When people hear the name RJ Ledesma, it’s unlikely for everyone to affiliate his name to just one job title. RJ have met and worked with a lot of people in his career and his network is spread across industries. For someone who’s busy with more than just one thing, RJ knows how to sail through the waves of his responsibilities while still managing to catch and create new opportunities.

“I wear many hats; I just wish I had as many heads”

And there is no such thing as a typical day for him. He runs Mercato Centrale and another company called EnterPH while hosting events and doing TV shows, all at the same time. On top of that, he’s also the Consul of Monaco to the Philippines. Listening to him as he shares how his days usually go, I wondered if he really has just 24 hours in a day like all of us do. But despite his busy schedule, RJ sees to it that he starts his day with his prayers before facing the day. He then moves forward to his meetings, where he wears his hat as a wedding supplier or the hat of a business owner.

But before all of his current endeavors came in, RJ have always been the multi tasker he is today. As many of you know, he was a writer, a columnist, and even a magazine editor. He also had his regular TV shows and was a yoga practitioner for a time. “I’ve always been in this constant state of multi tasking, doing all this sorts of things,” he said.

The Hat He Had To Take Off

As much as he loves writing, it is something he had to set aside for the mean time. There’s so much things to do in running businesses and finding the time to write again has been difficult for him. After becoming a three-time national book awards finalist and having six books, writing, for him, had to take a pause for now as it occupies a lot of brain time. The weekends that used to be reserved for turning his creative juices into words on paper are now dedicated to spending time with his family. The time spent on paused writing is a time well spent, still.

How Mercato Centrale Came About

“You have to turn your irritations into inspirations.”

This was RJ’s philosophy when it comes to doing business. And he did the same with Mercato Centrale. As a media person, he was always sent abroad to visit different locations as part of media tours. Whether it’s in Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, or any other country, the first thing that they were brought to was the food market. It’s where you can experience the culture, where locals and foreigners congregate.

“How come in the Philippines we don’t have the equivalent of a night market for both foreign and locals, where they can congregate and experience such culture that a place has to offer,” he started to think.

And that is how Mercato Centrale started, his initial inspiration: to create a vibrant food market. And eventually the night market evolved into becoming a small food business incubator.

Seeing what Mercato Centrale has become, it makes RJ proud. What particularly makes him proud as a business owner is the sight of people patronizing the business. And how he and his team are able to start it and let it grow.

“It actually makes me very proud. And not just me, I’m proud of the team that’s able to do that. I remember six months after Mercato opened, it was just an idea that we had, and all of a sudden I was just standing there looking at those people coming inside. I had a big smile on my face thinking ‘Wow, we did this’

Building Business That Builds Success

Currently, RJ runs multiple businesses like Mercato Centrale, EnterPH, and a new endeavor called EasyFranchise.com. All of these builds not only his own success but helps mold the success of other entrepreneurs as well.

“That’s what I like, building businesses. More importantly the businesses that you build are businesses that have a model of inclusion and innovation. Meaning, you are able to provide jobs for other people. You’re able to create jobs, you’re able to create livelihood, help people build their dreams.”

Mercato Centrale has now become a small food business incubator. It became a small food business incubator, building a network of partners to help them scale up small business entrepreneurs. EnterPH on the other hand is a company that helps fund businesses set up shops in the country. While EasyFranchise.com, which he’s currently building, is an app or a website that helps connect franchisors to franchisees. The main target are the OFWs who’d want to start a franchise in the Philippines so that they can grow their income locally and help support the economy.

It may look like it’s all the same but what he and his team are doing is distributing an ecosystem to help form businesses. “It’s always trying to find businesses which are related, that has something to do with what you’re currently doing. You’re actually leveraging your current set of resources though you’re not building something that is totally new,” he explains.

For RJ, building a business is creating a place where you can try to find what is your certain competitive advantage because you possess asymmetric information. You know certain skill sets that other people don’t know.

But starting out, RJ was not immune to failure. He has experienced it and overcame it. For him, failure is a learning moment to see something went wrong.

“Failure in business is not failure in life.”

He explains that failures are just iterations to success. You can never start a business without having failure as part of the options that you have. Even with successful professionals, their better stories are those of their failures and not their success. That’s the sweat spot of the learning process.

There’s so much more to learn and hear from RJ! Catch him on at PenBrothers International on November 28, 2018 as Springboard brings you Talent Attraction & Culture Development for SMEs. Pre-register here to get FREE event passes: bit.ly/springboardspeakerseries001. We’ll see you there!

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