THERE are many positive traits a business owner should possess to endure long-term success in business. One of these is integrity.
This has been Maria Natividad “Nene” Treveño’s guiding principle, even as she regularly deals with issues of late-payment to non-payment, even bouncing checks from her customers.
“Bahala na ug ako ang ilang ilaron basta di lang ko mangilad nila (Never mind if they dupe me, as long as I don’t do it),” said Nene, owner of Treveños, a store that sells art and antiques along A.S. Fortuna St. in Banilad, Cebu City.
She added it’s easier to maintain a good reputation in business than to repair one.
Prior to becoming a household name in the arts and antiques community in Cebu as well as in interior decoration, Nene’s journey in entrepreneurship started by selling anything she could in college.
She juggled work with her studies to help meet the family’s needs. Nene finished secretarial administration in the University of San Carlos. She took up masteral studies in business administration but she wasn’t able to finish the post-graduate course.
Nene is the eldest of four siblings. “I had to work because we could not make ends meet. My mother’s income was not enough to send all of us to school. So I sacrificed a bit so I could pay my tuition.”
Nene believed she was destined to be an entrepreneur because she was able to smoothly ride the industry’s highs and lows.
“Selling is an art. Not everybody has that gift to be able to attract or convince people to buy your product or service. For me, it comes naturally,” she said, recalling the times she sold candies, perfume and lipstick.
After graduating, Nene landed in various corporate jobs. In 1999, she ventured into jewelry, a venture that widened her customer base. Inspired by her travels abroad, she then diversified into selling arts and antiques, particularly wood.
Nene admitted she had an eye for money.
“When I see a thing, or an art piece, I can see its value. That’s why I buy them and when my friends or clients like to have them, I sell them,” she said.
From selling art pieces and antiques, Nene diversified her business to include interior designing. She partnered with licensed interior designers to make condominium and house-and-lot units aesthetically pleasing.
Some of Nene’s clients are business owners like her, while some are politicians and first-time homeowners who want their space to exude a particular look.
“There are projects where we do makeovers. There are also some which we design or build from scratch. And we take care of everything, even the tiny details,” she said.
What was your first job?
I pursued various jobs after graduation. I once worked in an insurance firm but the company that I worked in for a long time was Philippine Airlines (PAL). I worked in that airline for 23 years as one of the ground crew. It was actually this job that brought me to places. Traveling abroad and learning new culture is fun. It was also in PAL that I learned about going the extra mile when it comes to customer service and to value integrity.
Although I found a stable job, the passion to become an entrepreneur remained evident, so, I got into jewelery then ventured into collecting paintings of Cebuano artists, which I later on sold. Then eventually, a friend advised me to also venture into antiques, especially wood. Wood appreciates over time, so it’s a good business.
Who inspired you to get into business?
The idea that business can give you an unlimited income is what inspired me to take a risk and build my own. Yes, it is also out of necessity that I got into business. But entrepreneurship is the only venue where you could exceed your income potential if you only work hard for it. You are determined to produce results because you are working for yourself, your future and the people who believe in you.
When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?
I believe I was destined to be an entrepreneur. I knew this because I enjoyed what I was doing. I always liked to make houses look nice. Prior to this venture, I loved reorganizing, redecorating my house and I hired professionals to do it for me, and over time I learned from them. So when I jumped into this business, I found it relaxing and fulfilling to be able to help people achieve the desired look of their houses.
And when people come to my house and love some of my pieces, I offer to sell them. When it comes to selling, there should be no attachments.
Why did you pick this type of business or industry?
It’s a business that I am familiar with. My family used to run a restaurant and a sari-sari store. At a young age, I already knew what selling was like and how it could increase your income if you work doubly hard for it, be honest with your customers, and provide them the best customer service there is.
As for interior designing, there will always be that part of the market that is willing to spend so much just to make their houses look good and feel good. In the same way that if you feel or get sick, you seek a doctor, people who think their house is like “chopsuey” will seek professional help.
After all, your home should be your comfort zone, so you have to dress and maintain it well.
Where did you get the training you needed to succeed?
Experiences were my best teachers. I did not enroll in further studies except the master’s degree I once took, but life has its own way of teaching you things you will forever take note of and learn from.
How many times did you fail before you succeeded?
Being in business isn’t always a bed of roses. There are plenty of challenges you need to face. One day, you’ll come across clients who refuse to pay their outstanding dues. There will be some days you will deal with late payments. There will be times you will be cheated on, but I don’t consider them failures.
As an entrepreneur, you can’t afford to get bogged down with these things. Sure they cause headaches and heartaches, but you have to keep going because you have workers who rely on you. You adjust your lifestyle when it’s needed but you shouldn’t forget about giving.
You also need to focus on the bigger picture and remain prayerful and confident that these challenges will pass.