Nova Fossgard, a Pinay who had humble beginnings was born in Tukuran, Zamboanga Del Sur to a fisherman father and stay-at-home mother. Inorder to survive, Nova sells fish at the age of 5.
Nova recals: “You are in the market and you have to shout – fish, fish, bente, bente… Isda, isda, bariles, bariles. Bente, bente.”
“Nangawat ko isda sa auntie ko (I stole fish from my aunt). That’s a secret, but I will tell you. Because I was starving. I had this little girl, I gave it to her and passed it on to the market. This little girl gave me the money and I gave her commission.”
Nova credits early exposure to business and her knack for selling for the success of her family-owned business, a a language college.
Along with her husband Jan who is the principal at Purley Language College in Purley, she manages it as the director.
The opportunity came to them unexpectedly in 2006 when both of them lost their job.
Jan, whom she met in Oxford applied for a job at the college but was instead offered to take over the business as the owners wanted to retire already. The couple faced the new challenges which meant working for 24/7. The college has now more than 3,000 students.
“In the beginning, we borrowed so much money. We remortgaged and it tested us, our relationship, financially and emotionally. It wasn’t easy,” she said.
Jan believes his wife’s business acumen drove the college forward. He said they also complement each other’s personalities.
“She’s got a bubbly, magnetic personality. She is bold enough or confident enough to speak to people in different levels. She enjoys travelling as well, so she can operate in many different countries. She is able to relate to people and negotiate and close the deals,” said Jan.
Nova worked as a domestic helper at first despite finishing a degree in accounting at Southern Mindanao College in 1991.
“I went through as a domestic helper first, cleaning. Even during day off, I worked part-time,” she said.
She was then offered a job by her employer. Fossgard went to England as a companion of her employer’s octogenarian mother.
Nova narrated: “They had a housekeeper, a gardener. I just sat down with her, just to be a companion. I learned so much from her. She educated me a lot: taught me [how] to cook, read a lot of newspapers and books.”
Nova wishes to inspire those who are from the remote areas and provinces to continue reaching their dreams and to never give up. She has this advice for those who often doubt themselves and their abilities: “Don’t be afraid. Follow your instinct. Gawin mo lahat ang gusto mo sa buhay. If you keep holding back with your fear, you think may mangyayari? You have to overcome (your fears). Takbo ka, don’t crawl. Always run.”