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Two Well-Known Filipino Entrepreneurs with Humble Beginnings

Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. Entrepreneurship can be challenging as it takes perseverance and hard work to achieve a high level of success. 

Whether you already have an enterprise or are looking to open one , it pays to learn from those who have already walked in your shoes and managed to build something amazing out of obscurity.

Here are the stories of two individuals who started from the bottom and rose to the top.

Socorro Ramos
For many Filipinos, the name National Bookstore has become synonymous with bestsellers and school supplies. The driving force behind this franchise comes from the humble beginnings of its owner.

Socorro Ramos was barely 18 when she started working at a Goodwill Bookstore in Escolta, Manila as a shop assistant. Because of her selling skills, she was eventually put in charge of the branch. However, it was only after getting married did her dream of setting up a bookshop finally materialise.

She and her husband started out with a stall that sold textbooks, GI novels and supplies. Since they could not afford extra help, Ramos worked not only as a manager but also as a janitor, purchaser, saleslady and cashier.

When World War II broke out, their business burned to the ground and they had to shift trades. After the Japanese occupation, they set up a “barong-barong” that did fairly well until Typhoon Gene destroyed their shop anew in 1948. Undaunted, the couple worked harder to regain their losses. They acquired licences from international publishers and diversified their products, among other things. Today, National Bookstore has more than 2,500 employees and over 145 branches nationwide.

John Gokongwei, Jr.
The head of JG Summit Holdings, Inc. which owns the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), Universal Robina Corporation, Robinsons Bank Corporation, Robinsons Land Corporation and Cebu Pacific Airlines. But from being the third richest entrepreneur in the Philippines, Gokongwei started without a peso to his name.

Although he was born-into a privileged life in Cebu, all their assets were seized by creditors when his father suddenly passed away in 1939. Unable to keep the family together, his mother had no choice but to place him under the care of a relative. When his granduncle could no longer support him, he had to fend for himself by peddling wares using his bicycle.

As he was unsatisfied and ambitious, he went to Manila to sell items from Lucena and Cebu during World War II. Older Chinese traders were so impressed by his initiative that he got entrusted with a P500,000 loan which he used to open a cornstarch plant in 1956. Gokongwei has not looked back since then.

Whether you are a woman or a man, it is not impossible to achieve success when you delve into entrepreneurship. Though it might be a challenge to look for a serviced office in Makati or a web hosting service for your online shop, you must never give in! Just look at the lives of the two Filipinos above and see how they overcame the hurdles and are now living their dreams.

About the Author
Gina Ballesteros works with Regus, a multinational corporation dedicated to addressing the needs of those who seek serviced offices, training venues, video communication suites and meeting rooms  with more than 1500 commercial spaces worldwide.


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