By Katlene O. Cacho | Sun Star | September 2, 2012
FIFTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD entrepreneur Wilmer Lopez described his venture into social entrepreneurship as a “leap of faith.” Lopez left a high-paying job in one of the country’s biggest conglomerates to join Human Nature, which he described a relatively new social enterprise.
“The transition was so hard, money-wise, given that I have six children to support. But I had been in the fast lane for quite a long time earning much but I was still lonely,” said Lopez, owner of the Human Nature concept outlet at The Strip, Osmeña Blvd. He described his move to Human Nature as a “nightmare transition” because he gave up so much for something he was unsure of. He said a social enterprise is a new concept, something which business schools have only recently started introducing.
“A social enterprise is filled with dreams and ideas,” he said. Lopez previously worked as an auditor and business consultant for SGV Makati for eight years. He then moved to San Miguel Corp. (SMC) as a distributor of SMC products for 14 years. “I realized that this can be God’s option for me to help the country and my fellow Filipino. What moved me was the company’s “pro-Philippines, pro-poor and pro-environment” advocacy,” he said.
Gandang Kalikasan Inc. (GKI) produces the Human Nature line of natural and organic cosmetics and personal care products. The company was established in 2008. Lopez first learned about GKI through Gawad Kalinga (GK), which his previous employer, SMC, strongly supports. He said SMC trucks were used in GK activities. He then met Dylan Wilk, one of GKI’s founders, who is also a GK advocate.
Moved by Wilk’s story of giving up his riches to build houses for poor Filipinos, Lopez said he took a leap of faith and joined the GKI in 2009. Lopez said the company maximizes the potential of local technology, local capital and local raw materials in selling or promoting high-quality organic beauty and personal care products. The natural ingredients used for these products are grown in GK communities all over the country. Human Nature has 100 unique products and new products are developed every two months.
Lopez became the “super-distributor” for Human Nature in the Visayas. “I was quite uncomfortable at first because what I am selling are women’s products. Why am I here? But I took the challenge to nurture the advocacy and make the entity sustainable,” he said.
Lopez then became a branch operator and invested some P750,000 to open his own Human Nature outlets in Lapu-Lapu City and in Fuente Osmeña. He said his goal is to have a sustainable distribution of Human Nature products for Metro Cebu.
Back then, the monthly average sales of the Lapu-Lapu outlet was at P150,000 to P200,000. But sales have grown over the years. Just this August, Lopez transferred his Human Nature Fuente Osmeña outlet to a bigger two-storey location at The Strip, the first Human Nature concept store in Cebu.
Lopez is confident of hitting over a million in sales in three months. He said the new concept store will serve as a one stop shop of all natural and Filipino made products.
Aside from the Human Nature products, the concept store also sells natural and organic personal care products from other social entrepreneurs such as Golden Eggs: salted eggs; Café de Sug: Gawad Kalinga’s famous coffee from Sulu; Enchantea: healthy iced tea from GK Enchanted Farm; and Jacinto & Lirio: luxury bags made from leather and water Hyacinth, among others.
Lopez said moving into social entrepreneurship has taught him to value Philippine-made products more as well as the hard work of farming communities to make the products available to the market. He said there are so many “backyard industries” all over the country that need the support of the government and funding of banks to become legitimate businesses. Lopez said that if the gap will be addressed, these industries can become strong drivers of social change in the economy.
Lopez said GKI ensures steady livelihood to GK sites that produce ingredients coconut oil, citronella, lemongrass, passion fruit and sunflower. Another way to promote entrepreneurship in the country is to start introducing the concept to children at home. “If you happen to have a child that is inclined into business, hone the skill. Your child can become one of the successful entrepreneurs who can make a big difference for the country,” said Lopez.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 03, 2012.