rxby Ned and Ardy Roberto, Business Friday, Philippine daily inquirer, Dec 2003

LAST Tuesday night, the younger MRx was invited to speak at the launch of The Business Club’s 1st Entrepreneur Forum. A co-speaker at the launch was Rossana Llenado, the entrepreneur who started AHEAD Learning Systems, Inc. Rossana was recently awarded as one of Entrepreneurmagazine’s Top 10 Entrepreneurs of the Year (for small and medium sized businesses). Her tutorial and review centers are ahead of the competition because of her applying at least three of the basic Ps of marketing better than the rest.

Rossana aggressively recruits only cum laude and magna cum laude graduates of top universities to teach and “deliver” their products. (Since AHEAD was established in 1995, its customers have maintained the highest passing percentage in the entrance tests of top schools.)

Rossana situated AHEAD’s five tutorial centers in the malls instead of placing them where the competition is – near schools. Makes sense to us since students like to hang out at the malls.

Rossana created a perception of high value and quality by pricing her tutorial and review courses at as high as P7,000, while the competition charged as low as P3,000. She also confirms this perception by providing value-added services and products such as a reviewers and career guide, reference manuals on the top 10 colleges and universities in Metro Manila, and original courseware and test-taking techniques.

A former full-time housewife with four kids, Rossana learned the basics of marketing and entrepreneurship at an early age–at 6 years old organizing caroling gigs in her neighborhood and at eight, setting up a distribution network to sell her polvoron.

MRx thinks that we all could learn or review the basics of marketing from Rossana. Here are her lessons on marketing and business in her own words:

Let me begin by telling you that I did not have any kind of advantage. Our family was poor and no one gave me any capital. My parents were not important people. We didn’t have any connections. When I was young, I lived in Los Baños, a small town in Laguna. I was a very shy girl, and I liked reading. As you know, reading is usually a hobby of lonersDespite this, I have always believed I was born an entrepreneur. I’ve always liked marketing. I formally started becoming one at the age of 8, when I sold polvoron to my classmates.”

Importance of distribution

As early as then, I had retailers to sell my goods to their classmates and friends. I even shared my polvoron to those who helped me wrap them. That was my first business venture. But then again,how would you call the caroling stint I organized and led when I was 5 or 6?

Packaging and Perception

I still remember making sure my group knew as many Christmas songs by heart. Each of us had a musical instrument to play. We even had a strategy of knocking first before singing. We wore better clothes than most other carolers. I told my group that hometowners would give us more if they liked our singing and if they saw we had nice clothes on. At 5 years old, I already knew the importance of giving value!

Fads, Pricing and Inventory

When I was 9, I sold rubber bands, tex (cards), and marbles. They were the “in” things then, much like the Yugi oh! cards and Crush Gear now. When I was 10, our house burned down, leaving us with nothing to go by. But I got a chance to buy a set of stickers, which I immediately sold to my classmates by piece. Of course, I only had a small profit but I used it to buy two sets of stickers to again sell. Then I got 4 sets to sell… until I had a bagful of stickers. My business grew because I plowed back my earnings into the sticker venture.

One day, I sold all my stickers at bargain price and didn’t buy any more. I knew less people would buy from me, so I had to stop selling. After all, everybody had a lot of stickers already. They didn’t have any need or want of more. Money was not that important to me then as it is now. But this is only because I have so much to pay for now in my business.

Early on, I already loved seeing my business grow and making my customers happy. I have never minded working too much. I work because I like working. And I love the challenge that a real business brings. Until now, I like satisfying my customers and helping people.