Who would’ve thought that a humble pair of tsinelas could be a multi-million peso-making machine? Anne Arcenas-Gonzalez’s stewardship in the Philippines of the Brazilian flip-flop brand Havaianas is proof that a simple idea can go from fad to cult status. “The business is thriving because I am 101% committed to it,” she says. She plunged into the business in 2003, prompted by her husband. But it was only in 2006 when Havaianas proved it was more than a flash in the pan, as her company, Terry S.A. expanded its distribution network to more than 100 points of sale. Today, Filipinos still flock to its stores, and it isn’t uncommon to have not just one, but two or more pairs of Havaianas.
Anne, however, isn’t resting on her laurels. “I feel there is still so much more for me to learn, experience and contribute.” This mother of two girls considers access to education as the greatest challenge that Filipinos face. “Good education is a basic need. Unfortunately, it’s practically a luxury in this country.” Perhaps this is the reason why a major source of her pride as a successful entrepreneur is having nurtured her team. “I am proud to say we have many individuals who started from simple positions and have since been given senior roles and greater responsibility because their efforts do not go unnoticed.” It’s partly because of this team that Anne looks forward to expanding the business. “I also feel a responsibility to the partners and staff that have helped build this company to ensure they have a sense of security and that there is still room for them to grow,” she says. “One’s business is only as good as its people.”
(First published in Marie Claire, November 2008; Photo by Lilen Uy)