Strong family bond matters when siblings run own business
Patricia Esteves (The Philippine Star) - December 17, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - You’ve probably seen pocket hand sanitizers encased in colorful rubber holders hanging on the bags of every girl in the city.

For a time, it has been ubiquitous especially in every girl’s bag, used both as a fashion accessory and a functional hand sanitizer. It’s cute and colorful and comes in fruity scents too delicious to eat.

 When it was the rage last year, most bought US brand Bath and Body, which is steeply priced at $5.

 Nina Atilano, Kohl’s sales and marketing manager, would see the pocket hand sanitizers  hanging in her friends’ bags and thought it was truly an eye candy yet the preferred brand was a tad too expensive for customers.

Kohl, is a Filipino-owned household and industrial products company which manufactures the brands  Dr. J, Puregel, Bactigel,skinProtect and Pureswiss hand sanitizers.

 Nina, whose family owns Kohl, has also noticed that there were cheaper imitations from China but the hand sanitizers lacked the sufficient amount of alcohol content to kill the bacteria.

 For a gel sanitizer to be effective, it must have 68 percent  alcohol  content.

 And then an idea came to her, why not develop a local brand that will be both affordable and effective.

Since her family was into the alcohol and sanitizer business, Nina said it would be not so difficult anymore to manufacture their  own brand of  hand sanitizers.

First the company designed the rubber holders of the pocket hand sanitizers to complete the product.

After accomplishing this, Kohl is proud to say that it has the right to manufacture and distribute the rubber holders. 

Nina’s business instinct proved correct for the moment the pocket hand sanitizers were put out in leading pharmacies, and placed strategically at the counter, it  sold like pancakes.

Since introducing the line last year, it is now one of the fastest-selling hand sanitizers in Metro Manila, overtaking even the foreign brands.

 “We just want to let people know they have an alternative from the expensive ones and those which are cheaper but are really not effective,”  Vicente Luis “Budu” Atilano III, Kohl’s vice president and Nina’s older brother told The STAR  in an interview.

Together with another brother, they are all hands on in marketing and growing their family business.

Nina and Budu said they could not be more happier that they are hundred percent involved in the family enterprise.

They stressed that they were never obligated or pressured to take the reins at Kohl.  “My parents didn’t force us to work here. It was our own volition that we decided to devote our time, talent with Kohl,” the 22-year-old International Business graduate of Ateneo de Manila University said.

Budu shares Nina’s views.

The Ivy-League business school educated 27-year-old willingly left a high-flying job in Miami to concentrate on Kohl. 

“We want our company to grow further since this is our business. Come to think of it, it’s always good to work for the family business, instead of enriching some guy  in New York,” jested Budu, a business graduate at Nottingham University Business School in England.

It also gives them pride to manage and see a purely Filipino business enterprise bloom.

 “We are proud to say that Kohl is a 100 percent Filipino company. We are glad that Filipinos too are supporting a locally-made product. Our employees are Filipinos and we get our supplies from Filipinos,” Budu said.

But before they took the reins at Kohl, they first worked in other corporations. Nina worked for Citibank and Budu at Bernuth Agencies Inc, a shipping corporation in Miami, Florida as the director of commercial operations.

 “It was what our dad required of us. He said we must work in other companies first, so we could have a feel of what it’s like,” Nina said.

 They learned the rigors of the business and the discipline, hard work and dedication from their parents.

Nina recounted a time when they were younger and  would complain about the school-home routine. From Ortigas, they would wake up early to go to Paref  Woodrose and Southridge schools in Paranaque on a school bus. Little did they know that it was already some sort of training. By studying well and being obedient to their parents, they learned the virtues of patience,   perseverance and  hardwork.

 “Our parents were strict with our studies. Growing up, we really valued our education,” Nina shared.

 These are important tools, they said as they steer the family enterprise to greater heights and make it a long-lasting business.

Kohl Industry is  very young in the industry, having started in 2002. 

Budu said when he took over in 2010, Kohl has been averaging a staggering 150 percent growth in revenues.

Their clients include major hospitals in Manila like St. Luke’s, Medical, National Kidney, PGH and corporations like BPI, PLDT.

One thing their parents inculcated in them is to never compromise on quality.

 “It’s always been our top priority to provide quality products to our clients. And I guess our products speak for themselves. Large hospitals and corporations continue to patronize us over the years because they’ve proven that our products work,” the siblings said.

 “You know how hospitals are meticulous. Every month we tests our alcohol to see if raw materials are accurate. We don’t use recycled alcohol and our fragrance is imported from France. We strictly adhere to the European formulation and production process,” Budu added.

Next year, they’re planning to expand their product range.

They’ve recently added a dishwashing liquid Mighty Mom and some disinfectants, which are now available in Shopwise and  Rustan’s.

“Mighty Mom is an alternative to other dishwashing products in the market, it’s cheaper but very effective and functions just like the rest in the market,” she said. 

Future plans include the introduction of ironing products and household disinfectants.

“Next year,  we also plan to introduce personal hair care products, anti-bacterial,” Nina said.

Nina and Budu see themselves working for the family enterprise for a long time.

For Budu, a major factor in keeping the family enterprise intact and growing is the strong bond between family members.

 “At the end of the day, we do not fight with each other over decisions or strategies, there’s no politics at Kohl. If we have problems we sort it out and talk and compromise. We affirm our love, support for each other through bonding outside work. We take a vacation and that makes us more closer, that’s why there is harmony between us family members,”Budu said.

He also lauded his parents for trusting their instincts and faculties to run the family enterprise.

 “My parents fully trust us. If we have questions, we go to our dad and ask and he guides us. Dad and Mom also instill in us humility at all times and always to be grateful to God. Our parents keep us grounded,” Budu said.



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