or searching for ways to improve a product.


Business Heroes Championing Homegrown Products

To commemorate the recently celebrated 119th Philippine Independence Day, here are some local businessmen who have elevated the Filipino brand through their ingenuity and patronization:

Kenneth Cobonpue, Patis Tesoro and Steve Benitez.

Kenneth Cobonpue, Patis Tesoro and Steve Benitez.

Kenneth Cobonpue

Kenneth Cobonpue is a multi-awarded Filipino industrial designer known for his unique designs integrating natural materials through innovative handmade production processes. He began his design career after his studies in Industrial Design in New York, which led him to trainings and further studies in Italy and Germany. After a series of further studies and trainings abroad, Kenneth moved back to Cebu in 1996 to help manage their family business founded by his mother in 1972. Upon managing the business, Kenneth discovered that by the use of natural fibers and materials as a medium, modern design could have a new face. With his masterful way of integrating nature, traditional craft and innovative technologies, designer and creative director Kenneth Cobonpue has earned international awards and recognition for his creative, organic, and expressive pieces. Kenneth has also worked closely with some of the world’s leading designers. Kenneth has been making a name for design in the Philippines and sharing his vision to a global audience. Various Cobonpue designs have also appeared in full-length feature films and television, such as Oceans 13 and CSI while his roster of clientele includes Hollywood celebrities and members of royalty. The whole furniture industry in the Philippines was just plain manufacturers, their products would go under different names and brands. What set his company apart from most of the furniture industry which relied on original equipment manufacturing was that he wanted to be recognized for his own designs. Kenneth Cobonpue was determined to prove to the world that Filipino products can compete with the best.

Patis Tesoro

Patis Tesoro is a woman with several characteristics all rolled into one. She is on the cutting edge of fashion and much more, yet successfully manages to remain a constant champion of the traditional. She is widely known for her flashy, exotic creations, and also a world traveler with a distinct style she calls “Bohemian Filipiniana”. She is also a cultural maven, entrepreneur, book publisher, restaurateur, plant and animal lover, fashion designer, and doll-maker. Though born to well-off parents and whose family is well known until today as the supplier of exquisite Filipino handicrafts, she has always loved to work with her hands — sketching, drawing, sewing or embroidering. She has been making clothes even as a young girl. The provenance of the materials she uses reflects the Philippines’ rich heritage or history. Patis Tesoro believes that “piña” is a cloth of stature and is iconic to the Philippines; losing it would mean losing our identity. With centuries of local traditions—hand embroidery, embellishment, textile processing, and weaving—Patis adeptly employs the fine work of artisans in her own creations. For her, Filipinos have to grow more piña to prevent traditions from going extinct and also to preserve this fragile part of Filipino heritage.

Steve Benitez

Steve Benitez’s love for coffee began during his time in law school with the late nights studying sessions that called for lots of caffeine-induced energy. When he realized that his true passion was actually coffee, he dropped out of law school and travelled to the United States to learn more about the industry. He brought back with him a deep passion for their coffee culture, but it’s his love for Filipino coffee which truly sets apart his chain of coffee shops. It wasn’t long until he started Bo’s Coffee, with just a single, small location. Bo’s Coffee is the Philippines’ first and largest homegrown specialty coffee chain. Bo’s Coffee sets itself apart by sourcing the best coffee and products from Philippine producers and supports local communities in the process. It focuses on supporting local coffee farmers—sourcing the best of Philippine Coffee from Sagada, Benguet, Mt. Kitanglad, Mt. Matutum, and Mt. Apo—and elevating the quality of Philippine coffee. Bo’s also offers a selection of food and beverages made by entrepreneurs who share Bo’s values, all in a setting of locally crafted furniture and decor. Despite the initial struggles and the growing number of international competitors, he created a business that is locally rooted and internationally competitive. Today, there are a total of 81 Bo’s Coffee Club outlets.

Olivia Limpe-Aw, Justin Uy and Reese Fernandez-Ruiz.

Olivia Limpe-Aw, Justin Uy and Reese Fernandez-Ruiz.

