Case study: Should you compromise on principles in order to grow?
Marjorie Rodriguez heard her name called and moved toward the stage of the Hilton Bangkok ballroom. She had received awards for her advocacy work for the LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines before, but this was the first time she’d been recognized for Zevoron, the business she’d started three years earlier with the goal of providing jobs for transgender people in Manila and throughout her home country.
Zevoron manufactured and distributed polvoron, a soft, crumbly shortbread made of flour, sugar, milk, and nuts, popular in the Philippines. The company name came from a combination of “ze” — a gender-neutral pronoun — and “polvoron”. What set the company apart, and the reason for the award, was that all its marketing and sales staffers were transgender. This unique positioning had struck a chord with customers and helped Marjorie to create a profitable business in a short period of time.
Joining her at the ceremony was Oscar Santo Domingo, Zevoron’s CEO, a veteran of the food industry and an operational expert, whom Marjorie had brought on soon after founding the company. Although this was her passion project, she couldn’t dedicate 100% of her time to it, given her other commitments.
Marjorie’s origin story was familiar to many in the Filipino LGBTQ+ community. She was from a conservative family that shunned her when she came out as transgender. She left home and moved to Manila, where she started her professional life as a photographer’s assistant. After paying her own way through the University of the Philippines, she began acting in films, and the visibility gave her a platform for advocacy. In 2018 she partnered with Vivienne Cru, the first openly transgender member of the Congress of the Philippines, to publish a report on the state of transgender rights in their country. The findings prompted Marjorie to focus on employment issues: because of widespread discrimination, many in her community struggled to get hired or to keep their jobs.