For former seaman Ricardo Marinduque, the road to entrepreneurship involved several detours. After graduating from high school, he opted to get a job instead of going to college. “Mahirap ang buhay (life is hard),” he explains. He found employment as a waiter in restaurants, first in Malate, Manila and then in Makati. In 1989, he went overseas, to work as a waiter at the catering service for a military hospital in Saudi Arabia.
Marinduque later joined the crew of a luxury line, serving as bartender, wine steward, and waiter. The job allowed him to travel the world. “My first destination was Tahiti,” he recalls. Eventually, he was able to see Europe, the United States, and the Caribbean, through his work.
Grab the opportunity
When he turned 40, Marinduque decided to return to the Philippines and stay for good. “Mahirap sa abroad. Malayo ka sa pamilya at mahaba ang oras (It’s hard to be abroad. You’re far from family and the hours are long),” he says. Through the years, he had invested in various small businesses: apartments for rent, a videoke bar, a mini-grocery. But they were all short-lived. “Hindi ko talaga hilig (I wasn’t passionate about them). Ang hilig ko ay (I’m really into) sports, martial arts, at workout.”
In 2003, someone came to him with an offer: to buy a gym. “It’s expensive to build a gym from scratch, so I took the opportunity,” he says. Thus, Stamina Fitness Center, located in Malibay, Pasay City, was born.
Persistence a must
Although the basic structure was in place, Marinduque found the facilities wanting. He spent about P200,000 to buy new equipment for the 200-square-meter space to serve different interests, from weight training and cardio to martial arts, karate, and taekwondo.
But things were not that simple—Marinduque’s passion for his new venture wasn’t all that was required to make it a success. In 2005, he was ready to give up the business due to slow sales. He recalls: “Mahina. Umaasa lang ako sa pasok ng mga tao. ‘Yung presyo namin, binababaan ko (It wasn’t doing well. I was depending on walk-in clients. I had to cut our rates to attract clients).”
Business know-how a must
To improve his knowledge and skills, Marinduque participated in a seminar on money management organized by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). He also enrolled in training sessions conducted by the University of the Philippines College of Human Kinetics. He took the basic instructor program that covered basic human anatomy, nutrition, exercise programming, injury prevention, and other related practices. He also took courses in leadership and management.
Marinduque also became a member of the Association of Fitness Professionals of the Philippines (AFPP). The group provided him with a channel to air concerns and find solutions to common problems in his industry. An avid reader, he looks for relevant literature to help him grow his business.
Most of Stamina’s clients are office workers, so the gym’s peak hours are early mornings and late afternoons—right after office hours. Even if Stamina is still a family business, Marinduque has professionalized its services, hiring only licensed trainers and offering structured programs for its clients.
“Before a client starts a program, we conduct fitness testing and health screening,” he says. “Whenever necessary, we ask clients to provide us with a medical certificate to help us assess their fitness level.”
Taking stock of his journey so far, Marinduque chalks his success to “sipag, tiyaga, at sapat na kaalaman (diligence, patience, and adequate know-how).”
The one-time seafarer expounds: “Ang negosyo ay sugal na dapat mo talagang bigyan ng panahon at pag-aralan. Di naman ako nakapag-aral, natutunan ko na lang lahat. (Business is a risk you take, one that you spend time and effort on. I wasn’t able to study college, but I learned everything through experience.)”
Photos by At Maculangan