A 25-year-old founder and chief executive of three companies with around 200 employees joined the 2020 Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant to promote self-reliance and independence among Filipino women.
“I want to be an inspiration to everyone, to let them know that everything they crave for, hope for and pray for is at their fingertips,” says Alexangela ‘Gila’ Salvador, one of the 40 contestants in this year’s pageant.
Salvador, a five-foot-six stunner, says she moved out of her comfort zone to encourage other women. “I am blessed to be an entrepreneur, so I am used to time pressure and deadlines. The only thing I am not used to is walking on these heels and make up my face every day,” she says in an interview at her own Mad Cafe, a 300-square-meter restaurant in Quezon City.
“Being immersed in the world of business taught me so many things that have helped me grow into the woman I am today—a CEO and president of three corporations that I built from the ground up,” she says.
Salvador runs an interior design and construction company, a chain of restaurants and a realty development company that is building her own hotel in Siargao Island. All companies bear her Mad brand of business.
“Mad, because it has something to do with my mindset and creativity. I notice that my ideas are out of the box and they are like madness or something crazy,” she says.
Her out-of-the-box personality was on full display during the talent competition of the beauty pageant. Instead of singing or dancing, she brought with her construction tools and showed everyone how to use them.
“I was not even planning to join the talent portion. But they said it is an exposure and it will show who you are. What a better way to show who I am than use construction tools,” she says.
“The modern empowered woman is not boxed by what the society or the male gender dictate. The modern woman is someone who knows what she wants and goes after it,” says Salvador.
Her father and role model, architect and entrepreneur Alexander Salvador, supported Gila’s decision to show her skills in using power tools. “I told her that she could join the beauty pageant because it is more on empowering women,” says Alexander.
It is Alexander who prodded Gila to persevere early on. When Gila was in her early teens, Alexander brought her to a slum in Manila and showed her where young couple lived. That proved to be an eye-opener for Gila.
She was taking Information Design, Minor in Management at Ateneo de Manila University when she got hooked on selling notebooks online and promoted them in social media. With a capital of P4,000 that she collected one Christmas, Gila started an online shop called PaperPlanes Manila and with it earned her first million at 18.
“I chose to leave school when I was 17 and start my own business. This leap of faith earned me my first 7-digit income at age 18,” she says.
Gila then bought a P400,000 printer and established a graphic design studio called Graphic Factory for tarpaulin and wallpaper designs. To maximize her investment in the big printer, she also offered room makeovers. A client, impressed by her works, asked her if she could also design a bed and a closet.
“Knowing the person that I am, I said yes to the opportunity. My dad as an architect knew what to do and helped me,” she says.
Gila says this is how her notebook business expanded from notebooks to tarpaulins to wall papers to construction. “From construction, it became restaurant and hotel. It just expanded from there,” she says.
Her companies now include Madhouse Design Studio, Mad Cafe Inc. and Maddev Realty Development Corp. that develops lots into commercial spaces and residences. Soon, Mad Hostel Siargao will open her own hotel in the popular surfing destination.
“I really believe that everything I have gone through is by purpose. With Paperplanes, I learned about social media and how to market digitally. With Graphic Factory, I learned graphic design. With construction, I used my graphic design and digital marketing skills. When I put up a restaurant, I learned how to construct it at less cost. It is like everything culminated in what it is today,” she says.
“I never saw when I was 17 that I would put up companies like these. When I stopped school, I just wanted to focus on selling notebooks. I did not expect it would grow into a construction business,” says Gila.
Gila is reinvesting her money in more business opportunities. She plans to grow her MadCafe chain to five branches this year. She also expects to complete the hostel on a 4,000-square-meter beachfront property in General Luna, Siargao Island next year. “I also plan to grow Mad House Design into a bigger construction company and start a residential project,” she says.
On why she joined Binibining Pilipinas, Gila says her father challenged her to give it a try in December last year. “Along the way, I realize that I wanted it as well. I prayed hard because I am already doing so much. I have to take care of a lot of people. I told myself that if I don’t make it through the screening, it is not for me,” she says.
When Binibining Pilipinas selected her as one of the 40 candidates who qualified through the screening, Gila received messages from hundreds of people through her Youtube and Facebook accounts expressing their support and calling her as an inspiration.
Gila was most moved by a subscriber who admitted that she was depressed but was encouraged by Gila’s videos and stories.
On how she attends the pageant activities and manage her thriving business at the same time, Gila says it is about time management. “It really tests my leadership skills and confidence in my staff if they can do the job. I am just so grateful that I have intelligent and responsible staff. If not for them, I don’t think I would be able to do the pageant activities,” she says.
Gila says joining the pageant also taught her the values of humility, resilience and self-discipline.
“In the world of business, somehow I am not a beginner anymore. But in this pageant, I am a beginner and it makes me humble. They are saying that I don’t know how to walk or how to pose. That is challenging me to become better. The resilience in me and the entrepreneur in me wants to show that I may start weak, but I want to finish strong,” says Gila.
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