Street Vendor Turned ‘Juice King’ Alfredo Yao is the First Filipino ABA Awardee

“Credibility is built, not given. Respect is earned, not bought” – Alfredo Yao

Alfredo Yao is undoubtedly a self-made man. After the death of his father when he was only 12 years old, Yao stepped up and became the breadwinner for his mother and six siblings. In the video above, Yao tearfully shares of his personal sacrifices such as sleeping in sidewalks as a street vendor or being the only one who didn’t get to finish school. But the tears were not from shame or sadness — they come from a place only one who has managed to overcome vast adversity in their life, knows. From a roughing it out as a street vendor, Yao is known today as the man who built the widely regarded Zest-o Corporation and an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs across the ASEAN.

Yao was featured in Go Negosyo’s first edition of Joey Concepcion’s 50 Inspiring Entrepreneurial Stories. There he shared that entrepreneurship is a great equalizer because the entrepreneurial spirit cannot be bought or inherited “You learn it. I don’t think it’s inborn. They consider me a Tsinoy but I consider myself a Filipino. I was born in the Philippines and studied here. The Chinese have a good side and so do the Filipinos. Ang napuna ko lang sa Pilipino, sasabihan nila sa’yo, ‘pag bata ka pa, mag-aral ka nang mabuti para padating ng araw, makapagtrabaho ka ng maigi.’ Yun na ang ultimate goal. We should instill in children’s mind na dapat huwag makuntento na maging empleyado na lang. Kahit sa bangketa yan, sariling hanapbuhay yan. At the end of the day, it’s fate. Kanya-kanyang linya sa buhay.”

It’s no wonder that Yao was the first Filipino, and first ASEAN entrepreneur, to win the Most Admired ASEAN Enterprise in Innovation Award during the ASEAN Business Awards initial run back in 2007. Innovation is truly not something one can simply buy into. In fact, it takes an enterprising and humble spirit to lead innovation that is lasting and relevant.

Yao’s Zest-o Corporation, for example, was bred from an unrelenting passion to make something out of nothing. The beverage industry leader is known for being the first to bring the tetrapack technology to the Philippines. In fact, the story behind Zest-o was that Yao brought in tetrapacks (a.k.a. doypacks) to sell them to existing beverage companies as a new way to package their products. When no one showed interest, Yao decided to develop his own juice formula to package in tetrapacks and the rest is history.

This knack for innovation and resilient spirit is truly what makes Alfredo Yao admirable. While most established and traditional business are buckling in the face of technology disruptions and changing economic tides, Yao is largely unfazed. In his eyes, innovation, disruption and persistency is what got him far and he only wishes that more and more enterprises will be able to rise from meager circumstances to become beacons of hope.

“I started this business with just 3,000 pesos — and I’m not ashamed of that. If you want know how poor I was… look for the 10 poorest in a room of people, I was probably one of those 10. So, don’t lose hope.”

True enough, Yao at the helm of the three decades old corporation, still continues to dream big for the company. In a feature in Entrepreneur Philippines Magazine back in July 2015, he shared that “We [Zest-O Corp.] still continue to improve our products, our facilities, our technology so that we can serve our customers better. I still dream of seeing Zest-O as a big global brand. I never stop dreaming. Libre naman.”

Since its establishment by ASEAN Leaders in 2003, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) has been active in promoting public-private sector partnership and consultation to assist the integration of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2017. In its efforts to bridge ASEAN Governments with its private sectors, the Council launched the ASEAN Business Awards (ABA) in 2007 to give recognition to enterprises that have contributed to the growth and prosperity of the ASEAN economy.

Join this year’s ASEAN Business Awards! Application Period: March 15 – June 30, 2017. For more information about ABA 2017, please visit

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