Joji Ilagan Care Center Foundation, Inc.

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Joji Ilagan Care Center Foundation, Inc.

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55 inspiring stories of women entrepreneur










Teaching success



Joji Ilagan-Bian made her mark by starting the highly successful career school bearing her name. She started the Joji Ilagan Career Foundation Inc. on a modest budget of P350,000 in 1982, together with her husband George who helped in expanding the joint undertaking. Though difficult it might be for them to start a rather unconventional business of running a trade school, the 53-year-old DAVAOeña proved that success comes to those who are able to communicate their dreams with passion.


“The Success of the name you build and the quality of your output will be judged by your effort.”


“Education is a non-traditional kind of business because it is not like the business of trading or selling a product or services,” says Joji, a graduate of Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of the Philippines. She adds that she embarked on a teaching mission to impart her passion on career development. She admits the return on investment for this kind of endeavor is rather “low”, but stresses the effort will depend entirely on your track record and reputation. “The Success of the name you build and the quality of your output will be judged by your effort,” Joji says. Twenty-six later, Joji found herself juggling her schedule in running a career school, a welding training center, a fashion school in Mindanao, a pre-school and call center training agency in Manila. She is also a business columnist for a newspaper and a mother of three children. She shuttles weekly to Manila from Davao and is an active member of 24 business organizations in Mindanao and Manila. Despite her busy schedule, she gets the pleasure ofseeing her effort grow. “In my kind of business, you must have the passion to teach,” says Joji.


She says she is not just a business woman who puts up a school, hires teacher and finances the institution. “You have to connect with the students”.


Joji makes it a point for the teachers in her schools to adopt the same passion in imparting their knowledge and skills. “I talk to my teachers, too, because I want them to share my passion in teaching. I want them to look beyond.”


After her successful endeavor in career building in Mindanao, Joji took notice and cashed in on the burgeoning call center business.


She switched into an expansion mode and launched the JIB e-Academy, catering to call center needs. It has now a total of eight call center schools nationwide.


For Joji, dabbling in another business endeavor in Manila is a risk. “We are okay in Mindanao, we made a name but its different here in Manila, its a different ballgame,” she notes.


Joji pioneered the career school in Davao where she used her parents' home strategically located in the city. Upon her graduation from UP, she made it a mission to develop the youth and give them opportunity like their cousins in Manila.


Joji noticed that her students were just interested in learning more to be globally competitive rather that being content of being a laborer or overseas contract worker. This inspired her to expand her school, offering more courses, fine-tuning them to suit the needs of the changing times.


“I offer the best deals and facilities in the Mindanao region”, she says. “Mindanao is such a big market. Besides providing them opportunities, I give them the access to good education.” Joji admits putting up these schools and learning centers is an advocacy to help her fellow Mindanaoans afford quality education and uplift the status of technical-vocational schools in the region.



She wanted to erase the common misconception on people enrolling in technical- vocational schools in the country, especially in Mindanao. After successfully priming Joji Ilagan Career Center, she began a facelift and made it into a foundation, moving up to offer a wide variety of courses. She expanded further to include technical and vocational courses that were traditionally tailored for men. She managed to secure the help of several foreign partners, with Australian teachers, who are willing to help poorer Filipinos in Mindanao alleviate poverty and provide livelihood skills and opportunities. She said her partnership with the Australians in the welding school marked the first time for the vocational sector, and is expected to bring skills to low-income youths in Mindanao to help them out on crushing poverty. Joji also kept tabs on the current trend on overseas employment so she opened the welding school with Australians among its top instructors. She also opened up a health and caregiver school in the region. She became more aggressive upon seeing her students are getting motivated to learn more of the crafts. Offering the best facilities in the region, the school began to grow and expanded to General Santos, Butuan City, Marawi and later to Iloilo City in the Visayas region.While her youngest daughter Nikee was studying at Ateneo de ManilaUniversity, Joji began to wander into securing the niche in Manila. But there seems to be a problem, she admits.


“It's a big challenge in Manila. Because the market is so huge. You have to adopt a different strategy. It's a different ballgame entirely. What may work in Mindanao may not work here”, she says.


Two years after learning the ropes, Joji and George, being the ever-supportive husband, opened up a call center school JIB e-Academy in Libis, Quezon City on Sept. 17, 2007. This expanded later and spread to eight call centers nationwide with 200 sitting capacity at any given day. Joji reveals her plans to open call centers school up north in Pangasinan with Urdaneta City as home base.


Being an educator, Joji wanted english proficiency to start early. She seized the opportunity to secure a franchise with Tumble Tots, Britain's leading pre-school system with over 500 centers worldwide.


She opened up the world-famous educational franchise in Davao City then at Quezon City. Joji is proud of the franchise since it has the distinction of having the biggestTumble Tots School in the Asia-Pacific region.


Joji managed to convince the wealthy and elite to enroll their kids at Tumble Tots. With the help of George, she installed CCTV cameras in strategic places inside the school and outside. “I even invite the parents to view their kids in real time,” she said. Tumble Tots has its own building in Eastwood at Libis, Quezon City where it also houses the calling center school.


Joji admitted enrolling in Tumble Tots and her career schools could be quite expensive, but she justified the move by showing her prospective clients and business partners the facilities her schools has to offer , as well as the quality of teaching.


“I provide the teachers in everything they need, even on computers in wi-fi and all instructions are in Power Point presentations for easy access and learning”, she said. It was the same approach she adopted when she started her career school in Davao. Though initially a small one, Joji made her humble and modest beginning into a successful business endeavor.


“I serve them in a way different from the competition and I was able to do this through quality education. They get their money's worth,” she says. Her business empire is a product of years of distinctive and well-researched concept. Though quite expensive, Joji emphasizes they get their money's worth. The business has proven profitable enough to bankroll other endeavors. This excites her all the more, she admits. At the end of the day she has proven right.


Joji is a living proof that success in the education sector can be achieved by sheer passion and determination to teach.



·         First and foremost, you must have the determination and passion to develop the business.

·         Be always on the lookout for trends and opportunities to capture a niche in market.

·         First impressions last so always try to impress your prospective clients and partners on what you can best offer.

·         Develop relationship with the community; take an active part in socio-economic activities and business organizations.

·         Be aggressive in advertising your business. People will soon notice.

·         Empower your family to make decisions in the business.

·         Embark on a learning journey and take note of the trends abroad.

·         Develop rigid standards and stick to them. The quality of the business depends on it.

·         Protect the name and integrity of your business at all times.

·         Invest heavily on people management. See to it that their needs are fulfilled and updated.