Spotlight’s On

Life After NLEX: Thinking Big with Small Businesses

by Khate Sabado

Sometime in March, our coworkers from Toll Operations experienced bittersweet milestones. The EOJ (end of job) that had been pending since November 2020 was finally happening. After so many years of dedicated service to our road users and to NLEX, it was time for them to move on to the next chapters in their lives.  But as journalist Jeannette Walls said, “When God closes the door, he opens a window, but it’s up to you to find it.” True enough, our highly esteemed colleagues are thriving in their lives after NLEX.

MARIA CRISTINA MARTIN. She used to be the toll supervisor of Cluster 2 and had been with TMC/NLEX for more than 16 years. These days, she runs her own business called Carwash with Bumble Tea at 21 DRT Highway in Barangay Tarcan, Baliuag, Bulacan. Prior to this, she already set up her milk tea business right in the comfort of her home in Guiguinto, Bulacan. But when she received her payout, she had a chance to start another business. She came up with the idea of setting up a car wash business with a twist. Her idea was while clients are waiting for their vehicles to be washed and cleaned, they can enjoy drinks from a wide selection of Bumble Tea’s classic, premium, or fruit teas. When the business started, there were times when no clients came. Then, after several days, people started to show up.  Now, Tina is making plans of putting up another branch as soon as she achieves the complete return of investment on her latest venture. She offers this advice to other upcoming entrepreneurs:  “Kung ano sa tingin mong mabenta kahit pandemic ‘yun ang piliin mo.  Napaka-importante ang location.  Aralin mong mabuti ang business.  Higit sa lahat dapat may passion ka para sa business mo para sulit ang efforts!””

MARICAR CARABALLOS.  A former senior toll teller of Cluster 1 who has been with the company for 16 years, she is now the proud owner and chief baker of The Bakerist, an online bakeshop famous for delectable banana cakes and other pastries. It was her 17-year-old son who convinced her to start the business. He pointed out that her homemade banana cakes were far better than what he had ordered online. They started with a very minimal amount of capital for ingredients. Since the business was the brainchild of her son, he was the one who sold to his classmates and friends.  On the side, she also offered her pastries to her co-workers. Soon enough, her HRM skills and that of her husband’s had put the business into action. Running the business also became a family bonding activity. She expressed her joy over being able to retire early, saying, “Pina-enjoy sa amin ang aming pabaon kaya we need to spend it wisely for the future.  Hindi rason ang pandemic para hindi kumilos. Dapat laban lang lagi sa buhay.”

JACEN & RONA NAVALES. The husband and wife were both fulltime toll tellers of Cluster 3 for 9 years when they decided to start One More Cup, a food stall serving milk and fruit teas and takoyaki. The stall was part of Pampanga Bazaar, which is located at the back of Saviour’s Bank in Angeles City, Pampanga. It is their first ever business venture. They were inspired to do this because Rona was so into milk tea. Since it was a business franchise, selling takoyaki was an add-on they willingly took on. Their advantage was the crowd in the marketplace. Jacen enthusiastically delivered orders to fellow vendors in the market area. While the pandemic made doing business more challenging, the couple managed to keep it going. They just kept thinking that they should strive hard and push hard for better results.

RYAN DUALLO. He worked as a fulltime toll teller in Cluster 1 for 10 years. Aside from being a gym buff, he is now owner of the Shawarmine, a food cart offering take-out and food delivery service of shawarma and nachos at No. 36-D Bonifacio Street in Canumay, Valenzuela City. He recalled that in 2020 he was worried about what might happen if he lost his job. He braced himself for it because the COVID-19 pandemic had forced many companies to downsize. However, when he was offered a generous severance pay from NLEX, he took it and embraced the business idea proposed by a friend. Much to his surprise, just one week after its opening, the business was already doing well. He came up with the business name, which is a combination of the words “shawarma” and “mine,” denoting his ownership of the business. He has this advice for those who are thinking of starting their own business: “Gawin n’yo lang ang naisip n’yong business. Kung anong gusto n’yong gawin, ‘yun ang i-pursue nyo.”

CARMELA VELASCO. She used to work as a Toll Supervisor and COC/Admin of Cluster 1, and she is now the owner of North Lavandera Exprezz. The self-service laundry shop is also popularly known as the NLEX Laundry Station. It is located at the Belpachi Resort and Event Center in St. Francis Subdivision in Barangay Pandayan, Meycauayan, Bulacan. Carmela revealed that she wanted to remember her 16 years at NLEX with her laundry shop’s name. After all, she considered NLEX her second home. Carmela’s decision to put up this kind of business was considered a leap of faith since her kids are still young. So, taking care of them while running the business was going to be challenging. But Carmela is clearly up for the challenge. Prayers and hard work fuel her success.  

JANETTE MONROYO. She was a former toll supervisor/verifier of Cluster 1 and now sells and distributes the ever famous homemade Netong’s Shanghai Rolls. It can be bought packed and frozen or you can try out their shanghai rice when you come and visit their place along Malhacan, Meycauayan, Bulacan. She came up with this business idea through the support of her family and friends. She believes that it is never too late to make a change that is why her transition to becoming a business owner was smooth and seamless. She quips: “Planning is vital. Never miss out on the small details. Believe in yourself. Stay positive. Keep on learning new things. Don’t lose faith. Stay focused and be goal-oriented.”

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