Olivia Limpe-Aw

Olivia Limpe-Aw is a fifth-generation leader of the Philippines’ oldest distillery, Destileria Limtuaco and Co.. At present, she is the President and Chair of the company. She is responsible for the company’s new and innovative products such as the Paradise Mango Rum Liqueur, Amadeo Liquer and Manille Liqueur de Calamansi. Limpe-Aw and her company sources and highlights indigenous agricultural products for her business. For, Paradise Mango Rum, the drink which makes use of the Philippines delicious mangoes has been named as the official drink of Boracay and Palawan. Under her leadership, the brand has won many international and local awards. Amadeo Liquer is a coffee-based liqueur and is named after the Philippine’s coffee capital in Cavite. Manille Liqueur de Calamansi is popular with foreigners who liken it to the limoncello of Italy. Her products are now star exports in Asia and distributed in California and New York. Other products include: Very Old Captain’s Dark Rum, Maria Clara Sangria, Manille Liquer de Dalandan, Intramuros Liqueur de Cacao, San Juan Premium Lambanog, Vigan Basi Sugarcane Wine and Imeldifique Cooking Wine.

Justin Uy

Justin Uy is the founder of ProFood International Corporation, a leading supplier of Filipino snacks, specifically dried mangos. Today, dried mangos are a bastion for Filipino snacks all over the world. When Justin Uy and his family started their business in the 1970s, they were hoping to address the amount of wasted ripe mangoes in Cebu. Thus, they entered the dried mango business which eventually brought value to mangoes when farmers never really saw much value in them before. To compete with other local producers of like them, they exported their products to countries near the Philippines such as Hong Kong. Upon the success of Hong Kong, they eventually entered into other global markets like the United States. With only one brand name, Justin was able to build a brand that made Philippine mangoes the best mangoes in the world. He championed the “Philippine brand” by marketing dried mangoes abroad as coming from Filipino mangoes. Their other products today include mango puree, canned juices, juice pouches, fruit preserves and concentrates. Justin Uy has also established the Mango Museum to help promote Philippine mangoes as the best in the world.

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz started Rags2Riches with colleagues from Ateneo in hopes of  empowering women in impoverished communities. Rags2Riches turns scraps of cloth into high-end fashion accessories. Today, Rags2Riches is now an internationally renowned fashion and design brand that employs women from poor communities and has more than a 100 artisans who are vertically integrated into R2R’s supply-chain. Her enterprise answers many social problems in the country such as low employment and quality of life for women in poor communities and is eco-friendly. She is truly remarkable and innovative because she has employed great design to uplift humble materials into high-end products. With the success of Rags2Riches, she became part of the Forbes’ 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs list.

William Belo: 5 Entrep Tips from The Big Box Founder

In 2014, Go Negosyo featured William Belo in its publication entitled 50 Entrepreneurs of Passion where he shared his entrepreneurial journey. In starting a business, it has often been said that to make money you have to start with food, shelter and clothing. For William Belo, he started with shelter. A working student, Belo worked as a counter salesman in a construction supply company that was part owned by his father until he became the manager of the entire store. It was then when he realized that he wanted his own small business to run; he no longer wanted to become an employee, he wanted to be his own boss.

After 40 years, Belo's home improvement company Wilcon is now a compelling retail player with a network of 36 'big box’ and community stores.

After 40 years, Belo’s home improvement company Wilcon is now a compelling retail player with a network of 36 ‘big box’ and community stores.

He started his own business in 1977 with a small hardware store along Quezon Avenue. Belo’s business started with a rough patch during the Martial Law when business was difficult. With the help of friends, banks and suppliers, his business was able to recover. Decades later, Wilcon has expanded its operations in and out of Metro Manila. Belo put up the first Wilcon Depot in 2002 on Zapote Road Alabang where he saw the big jump in the business. He compared the difference between the small shop and the depot. The number of choices in brand, styles and designs were limited to 2000-3000 items while the depot had 60-80,000 items that people could buy. Today, Wilcon is a market leader in home improvement retailing and is a Hall of Fame awardee of the Philippine Retailers Association. Wilcon is able to provide the Filipino consumers with a one-stop shop solution that will have all construction supply and home improvement items combined in one roof.

In an interview with Josiah Go on February 2017, Belo shared his learnings after being in the business for more than 40 years. One of the greatest legacies that Wilcon has and are very proud of is that they are a local company with international standards in serving the market as a home grown brand. Starting from a four-man store way back in 1977, they are now a company with more than 4,500 directly hired employees and more than 2,000 promodisers from business partners. One of Belo’s primary objectives is to help the local manufacturers grow with them as partners. Wilcon has benefited consumers in a way that the company is able to generate more than 6,500 jobs. Wilcon considers themselves as partners of our country in nation building by providing jobs and helping support the economy.

Wilcon Depot store in Bacoor, Cavite. Photo courtesy of Wilcon Depot Facebook Page.

Wilcon Depot store in Bacoor, Cavite. Photo courtesy of Wilcon Depot Facebook Page.

Today, the brand has a total of 36 operational outlets in Metro Manila. In the next five years, their goal is to cover the whole country, focusing primarily on the major cities.

