Go Negosyo Talk
by Patricia Paterno
July 9, 2015


Our business started in 1967 - 48 years ago. I was 11 years old. Here’s the newsletter I made (slide) for this was a big event for us and a family affair. I even mentioned that Daddy almost fell off the ladder because he was “exhibitioning” without hands! The gift shop was named Korben after my parents’ names, Corit and Benny.

This was my family then. That’s Peggy, Robert, Meldy and I. Tina was not yet born. My mother was the one who really wanted a business. My father was working and she was left at home with us and she was never was one to enjoy being idle. She didn’t have money, she didn’t have a grand ambition, she didn’t have a brilliant marketing strategy, she didn’t have a business degree, and she was shy and timid. What she did have was a love of making things with her hands. She was industrious, and she had faith in herself and in God. Plus she had common sense and a good intuition. And so in spite of all she didn’t have and the little that she did, our family was able to build a business with an identifiable brand.

Today we have 18 stores, a factory in Bulacan with apartments for our employees, and a building along Roces Ave., QC. We also have a website, papemelroti.com, where we sell all around the world. My mom will be the first to admit that she is utterly amazed at what her little hobby has grown into today.

She started with making stuffed toys, dolls in fancy dresses which she would display in the window. There wasn’t anything else in the store- all her merchandise was in the display window, and the customers needed to ring the doorbell to get in. Sometimes I would help in the selling. Sometimes my other sisters.


We did a lot of things together as a family- decoupage, the art of making paper seem like part of the wood, sculpting out of clay, making molds so we can reproduce the figurines. One of our favourite stories was of Meldy making her decoupage look so old by what is called distressing the wood- she hammered, she pounded, made it almost black- and hers was the first to get sold!!! Robert would get black from antiquing figurines. So we were all taught the value of hard work early, and we would get paid for our work. I was paid 5 centavos to paint a figurine and could earn more than a peso for an afternoon of work which was plenty of money for somebody interested in buying candy from the sari-sari.

A lot of people have told me they didn’t want to work with their parents, for various reasons. They couldn’t communicate. It was hard to put a dividing line between what was a family concern, and what was work. They overlapped and there was a lot of friction and emotional investment. It was difficult to have your mom and dad as boss! You couldn’t escape them when you went home! I guess we also experienced these difficulties but the key to working with your family, or with anybody, is really communication. I always thought that my mom was like a leech. She won’t let go until you both understand each other or at least agree to disagree. Up to now, we have family meetings. The good thing or the challenge with a family business, depending on your viewpoint, is you always end up discussing things. Lunch, dinner, even a vacation with the family, can sometimes be a venue to discuss new ideas, products, staff, problems, etc. Ever since we were young I remember my mom painstakingly explaining things to us. We used to call going to Korben, going to Siberia, the prison camp. It got so that my mom called us all together and asked if we still wanted to continue with our business. Did we want to close it? But we all agreed we wanted it to continue. For my mom, family was first priority before the business all the time.


In 1976, we put up the 1st papemelroti in Ali Mall. Papemelroti comes from our names, patsy, peggy, meldy, robert and tina. It started as a joke because we said that mommy and daddy have korben, we wanted our own. So although no one could pronounce it, and people couldn’t remember the spelling, we’ve survived. People gave the store a nickname- pape! As it was the summer vacation, we had a grand time because the stores on the 2nd floor were also manned by families. I was cashier, Peggy was selling, Meldy made pillows, Robert painted eggheads and they sold like hotcakes. By this time I was 20 and my youngest sister Tina was 7 years old. She was in charge of wrapping and because she couldn’t reach the counter, she had to wrap on the floor. Of course our customers were amazed! We came out in a women’s magazine and this helped our sales tremendously. It is amazing that out of all the original stores in Ali mall, we are the only one that survived!!!

I also want to emphasize that in a family business, one should recognize and use the gifts of each family member. We have different talents but we complement each other We all like to design and make things so we became known for our unique products and figurines. We always had something new! You have to have change and innovation if any business is to grow and thrive.

We don’t have an advertising budget but we’re always invited to be on TV or radio or we get interviewed for magazine articles. So we receive a lot of exposure. I guess if you’ve got a good idea, if your business has personality or character, then it gets noticed. Although we didn’t start out with a clear idea about our brand, it developed because we were all personally involved. So naturally the character of our business came from our own character and personalities.


Another important thing to do is to give back to the community. Be a blessing to others. In God’s economy, it is those who are generous that He blesses. And so whatever talents we have received from God we use it to help others earn a living. We help people with their livelihood so they can pay for medical expenses. For instance, here are some of the people we help: GINA, JOMAR, LORNA, ROGER. We help a foundation in Payatas and provide designs and seed money so they can start earning money. When they are successful, we are successful. When we are successful, they are successful. We always tell them to pray for their products, that they will get noticed in the store. It’s important to give back to the community and to stand for something.

I can say that papemelroti is an expression of who we are individually and as a family. We’re all different but we have common values and ideals- and that’s the advantage of being a family. One of the underlying principles for a business to succeed , for a Filipino brand to succeed, is it should have a personality, it should stand out and have its own unique identity. How do you do that? By knowing that being in business is not just about making money but it is more an expression of yourself- what you believe in, what you want to share with others, what you are, your values and your ideas. For us, our business reflects our commitment to God, family, home, country, caring for the environment, our respect for craftsmanship and appreciation of traditions.
Ideally it should express the best of you.

We’ve had many challenges- most of them are because of government agencies like the BIR, or the City Halls where our branches are located. We don’t give bribe money so they can make it very difficult for us. Even if we pay the correct taxes, the BIR can find something, or invent something and say you owe them 5 million pesos. The inspector will say, you can make this problem go away. But you see we believe that if you do the right thing, God will be your vindicator and defender. He’s the one who will give you good success. I always say we’re not good business people. We are more designers and artists. But we’ve survived all these years!

I’ve said several things about what I believe makes for success for a family business. But I know the most important is to make sure God is a working partner in the business. From the start, even before we had a business, my mom prayed to God to have a business. We believe the key to a successful business, indeed a successful life, is to have God as a partner in everything you do. In Psalm 127:1 it says: Unless the Lord builds the house, he labours in vain who build it.

And so we may dream, make plans and work hard. However we should be sure that what we do is in line with God’s intents and purposes for our life. For each one of you, for each one of your businesses, God has a dream, God has a plan. And it is really exciting to find out what that is, to work with God and make it come true.



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