FOR engineer Leonora Salvane, founder of GT (God’s Talent) Cosmetics Manufacturing Inc., there is truth that God will bless the honest laborer.
A chemical engineering graduate of the University of San Carlos in 1977, Salvane worked several jobs for 12 years.
In 1990, she decided to leave the corporate world to go full-time as an entrepreneur.
“Business has always been on my mind. I promised myself to not get old by just being an employee. I believe that there is something bigger out there for me to accomplish,” said Salvane.
The award-winning woman entrepreneur was exposed to sales and marketing, where she sold laboratory equipment and pneumatics parts and products.
The cut-throat competition in sales and marketing tested Salvane’s patience and wit. It also made her think of strategies to break into a well-established market and beat competitors to win and close deals.
Salvane recalled the job she had in the past required her to outsmart competitors in many ways, a work attitude she didn’t want to pass on to her business.
“It’s a different space in industrial sales. You have to do what you’ve got to do to get that deal,” said Salvane.
By the time she realized the work environment no longer made her happy, Salvane knelt down and begged God to bless her with a venture—a clean living that would feed her family.
“I just wanted to be in a business that will honor God,” she said, adding that she promised God she would give up the business she had that time and pursue the one He would approve of.
During that time, Salvane was in the business of supplying pneumatics parts and products.
Salvane’s fervent prayers were answered.
“I hit two birds with one stone,” she said.
In 1994, she met Raphael Ibarra, a small and medium enterprise development advocate based in Cebu, who introduced her to soap-making.
“I considered him an angel because he introduced me to a business that made me use what I knew in college. I am a chemical engineer,” she said, adding that until now, she doesn’t know how Ibarra found out about her and why he suddenly appeared at their office.
“He just asked me: Would you like to venture into cosmetics?” Salvane recalled. She noted there were only few players in the local cosmetics industry that time. She thought this would give her the edge to penetrate the market.
With a P500 capital, Salvane made papaya soaps and astringents under Ibarra’s guidance. She was able to produce 10 pieces, which she gave out to friends for them to try.
“Fortunately, my friends liked it and asked if I could produce more. It was through word-of-mouth that helped the business flourish,” she said.
Two years after, Salvane started seeing results of her hard and honest labor. In 2000, she let go of the pneumatics business and poured all her time in growing GT Cosmetics.
Since then, GT’s sales shot up and invitations by retailers to have products in their retail racks continued to pour in.
The company’s products. now include soaps, toner, creams and lotion, and are present in leading grocery and specialty chains like Watsons, Gaisano stores, Robinsons, and pharmacies.
In 2011, the company opened its production plant in Marilao, Bulacan to serve the Luzon requirements, but it was recently transformed into a distribution center.
GT maintains a plant in Tayud, Consolacion that is accredited by the International Organization for Standardization and certified by the Food and Drugs Administration, and Halal. The company’s production system follows the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Directive, an agreement on the Asean Harmonized Cosmetic Regulatory Scheme.
Salvane’s business empire continues to grow. Besides a cosmetics company, GT has diversified into the education and hospitality sectors.
GT now employs over 300 people.
What was your first job?
I landed a job in sales in a company that sold chemical laboratory equipment. I then moved to several companies landing in the same department.
Who inspired you to get into business?
I have always thought of running my own company one day. I wanted to improve our standard of living but I could not do that if I continued to work as an employee. It will be somebody else who gets rich.
I also came to a point in my life that I wanted to feed my family with money that is sourced from honest business.
When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?
Besides the fact that I am practising my profession in this business, this is also the kind that takes away boredom and stress. I feel relieved by just packing soaps. For me, it isn’t work because I am enjoying every bit of my journey.
Why did you pick this type of business or industry?
This is an answered prayer. A man named Raphael Ibarra came one day to our office and asked me if I was interested in venturing into cosmetics. Since then we worked together on making and improving the products and businesses. I haven’t asked him how he found out about me. I have been wanting to ask him this but failed to do so because every time we met, I always forgot that question. We tend to talk about other things, mostly about business. He recently died, and I still haven’t figured out why he just showed up in our office. But I believe he was sent by God.
Where did you get the training you needed to succeed?
When I got into cosmetics, I kept myself abreast with the latest trends in the market. I also joined various business trainings and even spoke to small and medium business enterprise forums to encourage forums to encourage entrepreneurs like me to grow big in business.
Now that my children are working in the family business, they are always on the lookout for new trends, especially among the younger generation. We are about to launch our lipstick line soon.
How many times did you fail before you succeeded?
I never considered problems as challenges because what I have now comes from God. Whatever difficulty I will face, I know God will take over and deliver us from it. I consider every challenge as an opportunity to grow and share what God has entrusted to me.