The secret formula to a successful business? For William Belo, there is none. It’s about pure dedication and knowledge to the business you’re in. But here are a few pieces of advice Belo can give to all the aspiring entrepreneurs:

You need to have passion for the business you want to get into. Put your heart into it and make sure it’s the right one for you.

In starting a business, you really have to be hands on. You can’t just start a business and let somebody run it for you.

If you really want to have your own business, study it very well. You need to know how to do it before you even start. You need to know what you’re doing, what you’ll be expecting to do and of course the ins and outs of the your business.

There are a lot of opportunities available, just make sure to take and maximize whatever opportunity that comes your way.

Innovation is the key to growth. You need to continue expanding the business and the product lines, continue offering new products and make sure that the level of service is there.

Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs Across the Years (Part 3)

Now on its final installment, our Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs Across the Years feature culminates with previous awardees who have shaped industries such as media, publications, retail and fashion. We’ve also included the women who have revolutionized long-standing corporations from the inside as lauded intrapreneurs. This Thursday, on March 30, 2017, Go Negosyo will be awarding a new set of women entrepreneurs as the Inspiring Filipina Awardees of 2017. As the much awaited awarding draws near, so does the end of the nationwide celebration of Women’s Month. As we continue on this 2017, let us not forget about the ever growing number of Filipina Entrepreneurs gaining recognition for their ability to be catalysts for change and leaders of true progress in our country.


Maria Ressa – Rappler
Maria Ressa SQMaria Ressa was awarded in 2014 by Go Negosyo as a Filipina Starpreneur for her work as the CEO and Founder of Rappler. Ressa is among the most fearless and decorated journalists of Asia. She spent decades of her life in investigative journalism, concentrating mostly in exposing terrorist groups and networks across the Asian region. In her 20s, she set up a a group called Probe Productions which aimed to introduce television broadcasting to television. She then went on to become a well-decorated journalist with CNN. From a journalist, she became a director of the Southeast Asian operations of the global news group. Today, she has taken her vast experience in journalism and continues to evolve the landscape of journalism and media.

Sari Yap – MEGA Publishing Group
Sari Yap SQ
In 2012, Sari Yap was awarded as the STARpreneur in the field of Publishing for her work as CEO and Founder of One MEGA Publishing Group. Working in the world of fashion and publications was admittedly a rough journey for Yap. As the first nationwide fashion magazine in the country, Yap had to battle a lot of criticisms and doubts from investors and other naysayers. Her company has survived two financial crises, and today runs 10 magazines that focus on lifestyle, travel and of course, fashion. Yap has proven herself as a trailblazer in the local fashion publication industry and serves as an inspiration to many who choose to follow her path.

Marixi Rufino-Prieto – Philippine Daily Inquirer
Marixi Prieto SQ
As the Chair of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), Marixi Prieto was awarded as early as 2010 for her expansive work in publications during the Most Inspiring Women Awards hosted by Go Negosyo. Aside from PDI, Prieto is also the Director of several businesses such as Cebu Daily News, Hinge Inquirer Publication Inc., Inquirer Interactive Inc., Inquirer Publications Inc., Printown Group, Sunvar Inc., Investment and Marketing Association, Ionian Industrial Property Inc., Corinthian Industrial Property, Inc., HMR Enterprises, Inc., Lexmedia Realty, Inc., Var Buildings, Inc., Parkside Realty Development Corporation, Golden Pizza Inc., Golden Donuts Inc., International Family Foods Services, Inc., Mix-plant Inc., LRP Inc., Pinnacle Printers Corporation, Inquirer Holdings, Inc., Mediacom Equities, Inc., Matrix Resources Portfolio Holdings, Inc., and Excel Pacific Equities, Inc.



Natividad “Naty” Cheng – Uratex
Naty Cheng SQNaty Cheng was awarded in 2014 as one of the Medium/Large STARpreneurs by Go Negosyo. As the co-founder and CEO of Uratex, many know of her inspiring story as a factory worker with cum business owner who pioneered the first foam factory in the country. Her husband and her started the business with a capital of 4,000 pesos and today, Uratex continues on as a multi-million peso business that has expanded its products from beds/foams, to adhesives, containers and plastic furnitures and now sells to countries all over Asia, the Netherlands and Australia.

Zenaida “Nedy” Tantoco – Rustan’s Commercial Corp.

