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  • Czech Republic

Growing the next generation of Filipino entrepreneurs

Not many people know this, but I once worked as an encyclopedia salesman. Encyclopedias were the Google of my time. Back then, if you wanted to learn more about a subject, you reached for an encyclopedia, searched for the topic from the alphabetized volumes and read about it. After that, I became a dealer of firefighting equipment, sold used clothes (even my own) and started a cotton candy cart in the old Fiesta Carnival in Cubao. All this while I was still in high school.

My parents, you see, were very frugal. Luxury to them was a night out at the movies, and they were content with watching TV shows and enjoying dinner with the family. They taught these values to us, their children.

One consequence of this was that I had to look for work while I was still in school. I even asked to work for a classmate. He knew who my family was, so naturally, he asked me how come I didn’t just work for RFM, the family company. I told him I wanted to make it on my own. The classmate decided against hiring me, and that is how I ended up selling firefighting equipment.

I learned the business and looked for companies that needed to replace their fire extinguishers. I must admit I did use some advantages. I approached Concepcion Industries, hoping to get their account. My Aunt Mely gave me a break and handed me the account. That’s one thing I learned early on; wala dapat hiya-hiya. If you are to succeed in business, you must set aside pride and put on your thickest armor. 

It was this on-ground training that prepared me for my role today as head of one of the country’s largest food manufacturing corporations. I was never one to excel at school; today I openly admit that I still have to earn my college degree. That has not stopped me, however, from being good at my job.

I have been reflecting on this lately because of our impending collaboration with the Department of Education (DepEd). I and the senior advisers of Go Negosyo paid a visit to Vice President and DepEd Secretary Sara Duterte last Oct. 17. Our objective was to see if entrepreneurship training can be incorporated into the school curriculum, specifically in Senior High School.

Right now, with the K-12 curriculum, children