MANILA - The rags-to-riches story of Rogelio and Leonora Salvane is a lesson of deep faith in the Almighty, perseverance, humility and optimism. The now-millionaires from Cebu built their soap-making business with an initial capital of P500 in 1994. The business is now raking in approximately P25 million in revenues a month.
Rogelio, co-founder and president of GT Cosmetics, and Leonora, founder and vice president for Operations, decided to shift into soap making when their heavy equipment business was not doing good. Fortunately, a trainor from the Technology Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC), who Leonora considers as an “angel,” encouraged her to take up a course on skin-care products. As they say the rest is history.
The success story of the Salvane shows why people should not rely heavily on the jackpot mentality to achieve financial security. At the same time, it teaches us that deep faith alone cannot produce instant wealth. You need to work.
Here are the excerpts of the interview with Mrs. Salvane.
BusinessMirror: What is the meaning of GT? How did you develop the name?
Salvane: GT means God’s Talent. It was established to sustain the family income. The family is very active in the prayer movement.
Moreover, I wanted to sustain my family income through a clean and honest way. My goal in the business was answered by a prayer. Before, I was engaged in selling pneumatic pumps to manufacturing companies, industrial plants and government.
It was like hitting two birds in one stone. He gave me the opportunity to practice my chemical engineering degree through this cosmetics business that we have. At the same time, I am engaged in providing a modest living for our family. I always pray to God for the success of the business. The earnings come along and we also give back to society. It was also the goal of the family to help the community especially those who are coming from the marginalized sector.
BM: GT Cosmetics started with a capital of P500 in 1994. How were you able to grow the business?
Salvane: That was the capital of our soap business. Before, I used to bake it at home. I used my baking and molding pans plus a few kilos of coconut oil and some ingredients for the soap. We started with papaya and carrot soaps. Later, we developed other skin-care products like moisturizing and bleaching creams, sunblock, clarifying toner and recently the carrot lotion.
After finishing the process, I gave the finished products to my friends to try it for themselves. We tried the direct-selling method to market the products. My friends were impressed with the soap the family made. Those comments motivated me more to excel in the business.
We engaged in direct-selling marketing to broaden our market. The reputation of GT Cosmetics’ products as quality products spread through the word of mouth of satisfied customers.
BM: Describe the growth path of GT Cosmetics.
Salvane: In 1996 we entered the department stores by approaching them directly. Initially, we made a major stride in the Visayas-Mindanao area. In 2011 we entered the Luzon area. Right now we are also present in the US, Canada and Japan. Right now, we are talking to a distributor in Qatar for the Middle East market. Several years back, we were able to ship some products to a hotel-spa in Finland. However, our Filipina contact in the hotel resigned and we lost contact with her.
Right now, GT Cosmetics is preparing for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) integration in 2015. We want to make sure that our customers will approve the ingredients of our products.
Furthermore, we are also planning to review all the products to determine what products will be compliant and have the biggest potential in the Asean market. We are also looking for partners who can supply us the materials for our expansion.
We are beefing up our capacity by putting up our third plant in Cebu in response to the expansion for 2015. Our existing manufacturing plants are located in Cebu and Bulacan.
BM: How do you manage the business?
Salvane: For me, the basic thing to do is practice regular management by going to the daily operations of the business. I also started to share the blessings once GT started to earn. I increased the incentives and commissions of our sales staff.
At the same time, we also made a big effort to continuously improve the quality of our products. We want to be engaged in quality manufacturing not into mass production.
I also put passion into my work. If you have passion, you don’t feel like you’re working.
I also practice and encourage humility. Whenever people tell me that I am very successful, I say “I owe it all to the Lord.”
I also started training my children in running the business. The eldest is working as a comptroller in GT Cosmetics, while the second is a purchasing manager. The third is the general manager, while the fourth is a production manager. The youngest is taking up chemical engineering.
Above all, we acknowledged God as the head of the business. As a member of Couples for Christ, I always give priority to the Lord.
BM: What is the company’s corporate philanthropy program?
Salvane: We launched a school called GT Bright Academy in Cebu as our way of giving back to the community. It has 20 classrooms.
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