“Wellness is a $4.5-trillion business… It is being promoted as the avenue of illness prevention. Now more than ever, people are becoming more aware of the benefits of prevention rather than the cure.”
Ace marketer builds a business on preventing illness
Fortune is found in the most unlikely of places. For Jesus Joey T. Marcelo, chief executive officer of Sante International, it was a multilevel marketing (MLM) company event that inspired him to seek fulfillment as an entrepreneur.
An industrial engineer by profession, Marcelo first worked as a sales engineer at the air-conditioner company Fedders Koppel. There, a colleague convinced him to attend a recruitment exercise for what turned out to be a network marketing company. “I thought it was just a catch-up between friends,” Marcelo recalls. “If I had known that it was network marketing, I wouldn’t have gone.”
But the event proved not entirely a waste of time as he recalled a speaker’s interesting testimony about being able to buy a brand new car with his earnings from the company. “These were ordinary people earning extraordinary income,” Marcelo says. In the end, he bought in as a marketer and juggled this new field and traditional employment, determined to learn all about the MLM business.
The son of an accountant and a mother who was unable to finish college, Marcelo always dreamed of striking out on his own. And since industrial engineering did not exactly pave the way for such ambitions — “Usually, we end up working at manufacturing facilities or banks,” he says — he left Fedders Koppel.
Marcelo then joined a company that sold financial plans, but later folded up. When its leadership decided to establish another outfit, Marcelo was asked to be one of 15 partners. In seven years, this number was whittled down to three. They eventually built Sante International, with Marcelo at the helm.
Before conceiving Sante International, however, Marcelo and his partners struggled to find the right business model. They first sold educational and financial packages under Prudential Life, but quickly realized they needed to sell more consumable products to earn. Then they moved to selling food supplements and green and red iced teas. This eventually failed because of an erroneous compensation plan. “We paid more than we earned,” Marcelo says. They realized the need to find a unique product to promote and attract the market.
That product was barley grass. Marcelo says: “I encouraged my team to study [the product], and we looked at different suppliers from all over. In the end, we sourced our barley from New Zealand, as we had met a supplier from there.” Often dubbed a superfood, the supplement is said to boost weight loss, enhance immunity and support overall health. Sante Barley is the company’s flagship brand.
Sante International distinguishes itself from its competitors through its method of distribution, according to Marcelo. “We got so frustrated with network marketing and decided to do a direct-selling strategy.” It also operates based on the concept of the “four-legged horse”: a stable management team, a product with a unique selling point, a long-term compensation plan and a system of commission payments. “A horse needs four strong legs to cross the finish line,” he says.
Marcelo plays a dual role in the company: CEO and marketer. “I make it a point to be present with our distributors, to talk to them, train them,” he says. “As the CEO, I lead the management team. We have very capable department heads, whom I try to inspire, motivate and empower. I make sure that their tasks are aligned with the mission-vision and core values of the company.”
“When we say we are ‘in pursuit of excellence,’ everything that Sante International does has to have a touch of excellence. When we say ‘celebrate every win,’ then we commend every success along the way. Our purpose is to help people live better lives. Everything we do has to reflect this,” he adds.
Sante International is a people-centric endeavor, according to Marcelo. “We are present in eight countries [among them Singapore, Hong Kong, Nigeria and New Zealand], and so we deal with different nationalities who have different personalities. Not to mention we also have to keep those branches profitable and self-sustaining.”
The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic is just another challenge that Marcelo and his team have to work around, and so far, they seem to be coping well. “Wellness is a $4.5-trillion business,” he says. “It is growing and is here to stay. It is being promoted as the avenue of illness prevention. Now, more than ever, people are becoming more aware of the benefits of prevention rather than the cure.
“Covid-19 just makes this more evident. We’re marketing products that can help people boost their immune systems,” he says.
The engineer-turned-businessman draws his strength from two groups of people. “My goal is to provide not only for my immediate family”— his wife Karen; and their sons Christian, 18; Gabriel, 17; and Johann, 9 — “but also for the second and third generation.” He is driven by those who make up his company stakeholders: employees, partners and distributors. “Their success is my inspiration,” Marcelo says. “They are not only surviving the pandemic, [but also] thriving. If they’re okay, we’re okay.”
Each day, Marcelo focuses on his main priorities: God, family, business, ministry and self, in that order. “I wake at 5:30 a.m., work out from 6 to 8 a.m., read my book, read the Bible, finish by 9:30 or 10 a.m. at the latest. By that time, I start communicating with employees, and in the afternoon, the distributors,” he says. He exercises with his eldest son and goes biking with his second as a way to bond with them.
Before Covid-19, Marcelo enjoyed traveling with his two “families.” “My wife and the kids and I spent Christmas in Prague last year. With Sante, our last trip was a 15-day Alaskan cruise in October,” he says.
With Marcelo’s drive and discipline, the company he always dreamed of leading will continue to provide products to enhance not only people’s well-being, but ultimately, also their quality of life.