By Momar Visaya/Asianjournal.com
NEW YORK — Filipina entrepreneurs shared their experiences at the Fifth Filipina Summit held in Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago.
Nini Alvero, Philippine Trade Commissioner for the US Western Region moderated the entrepreneurship forum, aptly dubbed “Make Me a Filipina Millionaire”.
“The Filipino American community is a sleeping dragon, and it is waking up,” Alvero said and talked about how business-minded FilAms can take the opportunity to do business in the Philippines.
Panelists discussed how they reached their first million dollars in business. They also talked about how they worked with their passion in order to achieve their dreams.
Healing the planet
Among the panelists was Cora Alisuag. She is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Aliron International, Inc., a diversified global company that she founded in 1989.
“It is a good idea to do this one step at a time. Grow your business and diversify when the right time comes,” Alisuag said. Based in Washington, DC, her company provides healthcare solutions and resources for clients throughout the world primarily in four distinct areas: healthcare operations and management, environmental technologies, information technologies, and educational programs.
“Money alone should not be the motivation to go into business, but rather think about what it can do for the common good,” she added.
Alisuag’s biggest dream for the Philippines is for it to have an efficient waste management program. Practicing what she preached, her company officially opened its hazardous and industrial waste treatment facility at the Carmelray Industrial Park II in Calamba, Laguna in 2005.
In early 2002, she created HEAL (Healthy Environment for Advancement of Life), a foundation devoted to developing programs to clean up solid and toxic wastes in third world nations, beginning in the Philippines. Alisuag has also been involved in multiple facets of healthcare delivery for more than two decades.
Alice Ignacio founded API Enterprises, LLC, a company based in Chesapeake, Virginia in 1998.
A food importer and distributor, Ignacio, initially just wanted to get Selecta to be distributed in the US and ended up conquering the mainstream market. An “accidental businesswoman,” Ignacio has successfully penetrated the US market with accounts at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Farm Fresh (East Coast) and the US Defense Commissaries.
Her company is primarily involved in the importation and distribution of top quality, high-end food products for the American markets. Currently, she supplies Selecta ice cream, Goldilocks products and Bonuan bangus (milkfish).
Food for the Mind
Linda Nietes, CEO and owner of the Philippine Expressions Bookshop talked about how culture and business can co-exist.
Nietes admitted that being a bookseller requires “a real passion, hard work and long hours” in order to do it. She has been a bookseller for the past 25 years (13 in the Philippines, 12 in the US)
“I sell the history, hopes and aspirations of every Filipino who writes. I want to share our diverse and vast heritage with the younger generation of Filipinos here today,” Nietes said.
She lamented the fact that Filipinos are generally not a book-reading public and considers that as her biggest challenge in the book-selling business.
“We raise the consciousness of the people in the community through book and poetry readings and author signings. I dream of a more socially aware, aggressive and intelligent Filipino-Americans,” she said.
Nietes also admitted that she has not earned her first million yet, and she probably wouldn’t.
“There are no millions that await me but as long as we preserve the Filipino customs and traditions that are slowly fading away, I would be contented and happy,” she shared.
A statement on fashion
Gina Alexander, President & Designer, Gina Alexander, Inc. went through various challenges that pushed her to the limit.
“There was a point when I lost all my energy to work but when I reflected, I realized that I needed to continue so I could do greater things,” she said.
“One of my heroes is Gina Lopez of ABS-CBN. My maiden name is Lopez so a lot of people ask me about her projects or if we are one and the same. When I met her, I found out that we have the same dreams in helping Filipino children,” Alexander shared.
Her company owns kiosk stores at Hollywood & Highland and The Grove selling her photo bags, which are also sold at Nordstrom, ICE Accessories and Saks, Inc. department stores.
Alexander’s passion for helping children is reflected in her work ethic as she donates a portion of every handbag sold to the Hope for Children. She is also taking care of about 50 children in the Philippines.
Top of her game
Suzie David is President and Founder of Asian and Hispanic Trading and Consulting, a company that specializes in the sales and marketing of office equipment and supplies to construction companies in the metro New York area that are engaged in federal, state and city government funded projects.
She is currently the Chairman of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce, a membership organization dedicated to promoting and assisting the New York women gain economic independence and achieve personal success through business ownership, microenterprise development and self-employment.
David offered the reasons why she made it. “I refuse to fail,” she remarked.
She took the plunge – “with pikit-mata and lakas ng loob” – when she ventured into the business world. With tenacity, determination and hard work, she made it.
With those traits, Nimfa Yamsuan Gamez built herself a mini-empire as she currently own and operates several home care facilities in Northern California. “I have a God-centered business and He is the one who guides me through it all,” she shared.
The summit’s Entrepreneur Forum: Make Me a Filipina Millionaire was in support of Make Mine a Million $ Business, a program of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence to help women micro entrepreneurs grow and build sustainable enterprises, create jobs and develop innovative products and services. (www.asianjournal.com)