Reading the life stories of successful entrepreneurs anywhere in the globe will almost always have that charming element. Building something out of obscurity, the initial success, problems encountered and the person sticking to it trying to overcome the hurdles, (sometimes at the point of giving up), and then an unknown force from somewhere pushes the entrepreneur up slowly and steadily.
For some it is the failing in a business or two and then, finding the vein – so to speak- sticks it out and eventually succeeds.
For those who succeeded, however modest, there is also always that factor of relentless pushing forward. It is the ability to maintain focus even when faced with hard work and discouragement.
I too found these tales a little mushy at times, too romanticized and often over stretched until I failed in four businesses big time and found out that the same principles work for me.
Whatever your views may be, there is an undeniable over riding characteristic in most entrepreneurs and that is enthusiasm, and the desire to keep on. I don’t believe in the Midas touch either, that is bull, a showing off if you will. Aptitude yes, acumen yes, but just the same, every success has a history of hard work behind it, A kind of preparation.
This is almost the same everywhere. Even in third world countries where the economy could sometimes be so tangled up.
Let us have the Philippines. Successful Filipino entrepreneurs would have done a greater effort here than in many of their counterparts in some places of the world. You may disagree, that is fine. But you see business people thrive on predictability and stability that could result to margins. On the other hand, fluctuating economies would give you a different result. Couple that with a colonial mentality that until today has not yet been totally forgotten and you are in for a sanity check especially when trying to compete with a European or American brand. No way could it work.
But it did. Take for example Tony Tan, a Filipino entrepreneur who started his way, washing the dishes and waiting on tables in his fathers’ small restaurant. In 1975, with the help of his family this Filipino acquired an ice cream franchise. Ice cream parlors were popular then and it was supposed to be a decent and proven formula. But like most popular businesses that are copied, the Ice cream parlor has eventually to be given up. After a good start, the Ice cream business failed. Tony Tan has to start all over again this time it was not ice cream but selling hamburgers. He gave the hamburgers his own twist, and with the help of family members, tweaked on other fast food items and that was supposed to be the story of it. Obscure beginnings from a country that was supposed to flock to Mc Donald for hamburgers. No one could, in a sane mind, hope to compete with Mc Donald’s right?
Correct. But this successful Filipino entrepreneur is selling today double than that which Mc Donald’s does in the Philippines. The company has, in 25 years expanded to more than 400 branches in the Philippines alone with branches in many parts of the hamburger-loving world.
And then there is Antonina Cesario of Mila’s Lechon.
Lechon for those who wonder is a whole suckling pig roasted over an open pit.
A fresh graduate of Pharmacy from the University of Santo Tomes, one of the more prestigious schools in the Philippines, one would wonder what Antonina Cesario was thinking selling lechon at a time (1968) when a college diploma was a decent way to start a more prestigious career. But I am jumping too fast. Antonina started out not even with a lechon but hawking boiled corn in the streets. After a while, she opened what is termed in the Islands as a Sari-Sari Store which are actually holes in the wall stores that are popular in any typical Filipino neighborhood. It was not enough. In the Philippines, there is about one sari-sari store for every 600 population. Just imagine the competition that one is about to go through.
And so with a few pesos saved, and with a leap of faith, she bought a pig, made a lechon and sold it. No dice. The lechon did not sell at all. The lechon though is a very popular fare in the Philippines. A feast is never complete without it. So the idea persisted. She did a twist to it, selling it by the kilo. From then on, Filipinos does not have to wait for fiestas and other affairs to have lechon on their tables. They can have it any day they want it. Mila’s lechon turned out to be very popular. So popular in fact that the district where Mila’s lechon originated is now termed as the lechon capital of the Philippines. The family then started venturing out to other businesses like restaurants and the selling and distribution of sauces that could be found in any supermarket in the Philippines.
Many more Filipino entrepreneurs have made it. One that makes it more amazing though is these entrepreneurs could thrive even in very difficult circumstances, even when their nations economies are often in the doldrums. Hard work, preparation, persistence; name it, It varies in different people but sustained enthusiasm counts for most.