A risk-taker at 25

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In Photo: Bert Bravo

If one is to list adjectives describing today’s millennials, “daring” would almost certainly be in the top 10. Think pieces and opinion articles extol millennials’ adventurous, reach-for-the-moon approach to life and work as the fuel that drives them to succeed.

A generation before them, however, there were businessmen, like U-Bix Corp. Head Edilberto “Bert” Bravo, who embodied these virtues.

At 25, fresh off of hurdling the bar exams,Bert Bravo, was a practicing lawyer at the Ponce Enrile, Siguion Reyna, Montecillo, Bello Law Office. His stint in the law firm was short-lived, as a major financial institution, Citibank, offered Bravo a sought-after spot in its executive training program.

Already in a cushy position in an international bank and already well-compensated at the outset, Bravo decided to do something surprising: He left the company and ventured into his own business of providing office supply.

“What led me to staring my own business is not to make money, already reasonably well-paid as a Citibank executive—it’s freedom that convinced me to be on my own. My feeling is, if you really want to be free, you should put up with your own business so you decide what to do with your life,” Bravo mused.

The sale and distribution of office and production printing machines, started in 1974, was the first venture of Bravo. He later on expanded this to include supply of office furniture, then to the supply of maintenance services into facilities with office functions.

“Being a lawyer, I was familiar with books and office materials. In the practice of law, those were the most important tools, there were no computers then, and we typed all of our pleadings. Having been a lawyer and a part of Citibank, I thought I can make a go of running a small bookstore and office-supply business,” Bravo said.

U-bix Corp.’s business activities have diversified since Bravo founded it in 1974, along with lawyer Enrique Belo. The corporation has the US franchise agreements for Service Master (provider of facilities maintenance and janitorial services), Terminix (provider of termite-and pest-control services) and Merry Maids (provider of home -cleaning services).

To augment its core business of office supply printing solutions and furnishings, the company also acquired the Kodak Imaging Center unit of Kodak Philippines, securing its spot as a the top integrated office systems provider.

U-Bix Corp. is regarded as one of the top 1,000 corporations in the country. The average haul of its oldest unit is P1.2 billion annually.

Bravo recently celebrated his 80th birthday, but he is not yet done taking risks. He has recently ventured into leisure real-estate development, which is regarded as a sunrise industry in the Philippines. What started as a modest development of a golf-course clubhouse in Sibulan, Negros Oriental, back in 1996, has now expanded into a hotel and resort with 78 rooms.

The Bravo Hotel in Dumaguete City opened last November and will add to Bravo’s growing portfolio of leisure developments, which include the Munting Paraiso Resort in Dauin and the Blue Wave in Siquijor.

Another five, or possibly six, new leisure developments are in the offing for the next two years—a combination of leased assets and greenfield projects.

“I’m tyring to both build and acquire. Blue Wave is under lease for 25 years, and I’m talking to two others that may also lease. In addition, I have a Japanese and Filipino architect designing two to three hotels in the next three years,” Bravo mentioned.

The next frontier for intrepid businessman is in retirement developments and into residential still in Dumaguete.

“I’m currently talking to two or three investors, we’re planning to develop condominiums and retirement homes in Dumaguete,” the businessman remarked, declining to name the potential coinvestors.