January 26, 2012
Empowering women through entrepreneurship
Ina Quiogue, president of Stanhome World Philippines
Whether at an airconditioned office, or at a gathering of yayas waiting for their wards at the school grounds, there is usually one ubiquitous object being passed around: a direct-selling brochure. Here, ladies pore over every page, where they can opt to order from a gamut of beauty supplies, brassieres, fragrances, and now, upon the entry of Stanhome World into the playing field, household cleaning solutions.
More than this process being a convenient way of getting our hands on some scented lotions, it can mean serious business. Just ask Ina Quiogue, who has been a stalwart in the direct-selling industry for about two decades, first, as Avon's brand manager for fashion, to marketing director, Asia-Pacific vice president for marketing, and then GM of Avon Philippines until she retired. She is currently president of Stanhome World Philippines, a big European direct-selling brand that launched in the Philippines only early last year.
Ina talks about being witness to how serious direct-selling skills have changed many Filipino lives. "We have seen many women—and men—who grabbed the opportunity and their stories continue to be a source of inspiration for many. You will hear of stories where a woman started out living in a one-bedroom apartment with a family of eight, and many years later, ended up owning a huge house, several buildings and businesses... Or you would hear of a labandera who could hardly provide food for her family but by focusing on her direct-selling business, she was able to not only provide food for her children but was also able to provide them with an education. I have also seen employees give up their eight-to-five jobs to focus on their direct-selling business and they are now earning more than what they would have earned in the next five years in their previous employment. Or you would her of someone who built homes for her children in a plush subdivision—or taken international trips and cruises—all from their direct selling earnings. All these stories are true and not marketing gimmicks," she avows.
"You will be surprised but the top dealers can actually earn more than the executives of a multinational company—something tells me we're at the wrong side of the coin," she laughs. Ina herself worked in an advertising agency after her graduation from UP, then joined a fashion company before being recruited by Avon.
A FAIR TRADE
She also notes that direct selling is a level playing field. "I have worked with thousands of women in this industry and the running joke is that we could probably run for a senatorial position and be assured of a seat because of all the dealers that we have! The women in this industry are all very different from each other. Some have studied in the best schools, some are married to prominent lawyers and businessmen, some are housewives and have never worked in their life, some did not even graduate grade school," she said.
She adds, "My first realization when I joined the industry is that you don't have to be a college graduate to succeed. It does not matter what your educational attainment is, nor does it matter what your social status is. It does not matter if you speak in English, Taglish, Tagalog or Bisaya, nor does it matter whether you wear flip-flops or rubber slippers. It does not matter if you have any previous work experience nor does it matter what work you've done in the past. If you have a dream that you are committed to pursue no matter what… the dream of a better life for you and your family, education for your children, a home of your own, a chance to visit other countries or even non-tangible dreams like being financially independent, or even giving back to the community by helping others earn a living… then direct selling offers you the opportunity to make these happen."
She shares the excitement and possibilities of joining a new company. "I have seen that most of the pioneers, those who joined the company from the start are the ones who usually gain the most because they have the first move advantage. This is one of the reasons why we have many interested in joining Stanhome World Philippines. Not only do we offer unique and benefit-driven products but we have also just launched last year and the market is still wide open."
She proceeds to analyze why this type of business is so "patok" in the Philippines. "In the US and Europe, the orders are shipped directly to the dealers and customers. There is no face-to-face interaction. We are a very open and friendly people willing to listen to what is being offered. We love to talk and interact which is what direct selling is all about. Everyone is related to everyone so there is a ready source of dealers and consumers. We are also very entrepreneurial so opportunities to start your own business is very attractive. We are by nature hard working and persevering, which is a requirement for success in direct selling."
Ina says that she herself is a fan of her company's products. Her favorites include the home disinfectant Germ Trol ("For a paranoid mom like me, this product is heaven-sent."), Prime Wash powder detergent, Banish Citronella and Stanhome Insect Repellant ("It smells great, is non-sticky, and has a long-lasting effect, so I can apply it on my son before he leaves for school and he would still be protected by the time he gets home"), and for her personal treat, Rested Legs and Cool Feet—which her husband also uses after playing a round of golf.
Family time is a welcome treat for her as well: "Aside from being the recipient of corny puns and jokes from my husband and son—well, once in a while they strike a gold mine—which relaxes me, any activity done with my family helps relieves stress , so we go to watch movies or watch the UAAP basketball games when in season. I also get a massage every so often—and of course I make them use Rested Legs... again, one of my favorite Stanhome products."
While supporting Stanhome in its pioneering stage, keeps her on her toes, as she quips, "My husband says that the difference between the two of us is that he stops thinking about work when he gets home—that, I still have to learn." She says she derives an immense amount of satisfaction from her career. "It makes you feel good about what you are doing, and to a certain extent it makes you feel good about yourself. Nothing is more fulfilling than to hear someone say that her life has changed for the better because of Stanhome World. I may not be a doctor, or a nurse or a teacher but like them I have the opportunity to help change lives."