Zenaida Tantoco SQNedy Tantoco is the current Chair and CEO of Rustan Commercial Corp., the long-standing and most prominent high-end retail company in the country. Under the Tantoco’s, Rustan’s has outlasted many other department stores of the same concept—leading the Tantocos to be known as the first family of the luxury industry in our country. Today, Nedy continues to lead Rustan’s to greater heights as they diversified from home and fashion to food with Rustan’s Supermarkets. Nedy was awarded in 2011 by Go Negosyo as a STARpreneurs in the large category.


Marife Zamora – Convergys Philippines 
Marife Zamora SQMarife Zamora was awarded as a STARpreneur by Go Negosyo in 2012 and was later on awarded as one of the Most 100 Influential Filipina Women in the World in 2013. Zamora’s numerous accolades is due to her pioneering success in the corporate world as the Convergys Managing Director for Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, the company’s largest region. In the business process outsourcing industy, men dominate the leadership positions and Zamora is the only Filipina in the world who has reached the C-Suite level. Under her leadership, Convergys has become the number 1 employer in the Philippines in just a little over a decade.

Rizalina Mantaring – Sun Life Financial Philippines
Riza Mantaring SQRizalina Mantaring is the current Country Head of Sun Life Financial Philippines. Under her leadership, the Philippine operation has implemented numerous industry firsts and innovations for which Sun Life is known, helping Sun Life become the number one insurance company in the country. With her background in IT, Mantaring was able to transfer the Philippines into the IT hub of the global Sun Life Financial Group in only five years. Before her ascent to leadership in Sun Life, the company had difficulty acquiring the number one spot in the country. Today, they’ve held on to the number on spot for 5 consecutive years. Mantaring was awarded by Go Negosyo in 2015 during the FIlipina summit for her often praised work and innovation in the Insurance industry.

Maria Fe Agudo – Hyundai Asia Resources Inc.
Fe Agudo SQAs the President of Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. (HARI) Agudo received the 2011 Ernst & Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She was awarder due to her work with HARI not only in building the Hyundai brand in the Philippines as a formidable player in the auto industry, but also as an innovator in nation building through HARI’s engagement with government and private partners in sustainable community building projects such as the Hyundai Center for Green Innovation located in the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm in Bulacan; Hyundai Embraces Lanao Partnership for Education program in partnership with Synergeia Foundation; and St. Scholastica Mission Hospital in Catarman, Northern Samar.

She is also the current President and co-founder of the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID) and a 2013 Go Negosyo Women Icons of Entrepreneurship Awardee.

READ: Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs Across the Years Part 1 | Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs Across the Years Part 2

Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs Across the Years (Part 2)

In the first half of the Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs Across the Years feature, we focused on the legacies and social innovators in order to encourage our readers to dream big and have hearts of compassion. For the second part of this feature we wish to capture your imagination and minds with these group of educators, beauty and wellness proponents and food entrepreneurs who have been constant inspirations in the entrepreneurial journeys of women from all over the country. On March 30, 2017 Go Negosyo will be announcing a new set of women entrepreneurs as the Inspiring Filipina Awardees of 2017. We can’t wait for what stories will unfold then but for now, we hope this list will quell your thirst for inspiration and motivation:


Helena Benitez – Philippine Women’s University
Helena BenitezThe late Helena Benitez was a champion of women’s education as a veteran educator, former senator and administrator of the Philippines Women’s University. As a senator, she authored several laws advocating the advancement of education and women’s right. She has received many accolades and awards, amongst them are the 2007 Manila Awardee, 2009 Woman Awardee, and the 2013 Womenpreneur Icon from Go Negosyo. She lived to be one 102, and her legacy carries on through PWU and the numerous lives she has touched. Her former residence has also been turned into a heritage home found in San Juan.

Preciosa Soliven – O.B. Montessori
Preciosa Soliven
In 1966, Dr. Preciosa Soliven opened the first OB Montessori school in the Philippines. OB Montessori has become the country’s premier co-educational institution that nurtures the inner teacher of the child and develops them holistically through its Prepared Environment and specially trained teachers. Through the innovative programs in entrepreneurship, agriculture, performing arts and leadership training, the school has reconditioned Filipino children to become “citizens of the world”. Today, the school has several campuses in Metro Manila, a 16-hectare farm in Alfonso, Cavite; several ecumenical shrines; a 30-year old Child and Community Foundation and a new school of Culinary Arts – Istituto Culinario. Go Negosyo Awarded Dr. Preciosa Soliven for her innovative and modern approach to education during the Filipina Summit in 2013.

