42nd richest Pinoy, Ambassador Alfredo Yao, zests with Zamboanga City’s economy PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 12 August 2013 11:04

They say when you’re down there is no way to go but up. And when you believe in your dream, it will come true. This is the credo that made Ambassador Alfredo Macam Yao successful in life. He was named as our country’s 42nd richest Filipino by Forbes with an asset worth of $180 million dollars as of July 2013.  And he is confident that like him, our beloved Zamboanga City dream economy will rise and come true also. “It is not impossible to transcend poverty,” he dreamed. He should know: he is a living proof of the possibility of dreams coming true.

This is the story of the Philippine’s Juice King who launched Zest-O brand successfully in 1980 followed by other companies he founded.

The eldest of six siblings, Yao stopped schooling at the age of 12 to help his mother, a sidewalk vendor, feed the family when his father died. He cold not finish his elementary and high school education but with the help of a relative, he continued it, cleaning bodegas and working as errand boy. He was a working student when he went to Mapua Institute of Technology for college but stopped after two years to go into a new business venture. At the age of 17, Yao took a risk and got a loan of P3,000 thru his mother from Rizal Financing Corporation (forerunner of Development Bank of the Philippines). It was his cousin who told him about the potential of the printing industry.

With his loan, he bought a press to print cellophane wrappers for candies and biscuits under his small printing press, “Solemar Commercial Press”,  named after his mother, Solemar. He earned his degree of Chemical Engineering later at Mapua and got his doctorate degree in Business Administration Honoris Causa,  from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

After 20 years, Solemar Press became reasonably successful, that in 1979 he visited a trade exhibition in Germany. There, he came across a new technology in packaging, which uses plastic and foil to make easy-to-use collapsible packs known as 'doy packs’.  These were lightweight, and could stand upright and be sealed aseptically.

He bought the doy-packaging machine and brought it home. But local juice manufacturers refused to entertain him and everybody he approached with his new idea turned him away. Never one to lose faith, Yao began making juices enthusiastically in his own kitchen and packaged them using this equipment. With optimism, he launched Zest-O with calamansi and dalandan flavors within the next two years, and his business life zests up in Philippine business history.  Zesto now holds 85% share of the ready-to-drink market.

Today, Yao is highly respected and admired by our country’s business community.  From printing and packaging beverages, he went into exporting, manufacturing food, beauty and personal care products, real estate, banking to air travel.  It is said that Yao’s Empire is built doing things better with a zest. He was given in  2005 the Master Entrepreneur Award by Ernst and Young, an award giving body that gives honor to distinguished entrepreneurs worldwide.

In 2007, Zest-O was conferred as the Most Admired ASEAN Enterprise Award in the Innovation Category in Singapore. As Zest Airways CEO, he entered into the competitive airline market by serving routes not served by others and now the partner of AirAsia. Other product lines Yao has developed are Beam toothpaste and Quickchow noodles. He holds the local franchise for the RC Cola softdrinks, which will soon be exported to China. Believing in the importance of education, he provides scholarships to deserving Filipino youth from poor families thru his Alfredo M. Yao Foundation.

During the time of former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Yao was appointed as our country’s Special Envoy  to China for Tourism Cooperation, and continues to have the confidence of our current Pres. Benigno Aquino. As Tourism Ambassador, he flies in tourists from China and South Korea directly to beautiful tourist destinations in the Philippines.

He also successfully founded Semexco Marketing, Inc., Harman Foods, Amchem Marketing, Inc., American Brands Philippines, Inc., SMI Development Corporation, Boracay’s Sol Marina Bay Resort. He is as well the Vice Chairman of Export and Industry Bank, and the Chairman of Philippine Business Bank (PBB), that will soon open in Zamboanga City. This is the bank that aims to help small and medium enterprises grow.

What endears Yao to his employees is his being humble and has no qualms talking with them directly when they meet him in corridors or inside elevators. I learned too,  that Yao is fond of reiterating that all his actions, be it in his business or personal life, are a reflection of the lessons he learned at his mother's lap - to work hard, to persevere, and no matter what the circumstances, to not lose heart. Clearly, it is Alfredo Yao's affinity to meld this simple, earthy wisdom with his knack for improvising that has added the zest to his business ventures.

Watch out, how he will zest the life of our city, when his business expands here.

By Dante Corteza

“God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) Making decisions in your small business based on fear is never helpful.