In rags, he found riches
He once sent 50 application letters to find a job
CEBU CITY, Philippines—Rey Calooy once mailed 50 job application letters because he felt he would not get hired if he were to apply in person. Now the general manager of RNC Marketing Philippines, Calooy has come a long way.
He grew up in a poor family in Libagon, Southern Leyte. Dreaming of a better life, Calooy packed his bags and went to Cebu to get an education, even though his mother could not afford to send him to college.
Calooy worked for his education by carrying goods for buyers in Cebu City’s Carbon Market. He also sold bookmarkers made from used boxes and other recycled products.
Calooy now enjoys the fruits of that education, managing a repacking business, a trading company and another firm that produces instant hot chocolate drink, ginger tea and noodles.
Calooy says he has learned a lot from University of Cebu president Augusto Go, whom he knew when he was still taking up Bachelor of Science in Accountancy at the university.
He came to know and admire Go because the latter made it possible for poor students like Calooy to continue studies despite the uphill struggle to make ends meet.
There were many times, he recalls, when he could not pay his tuition on time. Each time, Calooy would pay Go a visit at his office.
Calooy also recalls how he had to make do with an average of three hours of sleep each night because he had to earn the money to finance his education.
But Calooy made use of his time in school. He was a member of 13 student organizations, including the UC debating club.
When he graduated, he worked as a news reporter with radio station dyLa for over a year.
It was shortly after he lost his job at the station—the company had to lay off workers at the time—that he decided to mail 50 job application letters.
“I did not feel confident. If I apply in person, I would be at a disadvantage. The other applicants came from very good schools, graduated with honors and were dressed up. Even the soles of my shoes had holes,” he says with a laugh.
He found a job with a Manila-based pharmaceutical firm looking for clients in the Visayas. When he succeeded in establishing a sales network in the region, the company hired more salespeople and promoted him to sales manager at the age of 24.
Calooy realized that he did not enjoy the desk job, preferring to go out and meet people. The job also lost its appeal since he could never become the owner of the company, he says.
So, he resigned, even though the company tried to make him change his mind by offering an attractive compensation package. He still decided to leave.
It was a risky move as he already had a family at the time. Calooy recalls how his wife had expressed her fear over their future. But he told her not to be afraid because they were used to being poor.
Using the P20,000 cash bond the company returned to him, Calooy decided to sell dust rags in 1994. He came up with the idea after seeing small boys selling the rags on the streets.
Calooy looked into the demand for dust rags among companies in Cebu and realized that there was an unserved market for the product.
He went to the manufacturer of the dust rags, bought his stock for P15 a kilo and sold the rags for P25 a kilo.
His income from that business was greater than what he used to get when he still worked with the pharmaceutical firm.
He felt he owed the firm something for it was during his stint there that he got to establish business contacts. He contacted them and told them he would supply whatever they needed.
That was the start of his trading business.
At the same time, he tried making laundry soap from used cooking oil. Several attempts resulted in failure, but he did not give up. He spent a sizeable amount before he succeeded in producing laundry soap, which he now sells in Leyte.
He also developed other products, such as ginger tea powder and squash noodles.
Calooy says that his mother is fond of making fresh ginger tea. He also decided to develop squash noodles, remembering the time when his family only ate squash raised by his father when Typhoon “Besing” hit Southern Leyte in 1984, destroying all crops.
He decided to develop agri-based products to help farmers, Calooy says.
Later, he set up a small laundry soap plant and a noodles factory in his hometown, providing employment to 30 and 10 workers, respectively.
His company, RNC Marketing Philippines, provides regular employment to 10 workers.
Another company, My Partners Trading International, is engaged in trading and distribution, while Rhea Naomi Food products manufactures ginger tea, squash noodles and instant chocolate drink.
Calooy has not considered going into exports, believing that the poor, constituting over 90 percent of the total population, remains underserved due to the absence of quality but affordable products.
Calooy recently went to the provincial office of the Department of Trade and Industry to seek assistance so that he could improve the appearance and shelf life of his products.
Calooy attributes his success to discipline, his passion for hard work and his refusal to accept failure.
He urges would-be entrepreneurs to focus on their work and choose friends who have entrepreneurial minds.
But he maintains that education is an important element in attaining success in life.
He urges the youth to consider going into business rather than seek employment when they graduate from school. Succeeding in business does require hard work and perseverance, he says.
“Never give up,” says Calooy, who has been recognized by Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship as one of Cebu’s most inspiring micro-entrepreneurs this year.