Academy for Creating Enterprise, Academy for Creating Enterprise
Ronald Aban is a graduate of the Academy for Creating Enterprise.

MANILA, Philippines — Imagine your family is so poor that four siblings die because your parents can't afford medical care. Then your father abandons the family for a time. The seven remaining children survive because your mother knows how to make and sell dresses.

Welcome to the childhood of Ronald Aban.

Fortunately for his wife and four children, circumstances have dramatically improved thanks to hard work, sacrifice and his attendance at a entrepreneurial school designed to assist young adults break the bonds of poverty.

Roughly 10 years ago at age 22, Aban was a returned missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a newlywed. The ambitious Filipino was working his way through school when he got his hands on an application for the newly organized Academy for Creating Enterprise. ACE is an organization that teaches returned missionaries to break patterns of poverty by developing entrepreneurial skills. He was accepted into the first class of 27 students.

"I realized my circumstance would make it difficult for me to provide for a family, and starting a business appealed to me," Aban wrote in an e-mail. "I never thought I could make it in business, but knowing that successful people would come to my country, to teach their knowledge about business to returned missionaries like me, gave me hope."

Aban's experience was everything he hoped for and more. He developed a business plan for a franchise company that sells cell phones, gadgets and other accessories.

But building a successful business didn't come without its challenges. One of the biggest challenges in the Philippines is the lack of enforcement on contracts and government laws. Piracy is common and those caught escape by bribing government officials, Aban said. Using the business principles gained in his ACE education, Aban overcame. Sacrifices he made included going without salary for many months and living on other sources of income, relocating his family, being away from his family for long periods of time, numerous sleepless nights, skipping meals and missing important family gatherings.

But it was all worth it, the 32-year-old said. His efforts have opened many doors of opportunity, and he calls the Academy for Creating Enterprise "a blessing from God." He also credits founders Stephen W. and Bette Gibson. "He is one of our greatest success stories," Stephen said.

"I have been able to provide for my family," Aban said. "I have gained a better vision of the future of my family. I have developed many skills that help me each day as I manage our business, my family and church callings. I have broadened my network and gained so many friends. I have the opportunity to hire people and make a difference in their lives. I think I am a better church leader and father than I would be otherwise. I am excited each day of my life despite all the pressures and challenges around me."