MARIO Rizon earned a degree in agribusiness in college, but his exposure to making furniture in his in-laws’ business in the 80’s changed his life.

Helping out made him realize he wanted to work with his hands and become an entrepreneur. In 1986, he and his wife Cecile rented a space on Leon Kilat St. and opened Cecile Furniture.

The couple started with P17,000 worth of furniture items, sourced from Cecile’s family business and some borrowed money from Rizon’s siblings to pay for rent.

“Custom-made furniture was a thriving business. People, especially from the countryside, came to us to buy tables and chairs, cabinets, dividers and TV racks,” said Rizon, president and founder of Rizon Property Holdings Corp.

He obtained a vocational degree in furniture making during his high school days in Negros Oriental, which made work a bit easier for him.

“My exposure to furniture did not just hone my creative skills. It also helped me learn to manage a business,” said Rizon.

Inspired by the growing demand, the couple expanded their business. In 1990, the couple ventured into selling appliances to complement their furniture business.

“Because we offered in-house financing for our furniture, people started asking if we could also sell appliances. We heeded that suggestion and it turned out to be a good business decision.”

A total log ban in the late 80’s paralyzed Cecile Furniture, as wood suppliers stopped selling raw materials. Rizon, went back to his hometown to seek other wood alternatives. They resorted to cutting them in small portions ready for assembly in Cebu.

“The log ban ran for about a year and it was the appliance segment of the business that kept us afloat,” he said.

From Cecile Furniture, the family renamed the business to Cecile Enterprises. It now has 30 branches in Negros Oriental, Bohol, Cebu, Leyte and the Caraga region.

Like any other seasoned entrepreneur, Rizon did not put all the family’s eggs in one basket.

In 1998, they ventured into agri-business in Negros Oriental and began supplying bananas, mangoes, coconut, and vermicompost through M&C Integrated Farms Inc. to the local market. They also ventured into gmelina plantation, a tree widely used in furniture.

According to Rizon, the earnings they generated from their businesses did not only take care of the family’s day to day living expenses and their children’s education, as a portion of their hard-earned money went to property investment.

Today, the family owns several properties in Mactan, which they developed into the 54-unit Lorenz Apartelle, their first venture into real estate development, followed by the 57-room Sebastien Hotel, and most recently, the eight-hectare Haven of Peace Memorial Garden, which sits on a 12-hectare property in Barangay Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City.

“Investing in land is a good investment. Over time, its value appreciates, which could be a profitable business in the long-term,” said Rizon.

Late last year, the family announced it is earmarking P200 million for the development of Haven for Peace Memorial Garden in Sitio Soon. This is the family’s first foray into memorial park development after seeing an unserved demand in death care services in Mactan Island.

Since most of his properties are in Mactan, Rizon also plans to ride on the island’s booming tourism industry by building a recreation and sports center.

“The potential to grow big in Mactan is there. For now, we are studying the market and see where all this will take us,” he said.