MJ Loleng is not your average 26-year-old. That’s because unlike most of her peers, she’s earning six-digit figures monthly.
Just like her peers, MJ applied for a job after graduating from college. But when the start-up she was working at failed, she felt in her heart that she needed to take matters into her own hands.
“That’s when I decided, why not run my own company na lang?” she thought to herself. “Why not build a community na will deal sa environment and sustainability? Para maiwasan yung pagpuputol ng puno, inimbento namin yung mas sustainable na charcoal.”
At 22 years old, MJ founded Ecobriqs, which produces and sells coconut charcoal briquettes made out of coconut shell waste. Although she had zero capital, she set up the company through investors who believed in her vision of every Filipino family using charcoal briquettes to cook food.
“Nag-source kami ng mga farmers who will sell [to] us yung charcoal powder,” MJ tells OG team. “This charcoal powder we convert into briquettes. Si briquettes kasi is a clean energy charcoal.”
Because of her humble beginnings, MJ was also inspired to help provide employment opportunities to those below the poverty line.
“Naranasan kong maging mahirap so alam ko yung feeling kaya mas gusto ko pang makatulong sa mas mahirap pa,” she says.
With the continuous popularity of samgyeopsal or Korean barbecue restaurants, Ecobriqs struck gold. Because its charcoal briquettes are smokeless, odorless, and reusable, these food establishments easily became regular customers of Ecobriqs.
A new lightbulb moment
All that changed when the pandemic happened. When restaurants started to shut down because of the lockdowns, Ecobriqs had to cease operations for half a year. Not one to back down from a challenge, MJ founded Umma’s Samgyup Café, a samgyeop-to-go business that MJ started in Victoria, Laguna with her friends from high school.
“Ang kapital lang do’n is P5,000,” MJ shares. “That P5,000, lumaki siya ng lumaki. Kasi hindi namin in-expect din na maraming bibili sa province kasi ‘di naman masyadong kilala dito yung samgyeop.“
Using their earnings from selling kimchi, MJ and her business partners expanded the business. After one year, Umma’s Samgyup Café has expanded its physical restaurant to include a bigger dine-in area. MJ’s goal is to open more branches and create more job opportunities.
Learning everything from scratch
On average, MJ earns six figures monthly, something she attributes not just to her two businesses, but to learning stock trading as well. From a small investment of P10,000, she has eventually grown her portfolio to P100,000 worth.
Of course, MJ stresses that she had to learn the ropes on her own in the beginning. She also wants to prove that poverty should not be an excuse to give up on one’s dreams.
“Hangga’t may pagpupursigi ka and if you’re persistent, anything that you want to do and your dreams in life, kaya mong i-achieve basta maniniwala ka lang sa kakayahan mo,” she says.
“You have to do everything that you can. You have to study. Hindi ka puwedeng tamarin kasi may pangarap ka.”
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