'Being a woman was an advantage'
- the Go Negosyo team () - February 27, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - When a woman sets her mind on something, there’s no stopping her. This was demonstrated by three Go Negosyo Women “Starpreneurs” whose focus, drive, and ambition made their businesses mainstays in their respective industries.

Cabalen has come to be known as the place to be for authentic, delicious Filipino food. Maintaining an old-fashioned, probinsya-like ambience, and the Filipino turo-turo style of offering food with its feast of over 50 dishes in the buffet area, Cabalen has become a popular restaurant to host special occasions such as birthdays, graduation day, wedding receptions, and baptisms. And the woman on top of all of this is Maritel Nievera. Maritel’s taste for fine Filipino cuisine comes as no surprise, being a native of Pampanga. As for her business acumen, she says she owes this to being a woman. She says she is conservative in her approach, especially in financing the business, which has helped make Cabalen stable, even as she continued to branch out.

Maritel started in the food industry in 1974—she was 18 then—with a restaurant in Pampanga called Bahay Pasalubong, which sold native delicacies for, as the restaurant name would have it, pasalubong. Though she may claim to be conservative when it comes to financing, Maritel still had the risk-taker quality important to any entrepreneur, trying out a kiosk that also sold native delicacies when she came to Manila. It was a hit, and they branched out as well. Even with Cabalen, Maritel went all out and studied her competition in Manila thoroughly, and took a chance in introducing exotic food like crickets (camaru) and stuffed frogs in Cabalen’s menu.

If there’s one thing Maritel won’t stop doing, it’s innovating, reinventing and adjusting to the needs of the times. Maritel has expanded her business with Mangan and Ebun, as well as Thai cuisine restaurants Oody’s and Soi.

Thriving in a man’s world

Olivia Limpe-Aw is thriving in what she says is a male-dominated industry—liquor. But despite this, Olivia shines through. Now the president of Destileria Limtuaco and Co., Olivia was the one who took the reins of the family business, and it was under her leadership that the company was able to establish such brands as Napoleon Brandy and White Castle Whisky.

Olivia admits that being a woman in what is usually a man’s world had its challenges. And this was especially true coming from a traditional Chinese family, where the culture puts preference on male heirs. She had to meet skeptics when dealing with customers, suppliers and shareholders from other Asian countries, some of them choosing to discuss with her husband Benny.

But none of these dissuaded her from driving the business to the top, noting that being a woman is her strength. Women, she says, are good in planning, organizing, and are more sensitive to the needs of others.

And prove her mettle she did. Showing that leadership does not bend more towards one gender, Olivia devised strategies like overhauling the company’s existing portfolio, innovating and expanding the product line, offering custom-made products and private labels, and improving packaging.

With brands like Napoleon Brandy, White Castle Whisky, and El Hombre Tequila being strong brands in the liquor industry today, one can no longer turn their nose up nor undermine the abilities of Olivia, the first female president of the oldest distillery in the Philippines.

A woman with vision

Back in the 1990s, the country’s fashionistas probably only had Vogue International as their bible for the latest fashion. When Sari Yap presented her vision of producing a local fashion magazine, she was faced with cynicism about its profitability and viability.

With a real passion for fashion, Sari was unfazed about the promise of her idea. Taking risks and sourcing technology and equipment from abroad, Sari went ahead and established Mega magazine, making it the country’s first glossy fashion magazine.

Soon, the magazine caught wind in its sails and spearheaded the growth of the local glossy magazine industry. With the success of the fashion magazine, the Mega Publishing Group gave birth to an array of magazines that cover various industries, from architecture to home and design.

More than just creating the first local glossy fashion magazine, Sari’s vision was really to improve the local mass media. And though she had few believers when she proposed the idea of a magazine, the lack of a local source for fashion was also an advantage to Sari. She says she had the luxury of time to make mistakes and learn from them, which all brought the company to where it is today. Had she thought of the idea now, she would contend with serious competition in an already mature market.

Sari still leads the Mega Publishing Group as president and CEO, and as a true visionary, her company continues to revolutionize local mass media.

Indeed, women of today are leaders in their field, continuing to assume many roles in society, demonstrating how dynamic they can be. And Go Negosyo’s 4th Women Entrepreneurship Summit aims to recognize this through the Women Starpreneurs Award, an award named after event partner The Philippine STAR.

The Woman Starpreneur Award is presented to brilliant women whose efforts have made an impact to society. The Women Starpreneurs serve as a beacon of hope for women everywhere to attain success.

The 10 Women Starpreneurs, and three other special awardees, will be recognized in the Women Entrepreneurship Summit happening on March 2 at the World Trade Center.

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