These men are ‘on grass’

Believing the old adage that ‘health is wealth,’ these entrepreneurs show that with the right product and foresight, multi-level marketing can uplift lives.

Santé International distributors Jonathan Ledesma and Gabby Silaga are quick to explain how MLM can still be a good thing despite the controversies tainting the industry.

“Normally, MLM companies have bad connotation,” laments Ledesma. “There are a lot of MLM companies but their life spans are very short.” He cites poor systems and unmarketable products as the major reasons for this.

But for this 40-year-old entrepreneur, what attracted him to quit his corporate life three years ago to join Santé was its vision and products. The company manufactures and distributes organic wellness products made of barley—from juice, coffee, capsules to soap.

“Who would have thought that you can come up with those kinds of products from grass?” Ledesma remarks, claiming that the money he earns from “selling grass” is thrice the amount he gets from his previous jobs. He was a business development officer, an area sales manager, corporate account manager and sales marketing manager in the past. Now he is the country franchisee of Santé, focusing on the network development of distributors.

Silaga, meanwhile, is not a newbie in network marketing. He started his career in sales, selling health and educational books. Eventually, he was drawn to Santé’s uniqueness and passion for excellence.

The parents of this Davao-based entrepreneur died when he was only 11, leaving him responsible for his siblings. He says he already knew that selling would be his stepping stone to success. “I was in a survival state so it was inculcated that I needed to work hard. I saw that being in sales would be a good opportunity for me. In a corporate setup, the hierarchy is there. Aantayin mo pa na mawala yung matatanda. Sa networking wala yun, kung magpursige ka talaga, uunlad ka (You would have to wait for your turn. In networking, if you persevere, you will prosper),” he shares.

Inspiration From Grass

Scientifically known as Hordeum vulgare, barley is a grain plant from the family of grass similar to wheat, cereal, corn and rice. Barley was a primary source of food of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Hebrews during ancient times.

Santé International was incorporated in 2008 by three Filipino professionals who all have experienced working in an MLM set-up. On the company website, Santé CEO Jesus Joey T. Marcelo says they want to “provide our customers and stakeholders with products that will enhance their well-being. This means products that have no synthetic and harmful ingredients; products that use fully-tested organic materials.” He adds, “True leadership and accomplishment entail helping others achieve their own hopes and aspirations. Seeing distributors and customers reach their goals is the mission that drives us to constantly enhance our service and operations.”

Marcelo believes that a local company like Santé can produce world-class products. Ledesma agrees: “If you have a good product to start with, the business will follow.” Santé has 30,000 distributors nationwide at present.

Silaga says Santé’s business model is “designed for everyone,” adding that the company empowers its distributors to feel good about themselves. They have trainings that inspire distributors to be better individuals. “The trainings transform us to reach for excellence,” he says. He relates: “May panadero kami—taga-bukid na naglalako ng tinapay. Pero napaka-passionate niya na ngayon iba na ang aura nya. May bahay at kotse na siya (We have a distributor who used to live in the boondocks, selling bread. But he was so passionate that he now exudes a different aura. He has a house and a car now).”

Ledesma and Silaga believe that giving people the chance to excel in life is what separates Santé from other MLM companies. “If you are being trained, you will have more reasons to stay in a company,” Silaga says.

Investing In Health

Santé sources its barley from New Zealand, which Silaga says is the most suitable place for the plant to grow. The 80-hectare land produces all the grass that Santé packages here with the help of a local pharmaceutical company.

Barley products are not an easy sell. Ledesma says, “Noong una, pinagtatawanan kami. Pero nung lumabas na yung mga testimony, biglang tinanggap na (People used to laugh at us, but when the testimonies came, barley was suddenly widely accepted).”

Barley, being grass, turns off a lot of first-time users. But Saliga says this is where the power of salesmanship comes in. “Sante doesn’t compromise the health benefits in exchange for taste so we have to educate our buyers that this is how barley really tastes,” he explains. He also encourages his customers to be honest with him. “I tell them to inform me if the products didn’t do them good,” he says. Often, buyers end up liking the products very much that they become distributors as well.

With an annual growth rate of 60 percent, Ledesma says Santé is aiming to reach out to more Filipinos abroad. They are setting up an office in Singapore and will launch their line of body and bath products next year. Not bad for a business that started with grass.