DUBAI: Nems Sembrano, a young mother of two, drives either an Armada or a Lexus, when shuttling between her numerous offices and shops in Dubai—a far cry from dusty road trips she used to make via jeepneys, buses or tricycles back in the town where she grew up, the factory-filled Valenzuela City.
She shops at luxury retail outlets, lives conveniently in a spacious house, dines at fine restaurants and travel overseas for vacation. Indeed, she’s living the life most overseas Filipino workers dream of.
In the Philippines, she owns 16 units of apartment in Valenzuela City; two lots in Bulacan province; a condominium in Makati City, and; a 200-sq. meter property in the exclusive Lakeshore, an enclave of residences for the rich and famous like past presidents, movie stars and big time business people.
And in case of death, she will not only leave her children with her enormous real estate assets but also millions in cash from her life insurance policy.
For now, Nems’ hunt for more property acquisition continues as she earns more from her businesses, including her latest project Eurolife International, which distributes organic health and beauty products.
RAGS TO RICHES
But 12 years ago, she was just like millions of other expats who could barely make ends meet. She came in Dubai in 2003 to work as a saleslady for Eros Electronics selling Samsung TV and paid Dh1,500 a month.
During her free time, she even worked as a cleaner for an executive and paid Dh400 for three hours of dusting and cleaning every week—extra money that she sends home for her mother, father and siblings.
The caring daughter who managed to earn a degree in civil engineering through a combination of scholarship and her entrepreneurial spirit selling all sorts of goods from Divisoria to college students at the campus has really come a long way through her uncanny ability to build businesses.
“I love numbers,” said Nems who is obviously good at math and business and managing resources for growth.
“I am selling everything. Sa Adamson kilala ako as the Divisoria Queen. It’s not because I am a scholar. Nagkataon nagkapwesto kasi ako…student assistant ako sa student affairs so lahat ng may case lalapitan nila ako, at the same time sa reception din ako ng information desk. I have met a lot of people,” added Nems who recalled the time when she had to sell anything at the campus to get money for her living expenses as a student.
Her luck dramatically changed in 2005 when she became an agent for a travel agency. She was the topnotch sales executive in selling visa and tour packages. She eventually became the operations manager at Dana Express Travels and later its industrial partner as well as at Falcon Crest Tourism.
Through hard work, Nems saved more than enough to finance her first business in 2008—a salon—with long-time friend and business partner Gina Flores. Their business partnership blossomed into at least eight more projects, including being a supplier for du.
“Gumigising ako ng 6 am and I go home 11 or 12 pm. I sleep at 2 am kailangan ko pang yakapin mga anak at maglaro pa kami (I wake up at 6 am. I go home at 11 or 12 pm. I sleep at 2 am. I still need to hug and play with my kids,” she said.
DRIVEN TO SUCCEED
Coming from a poor family, Nems said she has always been driven to succeed. Failure was not option. Her father was just an ordinary laborer and her mother a plain housewife. There were times when they would not have good meals, surviving only with rice and fish sauce.
But she knew their downtrodden life wasn’t forever for their good natured parents raised them to believe in their intellect and their capabilities to change their lives with education.
Her childhood memories include putting up an PhP8 capital selling mangoes that eventually grew to PhP800.
That inspiration drove her to continue doing smalltime buy and sell business that she carried through in her adult life.
“I will always remember this. I sold mangoes with a capital of PhP8 and it grew to PhP800 within two months. I love 8. My favorite number is 8,” recalled Nems about her stint as a child selling chopped mangoes in their neighborhood.
Now with at least eight businesses she put up herself, Nems said she has her family to thank for and the difficulties they experienced as urban poor in Metro Manila.
“I have a good family, yung upbringing ng mga magulang ko, kasi mahirap lang kami, hindi ka pwedeng hindi nagsisimba so nakakatuwa (I have a good family. Because we are poor, my parents brought us up to have faith in God. We have to go to church regularly),” she said.
Her business mantra, know what’s in demand in the market and sell.
And for those who want to become an entrepreneur like her, Nems said you must have the guts to take the risk.
“Don’t be afraid to take the risk, especially if the money they are using is not taken from a bank loan, but rather their own savings. When you put up a business, you would want it to grow and give it your best shot,” she said.
At 35 she has accomplished a lot but for Nems the journey continues as far as she can reach.
“There’s a lot of opportunities in Dubai,” she said.