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How I became an entrepreneur

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By Zonito Torrevillas Tamase

 

When I was eleven years old, I mixed yema on a stove taller than me to make candies which I sold so I could raise P15 to buy Michael Jackson’s “One Day in Your Life” record. In high school, instead of yema, I splashed colors on white tee shirts to create abstract designs, which were in vogue then, to sell to my classmates. At the Silliman University in Dumaguete City, I hired a dressmaker to make cacha stylish knapsacks based on designs I had gotten from magazines, which became a hot item among the students.

In Manila, I was able to land the most sought after jobs, from a stint at the Philippine Star, to Fleishmann-Hillard to McDonalds Philippines. However, despite the high-paying jobs, I felt a need to try my creative talent outside the confines of steel and glass buildings and explore further my creativity in other line of businesses. The eureka moment came when I discovered the health benefits of malunggay (Moringa oleifera).

That started my malunggay advocacy. With R200 capital in 2010, I bought one kilo of peanuts, one kilo of sugar, and powdered malunggay. I mixed the ingredients until I reached the desired taste. Initially, I distributed the malunggay-coated peanuts in the neighborhood schools and sari-sari stores. With my peanut business getting big, and my work place (condo) getting smaller, I rented an 60-square-meter shop at G-Square in Barangka in Mandaluyong City. Now that it became officially a food business, I registered it at the city hall, the BIR, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Like any start-up business, I went through a rough cycle, too. Being determined not to fail, I got up twice when my business failed twice.

In 2011, I got married to Jojo Tamase and became my business partner. He is the graphic artist, quality controller, and driver. On the other hand, I am the administrator, marketer, and packer. The company evolved through hard work and reliance in God’s economy. Work begins at four o’clock in the morning to go to the market, and stay up to eleven at night to man our little kiosk at the Quezon City Circle to make both ends meet.

Our one year stint at the Quezon City Circle ended when our first investor decided to return to us all the equipment, including the delivery van. It was time, a cue to make M2 again.

We were back on our tracks from then on.

For starters, SM’s weekend bazaars gladly incorporated Nature earth’s products that became our source of cash flow. Then Greenhills tiangge and Market Market stalls willingly sold our moringa-based healthy snacks, and M2malunggay, okra andluya concentrated tea drink. This was followed by specialty stores like Health Eats (Sugarleaf), Healthy Origins, Echo Stores, and Faburrito and Burrito at CCF.

Due to the success of our business, the daily grind of going to the market was replaced by suppliers delivering their raw materials to our production plant, including packaging and cooking essentials, like Baguio cooking oil for our Gourmet Camote Chips, Alcos Global Corporation for M2 bottles, MGM for packaging, JNPM Printing for our product labels, Aquazul for mineral water, Majestic Gas for cooking gas, Phoenix Gas Station for diesel fuel, and the Department of Sciences and Technology ( SET-UP) for automation, which extended credit to us that contributed to our growth.

Non-stop exposure of our products to the local market, day and night, on weekends, and seasonal bazaars like AANI, Mercato, Christmas in Glorietta, as well as health fairs of ActiveOne, Healthway, Medicard, and World Trade bazaars where guests have free taste of our products.

We take credit to new business partner who provided financial support to make the company sustain its cash flow, ensuring salaries on time, payment of rental fees, BIR and other payables. With Robinson’s Supermarket nationwide, we are now serving M2 to our countrymen with a“surprisingly delicious and refreshingly nutritious” ice tea drink.

Today, our constant market exposure led us to a consolidator that brought M2 to Asian stores in the United States.

M2 is not your usual ice tea. It is a healthy concoction of malunggay, okra and luya concentrate tea drink, which helps lactating mothers produce more milk. A recent study which we conducted showed that drinking two glasses of M2 could produce 4 to 6 ounces of breast milk.

Today, scientists like Dr. Monica Marcu, PhD, in her book The Miracle Tree, says that moringa or malunggay can treat at least 300 diseases, among those that she mentioned in her book, moringa gives a feeling of wellness and promotes energy, increases natural body defense and stimulates metabolism, stimulates cell structures of the body, balances level of cholesterol, balances level of blood sugar, the plant is also rich in anti-oxidants that beautifies the skin, and lowers the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also improves the functioning of the kidneys and liver, promotes circulatory system and controls blood pressure, promotes anti-inflammatory, and heals tumors and ulcers.

Doctor Marcu also recognizes that moringa is a good source of protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, Vitamin A, B, B-complex, Arginine, Hystidine, Lysine, Trypotophan, phenylanaline, methionine, threonine, leucine, isoleuchine, and valine.

M2 is packed with phytonutrients from malunggay, luya and okra. To my knowledge, it is the only ice tea that ensures a good source of plant nutrition (iron, calcium potassium, and beta-carotene, which is mentioned on its label.

When we got our iPhone last year, we were able to realize the power of digital marketing. Through the e-commerce platform, our partnership with LAZADA,SHOMPASY.COM, KALEZA.PH, and Facebook turned around the business. As soon as we launched the M2 Lactation Club, we hit 54,798 likes, increased sellers, and exclusive distributors nationwide.

In our business, we pay our taxes correctly — either when we sell in bazaars or online. We issue receipts even if a customer is not asking for it because when we respect our government, we honor God, and honoring, worshipping, and giving thanks to Him is what we are here on earth for. Honoring God is our way of glorifying, magnifying, and giving thanks to Him.

From an inspiration to buy a Michael Jackson record, splashed colored paints on shirts, made a stylish knapsack, to a bottle of M2 available in Robinson’s Supermarkets nationwide, and more pharmacies and localized groceries through the distribution arm of Laura’s Food Product Corporation, 60 Asian stores in the US, and soon in the UAE, my business journey is fulfilling God’s will for me — through the years — the little business was a practice for me to do greater things for Him and through Him — a noble virtuous wife that’s blessed according to Proverbs 31:10-31.

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