Mary Joy Abaquin – Multiple Intelligence
Joy Abaquin
Mary Joy Abaquin was awarded by Go Negosyo in 2014 as a Filipina Starpreneur for establishing the Multiple Intelligence School (M.I.S.). Abaquin’s involvement with Go Negosyo dates back to when she wrote the successful book “8 Simple Secrets to Raising Entrepreneurs” published in 2010. The Founding Directress of M.I.S. is a pioneering educator and advocate for innovative practice and reform in the education sector. Her school’s tagline “Where Every Child is Smart” is widely celebrated for being the first educational institution in the county that has integrated Entrepreneurship in the Basic Education and High Schoo Programs. Today, the school is receiving continuous praise for introducing kids to entrepreneurship at an early age and recognizing the different kinds of intelligence a child can possess.


Dra. Vicky Bello – Belo Medical Group

Vicky BeloDra. Vicky Belo is a household name to most Filipinos. Known as the doctor of the stars, she was awarded by Go Negosyo as a 2011 Starpreneur under the Large Enterprise category. She obtained her M.D. locally before training and receiving further qualifications in Thailand and the U.S. She is a speaker and guest lecturer for several institutions locally and abroad. Her success as an entrepreneur started out as a chain of clinics the became known for being the go-to places for cosmetic surgery for celebrities, and has now grown to become a retail powerhouse with Belo Cosmetics reaching drugstore and supermarket shelves nationwide.

Cathy Turvil – Nurture Wellness Spa

Cathy TurvillFounder of Nurture Wellness Spa Tagaytay; leader in the wellness spa industry; founded the first internationally accredited spa school in the Philippines; Founding President of Spa Association of the Philippines. Over the last 12 years, Nurture Wellness Village has continued to evolve and expand. Ms. Turvill’s spa began to incorporate additional wellness aspects such as improved nutrition. She introduced her clients to healthier foods from Nurture Wellness Village’s own organic garden offering delicious meals that are prepared on site with all fresh ingredients. One of the spa’s most recent innovations is The Workwell Project. This project is a corporate wellness program that encourages employers to invest in the health of employees by offering the services of the Nurture Wellness Village. Turvil was awarded by Go Negosyo as a Filipina Starpreneur in 2014.

Dr. Rosalinda Ang-Hortaleza – HBC
Rosalinda HortalezaDr. Rosalinda Ang-Hortaleza is the chief executive behind the beauty and cosmetics brand, HBC. What started out as six stores of Hortaleza Viciador, which Dr. Rosalinda inherited with her husband, has now expanded to more than 200 branches nationwide thanks to the smart rebranding and renaming of the business to HBC. Dr. Rosalinda strongly believes in the right of every woman to feel beautiful. This is the reason why the brand offers a wide range of beauty and cosmetic products and impressively reasonable prices—gaining a big following of loyal customers. In 2011, Go Negosyo awarded Dr. Rosalinda as Starpreneur for her enterprising and spirit for doing business inclusively—prioritizing the mass market to provide accessible beauty products for all.


Corazon D. Ong – CDO Foodsphere, Inc.
CDOCorazon D. Ong was awarded in 2013 as a Trustee as the Founder of food processing giant CDO Foodsphere, Inc. Ong has been lauded for her ability to keep the company afloat despite several waves of crises hitting the industry and the country. The diverse line-up of meat products offered by CDO decorate the aisles of grocery stores and are a staple in any Filipino’s pantry. What started out as a venture into helping augment her own family’s income has now become a food enterprise that is largely admired by the entrepreneurial community.

Abba Napa – The Moment Group of Restaurants
Abba Napa
Abba Napa was amongst the Filipina entrepreneurs awarded by Go Negosyo during the Filipina Entrepreneur Summit last 2016. Napa’s story was also featured that same year in Go Negosyo’s 55 Inspiring Stories of Women Entrepreneurs. Her business venture, The Moment Group, is responsible for some of the metro’s hottest restaurants and bars. Customer favorites like 8cuts, Ooma and Din Tai Fung are just some of the restaurant offerings under Napa’s group’s belt. The group looks forward to bringing more restaurants to delight Filipino foodies in the future and taking their business to greater heights.

Lydia De Roca – Lydia’s Lechon
Lydia de Roca
Lydia De Roca’s name is synonymous to the famed Filipino fiesta staple of lechon.  For over 50 years now, Lydia’s Lechon has provided the iconic roasted dish to parties and gatherings nationwide. Equally impressive to the growth of her business is the underdog story behind it. Lydia’s Lechon started out as a simple bangketa stall in the 1960’s. But because of her hard work, perseverance, and of course, tasteful renditions of menu items featuring lechon, Lydia’s Lechon now sits amongst the most successful local food enterprises in the country. In 2011, she was awarded by Go Negosyo as Starpreneur for her success in taking a well-loved Filipino dish and turning it into a thriving business.