Life for Leonora Salvane, began at 43. That's when she decided to leave behind the spare-parts trading business she and her husband Rogelio started in the late '80s and jump into the soap-making business. It was not much of a leap, since she's a licensed chemical engineer—one of the first female chemical engineers in Cebu—but it was freeing, as the trading business had already lost its appeal.
A chance encounter with a livelihood lecturer reintroduced her to the joys of chemistry and soap-making. "Up to now, I still wonder why he went to my office that day," Salvane points out.
From P500 to P25 million
From an initial capital of P500—spent on glass bottles, container lids, and packaging labels—GT Cosmetics Manufacturing Inc. now earns P25 million a month on average from skin care products, which include whitening soaps and beauty creams.
GT, then just stand-in letters, eventually became 'God's Talent.' But it's not all smooth sailing for the Salvanes. Although the business grew through referrals and direct selling, their first foray into department stores was unsuccessful. The Metro Gaisano Group of Cebu gave them their first big break in 1996.
Now, GT Cosmetics products can be found in most major malls. They also export to Finland and the U.S., and soon, Canada, Qatar, and South Korea.
From having six employees back in 1994, the Salvanes now have 200. Their five children—Janice Michelle, January Anne, Rogelio Jr., Jonathan Aaron, and Jellie Marie—are all in the business.
Amidst their success, Salvane and her family remain humble. She made it a point to give back to the community, by setting up a school—the GT Northeastern Academy—and by giving free soap-making seminars.
Photo: Vincent Coscolluela
This article was originally published in the August 2014 issue of Entrepreneur magazine. Subscribe to the print or digital version here.