BEFORE he joined the family business, Mario King spent two weeks on the seashore of La Union thinking whether it was the right time for him to do so.
Eventually, he decided to pack his bag and return to Cebu.
“The drive to repay my parents for their sacrifices in sending us to expensive schools eventually prompted me to come home,” said Mario.
He took up business management at the Ateneo de Manila University.
Mario is the son of Juanito King, founder of King’s Quality Foods Inc., which was established in 1957.
The family business grew eventually and they diversified into auto supplies in 1964 through Nito’s Auto Supply and into real estate through King’s Properties.
It was under the leadership of Mario, the youngest son, that the auto supply business grew by leaps and bounds.
Nito’s expanded its operations and diversified into new product lines such as reconditioned trucks, and construction and industrial equipment.
Mario is this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year awardee of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI).
What was your first job?
After taking some time off, I decided to come home and joined the family’s business. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to go to Carbon market to buy things needed for our food business.
But even as a young child, I and my siblings grew up working already. I was probably as tall as the counter when we were already asking customers, “Unsa’y atoa boss?” The family businesses then grew and are now taken care of by the third generation.
Banking on my rich business experience, I and my wife, Haydee, set up our own. We established Nito’s International Ventures Inc., a business that provides the capital and structure of the motorcycle business.
We also run SkyGo Marketing Corp., the marketing arm of SkyGo motorcycles. We also own Sto. Niño de Cebu Finance Corp. that caters to car financing, personal loans, appliance financing, and group financing.
We further diversified our business and we entered the real estate industry through J. Nitton Development Corp., which provides high-quality yet affordable homes for the low-income market. We have already built some 640 socialized houses in Carcar and soon we are building 350 socialized housing in Bogo.
Who inspired you to get into (real estate) business?
I had the privilege of working with Habitat for Humanity-Philippines where the late Robert “Bobby” Aboitiz was the chairman at that time. This exposed me to the dire need for housing.
We know that there’s such a great need for socialized housing. In fact, in a survey, less than five percent of our people have home loans, which means not all are availing themselves of home loans despite our monthly contributions. This is simply because the houses being sold are not that affordable, so this prompted us to address this real need. Hopefully, in our lifetime, we can make a huge dent in the housing need.
When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?
You go through heart-wrenching experiences, especially during turnovers of the unit to families. It is an emotionally-packed affair when the family would come in and receive their new home.
Through our real estate arm, we built Esperanza Homes. We call it Esperanza, not only because it is my wife’s second name, but also because it means “hope”. We hope to give hope to people by providing them homes.
What is the best thing you learned in business that you’d like to impart to young entrepreneurs?
There’s one value or virtue that needs to be enhanced and embraced individually and collectively—the attitude of gratitude.
One of the biggest contributors in our economy are the small and medium enterprises, which are mostly run by families. However, statistics show only a few of these family corporations would be able to graduate from second to third generations.
Why is this so? It’s because of the few problems that arise from the mingling of influences, business ownership and family relations. So when they inter-mingle, somehow they are challenged.
But I found out that there is one value that would in a way help us solve this problem, it is that value of gratitude.
I might sound very idealistic but from my experience, I see that gratitude, as a value, needs to be deliberately enhanced and embraced because when you are grateful, you would see things as a gift.
Material things would then become as they are—ephemeral and transient. Once you have this realization that everything is a gift, then you would become aware of your responsibility to make these gifts grow, so that you can generously give this not only to yourself but to your family and to the community.
Gratitude is the antithesis of greed and its twin cousins—envy and entitlement—which are actually the causes of problems in family corporations.
How many times did you fail before you succeeded?
I’ve been through many ups and downs. One thing I am happy and proud with is when I see the younger generation being able to work together harmoniously, effectively. Then I would see the cycle of the life of entrepreneurs would continue.
I’m happy that my children have signified interest in our business. One them is already involved while the others have become shareholders of the family business.