The rags to riches trope is something that gets explored often in fiction just like the Money Heist series. The thing is, as much as life can imitate art, there are some things that just do not happen without putting effort, time, and dedication into the endeavor.
Filipino rags to riches stories can sometimes have a different effect than is intended. Some people who read them might fail to take away the key lesson of these stories, and focus on the worst aspects. It’s important to remember that these stories are supposed to be something to fuel one’s drive to succeed, no matter how stacked the odds might be, just like these three did.
Founder – Mercury Drug Corp.
At his funeral in April, many people had a lot to share about the late founder of the country’s largest player in the pharmaceutical retail game – all of it positive. Among these stories is how Mariano Que started the multi-billion Peso company with Php 100, used to purchase a bottle of sulfathiazole pills, which he then sold off piece by piece.
The single bottle funded a small round of various medicines that grew to be sold out of a pushcart, then eventually the very first branch of Mercury Drug in Bambang, Metro Manila. Named after the Roman messenger god, Mercury Drug is a household name throughout the country, known for selling medication per piece, and delivering medicine straight to one’s doorstep.
His is the lesson of perseverance, kindness, and giving back to the community. Under his leadership, Mercury Drug weathered a flu pandemic and pioneered advancements in the way pharmaceuticals and medicines are handled. It goes to show that anyone who wants to start a business is going to want to start small and start simple. It’s fine to dream big, but it’s all about the details.
Founder – Chalre Associates
A rags to riches tale has been used to describe Rebecca Bustamante’s journey from Dansol, Pangasinan, Bataan, to Singapore, then Canada, and back to the Philippines. At 18, she found herself without parents, and with a family to support, she moved to Bataan to work in a factory, then to Singapore to work as househelp while continuing her studies in Accounting.
She would later move to Canada to continue her work, and further her education, earning a graduate degree in Marketing and Accounting at Ryerson University in Ontario. Her hard work eventually led to her dream coming true: she was able to support her younger siblings through school, and pursue a career in Sales before eventually deciding to return to the Philippines to establish Chalre Associates with husband Richard Mills in 2000.
The Management Recruiting practice now has offices across Southeast Asia. It just goes to show how having the drive to reach a goal can lead to things that you might never have imagined.
Corazon D. Ong
Founder – CDO-Foodsphere
Food is a primary need, make no bones about it. When dietitian Corazon D. Ong left the profession, she spent her time on perfecting dishes that wound up in her kids’ lunchboxes. In 1975, she founded her own kitchen-based business with her husband, creating processed meat products like tocino, longganisa, and siopao.
This small business would eventually expand beyond making things by hand and selling to friends and neighbors. An accident forced the duo to invest in equipment, though this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it allowed Ong to grow the business, eventually becoming known for its affordability and high-quality offerings during the Asian crisis.
Today, CDO is a household brand that spiraled out of a small, hobby-based business. It illustrates what anyone can do with their hobbies if they’re willing to invest time and effort into it.
The success of a business in the current economy factors in a lot of things, like whether or not the product has a market to reach. These three stories come from a time when there was a lot of untapped corners in the general market.
The core of the success in any business is believing in what you’re doing. In that, you’ll be driven to ensure your own success.