By Joanne Rae M. Ramirez
For someone who is at the forefront of one of the country’s leading review and tutorial centers, Rossana Llenado, 34, remembers a time when she would have wanted to be anything but a teacher. But almost two decades later, ironically, Llenado finds herself at the helm of a headstrong education company, the highly acclaimed Ahead Review and Tutorial Center.
In less than two years after it was established in 1997, Ahead easily became an industry leader, thanks to Llenado’s sensitivity to the needs of the market, and promotional smarts that helped change public perception towards review and tutorial services. The venture has also produced a preschool in Loyola Heights, WorldPrep Learning Center, and Ahead Books and Things, a successful publishing venture that markets and produces review books and student guides.
To cap it all off, 2003 became the year when accolades poured in: Rossana received the Gold Quill award for Ahead’s successful marketing communications project, thus placing it in the company of corporate giants like Avon Cosmetics, Coca-Cola Bottlers and Caltex Philippines. Recently, Entrepreneur 10 hall of fame, an elite list of businessmen and women recognized for pushing their small ventures into the big league.
On top of being a CEO and an entrepreneur, Rossana is a devoted wife, a doting mother of four young children (the youngest of whom she is still breast feeding), an M.A. student, and an active member and officer of several prestigious organizations. How does she do this?
She holds office at WorldPrep Learning Center, a school-in-a-park that is just around the corner from her own home. Meetings are conducted quickly and to the point, as there are new ones scheduled every hour. “Matataranta ka sa schedule ko.” she smiles. At the window next to her desk, yaya shows up with adorable baby Megan, who is peering at her mom from outside. Once, at a meeting of Zonta International, fellow members were surprised at finding her breast feeding her child in the middle of a discussion.
Despite her busy schedule, she is proud that her children – twin boys Paolo and Nicolo, daughter Darla Angela and baby Megan – are not “neglected kids.”
This is how this mogul mom works hard to make the best out of both worlds: She takes personal charge over her children’s development, and uses this same talent to assist other students who may need tutorial services.
Rossana has always shown a talent for entrepreneurship and a strong sense of leadership. She sold paper fans and candies to her classmates when she was eight years old. When she was a young lady, she went into businesses that included catering, T-shirt printing, mushroom growing and sub-leasing units. “I managed to make the most out of a tight situation, because my family did not have much.” She was active in the Student Council and the Writers’ Club while at UP Los Baños.
A speech that she drafted for then Sen. Alberto Romulo, changed her perspective about teaching. In the course of researching for the speech she appreciated more the role of education in uplifting one’s quality of life.
With her newfound insight, her compassion for students and her respect for teachers, Rossana vowed she would one day put up a foundation that would subsidize the education and needs of bright young individuals who want to be teachers. She is determined to make this dream a reality when she hits 40.
For now, Ahead is like her fifth baby. Under her care, it is the only center that publishes an official list of students who pass their entrance tests, which roughly constitute an 85 percent passing rate in college entrance exams. Through their test-based programs, Rossana believes that she is contributing to the nation’s growth by increasing her students’ chances of entering the top universities in the country.
“I know women who are well-educated and who are not allowed to have careers or to work outside the home. It’s a pity because I believe women can have fulfilling careers without necessarily neglecting their families.” She is on the verge of making her ultimate contribution, through the foundation that she intends to put up six years from now. So far, things are going right on schedule. In fact, she’s quite nearly there.
Matilde “Diding” Robles, Ma. Carmina “Peanuts” Sotto, and Ma. Melinda “Mayleen” Bernardino found out 10 years ago that three, is indeed, company. The three now head one of the most progressive real estate firms in the country – Royale Homes.
How did the three come together? Diding Robles, president of the Royale Homes and wife of Sta. Lucia Realty president Exequiel “Excy” Robles, recalls: “Earlier on, Peanuts and Mayleen, who are sisters and close family friends, were already making major inroads in marketing. I broached the idea of joining forces for a more productive partnership. Before I knew it, a new synergy came upon us.”
“We only used to occupy a one-room office. Thank God, our efforts have paid off. Now, we occupy an entire floor,” reminisces Diding. A nurse by profession, and a mother of five, Diding’s decision to align with her husband’s enterprise was very strategic.
In the early years, Diding’s husband Excy was the proverbial eagle upon whose sturdy wings they relied on. The hitches and glitches that got in the way were no match to the dogged persistence and chemistry of the three friends.
Capitalizing on the flexibility and dynamism of a young company, Royale Homes was able to develop a unique image of its own. “We envisioned our company to be a leading real estate marketing organization in the Philippines where unique Filipino values are shared: where trust and sincere aspiration, and honest labor are cherished,” reveals Peanuts, the company’s executive vice president for sales and marketing, a mother of three and a graduate of AB Economics from the University of the Philippines.
Peanuts says their strategy was to “go slowly, but surely.”
Today, Royale Homes has more than 1,000 sales force members with branches in Davao, Subic, Urdaneta, Cabanatuan, Bulacan and Cavite. Its projects include Club Morocco and Alta Vista in Subic, Zambales; Saddle and Club Leisure Park in Cavite; Sun City Davao; Pine Woods in Baguio City; Vermont Royale Executive Village in Antipolo City; Vista Verde Country Homes in Cainta, Rizal; and the Rizal Techpark 2000 in Taytay, Rizal.
Mayleen Bernardino, the firm’s executive vice president for finance and administration, says their target clientele is the segmented upper middle bracket whose demands are varying and dynamic.
“As a general rule, we don’t ride on the trend. We are only mostly concentrating on the demands of the segmented upper middle bracket. This is why we have not ventured into low-cost housing projects,” adds Mayleen, a mother of four, and a Hotel and Restaurant Management graduate from the University of the Philippines.
Diding, Peanuts and Mayleen have shown that mothers can not only hold good jobs, they can also generate jobs.