What makes an entrepreneur? Ask Rossana L. Llenado, president of Ahead Learning Systems, Inc., who was honored by Entrepreneur Philippines magazine as one of its 10 outstanding entrepreneurs in the first Entrepreneur 10 Awards.
“In my case, the drive was there from the start,” says Llenado.
As a child, Llenado sold paper fans, beauty products, and other items to her classmates to augment her allowance and help with the household expenses. In college at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna, she pursued her entrepreneurial aspirations with zeal. While working as a student assistant and a part-time employee in a number of government and private organizations, she engaged in such enterprises as catering, subleasing, T-shirt printing, and mushroom growing. In her spare time, she served as an officer of several campus organizations. That Llenado still managed to land in the dean’s list for five semesters is a miracle.
“It was tough and very tiring, but the experience of managing time, resources, and people provided good training for engaging in business,” Llenado recalls.
Following graduation, she worked as a sales and marketing professional. Here, she found her calling.
The big step came in 1997 when she founded Ahead Tutorial and Review Center. At the time, there were four major players in the industry. Llenado had to find the niche that would distinguish her company from the rest.
She decided to associate Ahead’s tutorial services with winners.
It was a radical approach. Back then, tutorials and review classes were associated with academically-challenged students who needed help with their school work or in passing entrance exams. With her new company, Llenado decided to change all that.
“To be with Ahead was to be the best, with the best. The best company, the best programs and instructors, honor students, student leaders, the people you want to be associated with. We anchored our programs on excellence—and communicated this in our marketing efforts,” says Llenado.
The move paid off. Today, Ahead is considered by many as the leader in the tutorial and review course industry due to the impressive performance of its students in college entrance examinations. Since 1999, its students as a group have registered the highest passing rate in the college admission tests of the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University.
Ahead is still the only center that publishes an annual passers list, indicating its unchallenged leadership in the industry as far as actual results are concerned.
For Llenado, being a successful entrepreneur means pursuing a vision, taking risks, and addressing a concern close to one’s heart.
“It’s the passion for excellence that sustains us,” she adds. “Without that passion, you simply fold up.”
Ahead Tutorial and Review Center is now a division of Ahead Learning Systems, Inc. It has branches in Katipunan, UP Village, Greenhills, Robinsons Galleria, Masangkay, The Fort, Alabang, Lipa, Dagupan and Bulacan.