Many years ago, I delivered a speech before the First Entrepreneur Forum of The Business Club. I remember being so nervous that I was still shaking two hours after I gave it. That was December 2003.

Since then, the speech has been included in Ardy and Ned Roberto’s best-selling book, The Best of Marketing RX for Entrepreneurs. It also came out in Outstanding Speeches of Philippine CEO’s, a book published by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

I’d like to share that speech with you…

I am honored to be here with you tonight to share my experiences as an entrepreneur.  I hope that I could somehow inspire you to become entrepreneurs yourselves.

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 loners.

Despite this, I have always believed I was born an entrepreneur.  I formally started becoming one at the age of 8, when I sold polvoron to my classmates. 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 led when I was five or six? I still remember making sure my group  knew 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 homeowners 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!

When I was 9, I sold rubber bands, Tex, and marbles.  They were the “in” things then,  much like the Yugi oh! cards and Crush Gear now.

When I was10, our house burned down, leaving us with nothing. 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 to the 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.  Early on, I already loved seeing my inventory 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.

With AHEAD, I am able to help five sets of people.  First, we help the students who want to get into the schools of their choice–for example, Ateneo Prep, Philippine Science High School, and UP, Ateneo or La Salle for college. Since I established AHEAD in 1995, we have maintained the highest passing percentage in the entrance tests of top schools. I consider it a great privilege to assist students in achieving their goals, even if it is just through a college entrance review.

Second, we help the parents who only want the best for their children yet are burdened by career responsibilities and earning a living. We save them from the hassle of helping their children with their daily load of homework and quiz preparations. With a tutor to handle the academics, parents now have more energy for “real bonding” with their kids. They have time to read with them, play games, and chat.

Third, we help the tutors who are mostly graduating students.  We give them a chance to earn while they are studying, and to gain solid experience.

Fourth, we help the lecturers who desire to share their knowledge without leaving their respective professions. Our pool of instructors includes engineers, doctors, and lawyers who find themselves needing to impart their knowledge even while they excel in their practices.  AHEAD allows them to make use of their gift in teaching through short courses and review programs that need not interfere with their professional responsibilities.

And of course, I help my staff by giving them regular employment and giving them a chance to also help form minds, build dreams, and mold the future. What we do at AHEAD is truly fulfilling.

Should you want to go into business, I hope that you will be able to apply the lessons I have learned in my own ventures:

1. Get others to help you.  Polvoron

2. Give more value than the rest. carolling

3. Plow back your profit into the business in order for it to grow. stickers

4. Give customers only what they want or need. Tex, marbles, rubber bands

5. Constantly find ways to help your people. Your customers and all the stakeholders.

6. Be an original or prove that you are the best in your field. Ahead’s passers list, awards, others. We also have many firsts.

7. Be willing to really work long hours. Double the 8 hours by 6 days.

8. Be sure you’re in the business that will really fulfill you as a person. Just find what you want. We like different things.

I hope that I have somehow inspired you to venture into entrepreneurship.

In  closing, let me tell you what I think of entrepreneurship —it’s fun!