Most of us would never get far with PHP 1,500.
At most, it can only amount to three IMAX tickets, two Aeropostale t-shirts, or maybe a ribeye steak dinner. That’s about it.
But for 23-year-old Nol Montalbo M.D., this sum of money led him to founding his own peso spa and massage business, which have raked in millions of earnings.
The medicine graduate from Batangas City owns Mont Albo Wellness Corp., a 56-branch strong chain of massage centres scattered across the country.
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And it all started with a PHP 1,500 loan in exchange for his watch.
A Rough Start
Nol Montalbo graduated in 2006 from UP Manila, but his commencement couldn’t have come at the worst time possible.
His family had just lost everything then because their business and investments collapsed. His father is a retiree, and his mother relied on baking and selling cookies to make ends meet.
They even had to resort to selling their house for a humbler dwelling.
As the eldest of four children, Montalbo figured that the responsibility of his family’s livelihood rests on his shoulders.
He didn’t have much money on himself, so with his designer watch – which he claims is his most prized possession – he wanted to ‘buy’ his family a good future in exchange for it.
His Turning Point
Using his watch as collateral, Montalbo took a Php1,500 loan from a friend.
With that money, he wanted to set up a business selling handmade soap, which was trending at that point of time. So he ventured into a small soap-making enterprise and tried selling them online.
It seemed like a very bad idea initially. He would stay at computer shops till dawn trying to obtain customers, and once he did, he will end up getting scammed, earning nothing.
Other times, people will pay for his goods, but it still was not enough to sustain the business. He would often end up walking several kilometres to save on transportation money so he could have enough for his meal.
His big break came when a buyer ordered 70,000 pieces of his products to be used as a giveaway.
He gained confidence from this and borrowed another PHP80,000 to invest in more materials and a larger-scale equipment. He also roped in his family members and a couple of neighbours to help him meet the huge order demand.
From this bulk order alone, he earned a whopping PHP 100,000 in profit.
A Bigger Endeavour
Although the business was finally raking in profits, Montalbo did not want to stay in the soap business forever. He had bigger dreams that he wanted to achieve.
With the rise of spas and massage centres emerging in Manila back then, he figured that he could leverage on this business opportunity so he decided to jump in on the spa bandwagon.
But he did not just do it blindly. He knows that he needed to differentiate himself so as to stand out from the crowd, otherwise he will just be another forgettable copycat.
He did not want to just follow suit and offer the typical Swedish, Shiatsu and Thai massages.
Having spent his younger years in the rustic province of Batangas, Montalbo was exposed to “hilot”, an ancient Filipino art of healing through manipulation, massage, and kneading of body parts.
Seeing that this would provide him a unique selling point as well as make massage more accessible and intimate with Filipinos, he decided to set it in motion.
The Growth Of Mont Albo
He didn’t want to waste time else it might lead to a missed opportunity.
He religiously attended seminars, read up books on the subject to widen his knowledge, as well as studied other types of massages in other institutions.
By 2007, he was finally ready.
Using profits from his soap business, he rented an old two-storey apartment in Washington Street, Makati City. He converted the first floor into a massage centre, which is his very first Mont Albo Massage Hut.
The second floor on the other hand, is occupied by him and his family, as well as his therapists.
Business took off from the get-go, and profit from this venture was strong and steady. But Montalbo knows that one massage centre is not enough.
Through prudent money management, he was able to open another three branches in a span of just three years.
But Montalbo understands that he cannot grow his enterprise alone. He needed others to invest his brand so he can expand his company and bring his unique service to Filipinos across the country.
Franchising, was the next logical step.
His franchisee was an OFW from Japan, and he opened his first franchise in 2010 at Park Square, Makati City. He understands that this move is very crucial as the success of the first franchise will determine if more people will be willing to invest money in his company.
Fortunately, business prospered and he opened more franchises in the following few years. He also expanded his brand to cater to other sectors of the market.
In 2014, Mont Albo was granted the Superbrand Award, and Montalbo himself was awarded the Mansmith Young Market Masters Award for Entrepreneurship.
Last year, he was also named one of the distinguished alumni of UP Los Baños. On top of that, he was also bestowed with the prestigious Injap Sia Outstanding Young Entrepreneur Award.
Currently, Montalbo is planning to bring “hilot” overseas, and elevate this Filipino art of healing to be on the same level as Thai and Swedish massage.
With enough focus and perseverance, he trusts that his goal is within reach.
Featured Image Credit: http://www.josiahgo.com