CEO Series

Meet Socorro Ramos, The Matriarch Of The Oldest And Largest Bookstore Chain In Philippines

Work hard, very hard. There is no express elevator to success – you have to climb the stairs.

These are the very words of Socorro Ramos, who is affectionately known as “Nanay Coring” by her close ones. Already in her 90s, Socorro built the largest and the oldest bookstore chain in the country with her husband José Ramos.

She has never taken a single vacation in her life, but she still remains passionate and energetic despite her old age.

Humble Beginnings

Image Credit: kikaysikat.com

But the road to success with her husband is not an easy one.

They had to rebuild their business three times from scratch, but it did not deter them from pursuing their dream of running a successful bookstore.  

Socorro was born in a family of entrepreneurs. Her parents sold everything from clothes to slippers, and her grandmother owned a stall in the market.

But life was hard in the province back then, so she and her family decided to move to Manila. Young Socorro got a job peeling the paper of old cigarettes to be reused again; and was paid 5 centavos for finishing a pack.

And even at a very young age, she possessed an entrepreneurial spirit. She would hire children in the neighbourhood and pay them 5 centavos for every 2 packs they finish peeling.

In her teenage years, she worked as a salesgirl at Goodwill Bookstore, owned by her husband’s family. After marriage, the couple managed their own branch in Escolta, which was eventually renamed as The National Bookstore.

Remaining Resilient in Tough Times

Image Credit: pinmig.com

But the entrepreneurial journey definitely wasn’t smooth-sailing, and they did face challenges and adversities along the way.

During the Japanese occupation, they had to reexamine the book titles they were selling because if the books were found to be questionable, their store would risk getting torn down. 

As such, the couple resorted to selling other items such as cigarettes, paper, slippers and soap during the war to keep the business alive.

When the Americans took over the country, Escolta was heavily damaged but they managed to pull through by selling greeting cards and books that they have hidden in their house.

Post-war, the couple relocated to Avenida. It proved to be a good move because there, their business flourished. But it was rather short-lived. 

In fact, three years after relocating, a typhoon blew the roof of their bookstore, soaking all their books and school supplies.

Restarting a business for the third time was hard, as they struggled to make ends meet. But with every cent to their name, they eventually bought a lot where the Rizal Avenue Branch was built. And that branch still stands strong today.

From Hardworking Shop Girl to Successful Entrepreneur

Image Credit: yellow-pages.ph

Currently, National Bookstore is named one of the leading bookstore chains in the country.

It has also diversified its business with the establishment of NBS Express, a department store named Crossing, and music stores like Tower Records and Music One.

They have also opened another bookshop under its name called Powerbooks, as well as publishing companies like Cacho-Hermanos printing, Anvil Books, and Capitol-Atlas Publishing. 

Image Credit: daphne.ph

Socorro Ramos’ resilience is clear to see and her will to overcome adversity has continued to inspire many. In 2005, she was even named as Ernst and Young’s Philippine Entrepreneur of the Year.

She has worked her way up from being a mere sales girl to becoming one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the country. We indeed have a lot to learn from her. 

Featured Image Credit: Philippine Primer

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