From rice to riches
Eduarda V. Ayo Owner and Manager E.V. Ayo Enterprises Farming has always been a male-dominated industry. That’s why the success story of woman farmer Eduarda V. Ayo is indeed very remarkable. Starting with a five-hectare rice farm in Capuy, Sorsogon in 1975, she was able to expand it to 150 hectares, most of which is devoted to seed production. This made her the largest palay seed grower in the Bicol Region as certified by the Bureau of Plant Industry. But the road to success was not all smooth. It took optimism and perseverance to strike gold from golden rice grains.
Upon graduation in 1975, Ms. Ayo decided to go full-time into farming. Knowing that she had to support her 11 younger siblings upon the death of their father, she took on the challenge of managing the family’s rice farm. This came as no surprise to the family since she had shown an innate interest in farming from an early age and was a keen observer of how their father ran the operation while he was still alive.
“My hands-on exposure started at an early age, assisting my father in drying palay seeds under the extreme heat of the sun. This and other farm activities, molded and refined by my father’s guidance and advice, got me started as an entrepreneur,” she recalls.
She expanded the family business and put up E.V. Ayo Ricemill. To augment the family income, she ventured into allied businesses to include rice, palay and copra trading, fertilizers and pesticides, palay seed growing and hog breeding. Seeing how diverse the business had become, she renamed it E.V. Ayo Enterprises.
By making sound business decisions, she now has 150 hectares of land; 50 hectares is owned by the family and the rest are being leased from other landowners in the adjoining barangays of Capuy. These are all devoted to the production of registered seeds.
However, a chief concern for Ms. Ayo is that Sorsogon is situated along the typhoon belt. Weather disturbances and natural calamities are common occurrences. But she never allows anything to go to waste. Whatever harvested seeds are not bought by her clients are turned into rice grains and sold. This practice is part of her natural optimism amidst business challenges.
In addition, people management proves to be a challenge for Ms. Ayo as she considers her employees the most important resource in business growth. “Managing my employees is the most challenging because I have to deal with them individually. Each has distinct personalities and characteristics. Being honest and sincere to them and listening to them keeps me in harmonious relationship with my employees,” she shares.
During harvest season, she employs a total of 3,000 farmers. On a regular basis, she has eight personnel in her rice mill and trading businesses. Ms. Ayo puts a premium on the welfare of her people. She sees to it that their salaries are given on time. She even extends financial assistance to those in dire need. Some of her loyal employees have been given free housing, water, and electricity.
Mastering the technology behind seed production has earned Ms. Ayo the trust of the government; the Department of Agriculture markets and subsidizes the payment of her certified seeds. Such is her success that she now holds the prestige of being certified as the biggest accredited palay seed grower in Region V by the Bureau of Plant Industry. The accreditation is well-deserved because she is trained on the latest rice production technologies and improved production practices such as the use of balanced fertilization, which is a combination of commercial and organic fertilizer.
She also strongly advocates synchronous planting to prevent infestation and pest population buildup. Ms. Ayo’s plans for the company include the expansion of her hog farm in Batangas supervised by her only son, Aldin. Another 1,500 sow-level breeder in Sorsogon is in the works. She is also planning on starting an integrated farm which will breed goats, cows, and other poultry animals.
Ms. Ayo’s hard work inevitably earned her numerous accolades. She holds the record of being the certified highest producing seed grower in Bicol from 2006 to 2008 as awarded by the Department of Agriculture.
In recognition of her business acumen, she was a finalist in the 2008 Bicolano Businessman of the Year award for the province of Sorsogon, and a recipient of the SME Gabay at Patnubay Award for Landbank’s National Search for 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year. She is also the SME Kayamanan ng Pamayanan awardee, a special citation in recognition of exemplary individuals.
Ms. Ayo’s personal strength and knowledge of the business are vital to the company’s growth and progress through the years. She firmly believes in the value of hard work.
Her advice to fellow entrepreneurs: “Do not be afraid of failures and never dwell on them. Instead, consider failures as stepping stones to success. Also, manage your people by heart. They are the most important resources of your business. Establish a good personal relationship with them. Put yourself in their shoes and do hear what they say.”
In the same light, she encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to be strong and prepared. She imparts, “Study hard and persevere to reach your goal. It is really advantageous to have a related degree as compared to relying on experiences only. Engage in business that is familiar to you and within your resources.” In spite of her successful endeavors, Ms. Ayo remains very simple and modest. She could have opted to live in a mansion but chose to stay at her small house in Capuy, which also doubles as her office, and tend to her garden. That is Eduarda Ayo, the epitome of humility and success.
Sponsors of Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2009 are SAP Philippines, William J. Shaw Foundation, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, and Universal Motors Corporation. The official airline is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, operating on behalf of the Air-France KLM Group in the Philippines. Media sponsors are BusinessWorld and the ABS-CBN News Channel. The winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2009 will be announced on October 15, 2009 in an awards banquet at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2010 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2010. The Entrepreneur Of The Year is produced globally by Ernst & Young. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2009 has concluded its search for the country’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs. It is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc. with the participation of the Department of Trade and Industry, Ateneo Graduate School of Business, Development Bank of the Philippines, Philippine Business for Social Progress, Philippine Stock Exchange and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. In the following days,