Provincial and providential

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Provincial and providential

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2017 has concluded its search for the country’s most inspiring entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc., with the participation of co-presenters Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the Philippine Stock Exchange. In the next few weeks, BusinessWorld will feature each finalist for the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2017.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2017

Lester Mark Yee
Managing Director
Esprutingkle Food Corp.

AFTER WORKING in the city for years, Lester Mark Yee, 39, managing director of Esprutingkle Food Corp., wanted to give people in his hometown of Antique access to the best brands without having to travel outside the province.

And that is exactly what he did — bringing in one brand at a time.

A graduate of the Central Philippine University, Mr. Yee was able to put his Accountancy degree into practice by working as a regional accountant for World Vision.

His work allowed him to travel around the country, particularly to rural areas. He observed that in many rural communities, such as his hometown of Antique, people had spending power but not much choices to actually spend on.

He left World Vision in 2004 and, with a partner, decided to put this idea to the test by introducing a soft ice cream brand to the province. When Mr. Yee was thinking of a name for his company, his father suggested Esprutingkle, which was his entry name for cockfighting.

Since its first brand in 2004, Esprutingkle has branched out into fuel, specifically Chevron, and eventually opened franchises from Goldilocks, Monterey Meatshop and 7-Eleven.

As a multi-unit franchise company, Esprutingkle owns and operates more than one franchise in the same region. Over the course of 13 years, Mr. Yee says that the company has acquired 45 branches.

Esprutingkle focuses on the provincial market and is currently present in 11 provinces. In addition, the company has opened branches in South Luzon, specifically in Calabarzon.

The company’s 143 employees undergo training and immersion to ensure its growth.

Moreover, Esprutingkle trains its people in financial literacy for them to be more inclusive in the business and committed to its success.

When it comes to the brands the company carries, Mr. Yee said it does not just consider profitability, but also market needs. Mr. Yee is proud of the fact that the company operates in the provinces, citing its competitive advantage. He believes that since the market there is less saturated, most of the franchises brought to the provinces have returns on investment in less than two years.

Mr. Yee believes in the economic potential of the provinces and also values its people. He believes that people in the provinces have the right mindset to succeed, for as long as they are given proper support, motivation, training and opportunities. He uses profit-sharing to foster an entrepreneurial mindset among his people. Since the company has various franchises in the provinces, Mr. Yee has regional territory directors to manage operations. The company also has a centralized shared service for accounting, treasury and human resources.

Mr. Yee said provincial markets are relatively small and personal relationships with customers there are more easily built.

Mr. Yee expressed how he prefers an open, hands-on approach, saying he listens to his people for business ideas. Mr. Yee also spends time to visit his staff to discuss personal and career development. He established a travel loyalty program and grants scholarships to children of his staff. On a larger scale, he conducts prison outreach and feeding programs, and works with the Department of Trade and Industry in mentoring small businesses.

He plans to expand to raw materials by being a long-term supplier of the company’s existing food businesses, particularly meat and vegetable products, in partnership with farmers. Part of this expansion plan is to supply food businesses aside from his own, including those elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

In all that he does, Mr. Yee says he is guided by the company’s Christ-centric mission and vision. Championing provincial markets, he has brought brands that meet people’s needs.

For budding entrepreneurs, Mr. Yee suggests exploring and developing the potential of the countryside. For him, “entrepreneurship is the road to success and will enable the country to grow as a nation.”

“Be true to your word, and other business people will help you.”

The official airline of the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2017 is Philippine Airlines.

Media sponsors are BusinessWorld and the ABS-CBN News Channel.

Banquet sponsors are Bench, Bounty Fresh Food, Inc.; CDO Foodsphere; Fiori Di Marghi; First Metro Investment Corp.; Global Ferronickel Holdings, Inc.; Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc.; Intermed Marketing Phils., Inc.; Jollibee Foods Corp.; LBC; SteelAsia and Universal Harvester, Inc.

The winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2017 will be announced in an Oct. 18 awards banquet at the Makati Shangri-La hotel.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2018 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2018.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year program is produced globally by Ernst & Young.