When Kitz Barja was a child, he dreamt of becoming a top business executive, a dream shaped in large part by his father’s achievement as board director of a multinational company in the Philippines.
Today, Barja feels he has achieved his dream. Citing perseverance and hard work, Barja has been the general manager for Micronesian Brokers Inc. on Saipan since 2001.
MBI, one of the top wholesalers in the Commonwealth, is a company under the Jones & Guerrero group of companies, which has diverse holdings in the CNMI, Guam, Micronesia, the United States and Australia. Its holdings range from distribution to retail, real estate, and hotel, among others.
A few weeks ago, Jones & Guerrero delegated to Barja the management of its Marianas Fastfood Co., which operates the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Chalan Kanoa. Barja immediately thought of renovating the restaurant to include Tropical Blends Coffee and Ice Cream, which would be launched very soon.
“My dream is to accomplish what my father has accomplished,” Barja said. “Everyday, I want to strive for something else. I can’t be content. There’s a lot that still can be done in my business and personal life.”
His father, according to him, authored various sales materials, including those for Procter and Gamble, which are being used right now even in the United States.
Barja started his career in 1989 as management trainee for Unilever, a multinational company that operates in the Philippines, right after earning degrees in Industrial Management Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Marketing Management. He became the company’s trade sector manager in a span of six months.
After one year of holding the position, one of the top companies in the Philippines, RFM Corp., offered him to join the team as brand manager for its Cosmos Bottling Inc., a softdrink company, in 1991. Later, the mother company promoted him as its national sales and promotion manager for five companies under the RFM group.
In 1994, Barja said he joined another multinational firm, Metro Pacific, which offered him the post of Metro Manila district manager. Later, he handled the national sales administration of the company, which manufactures leading brands of pharmaceutical, health and beauty, and other consumer products.
The rising executive found his way to Saipan when a recruitment agency called him up to offer him the position of sales manager for MBI on Saipan. He assumed that position in 1995, with the promise that he would handle the company’s sales and marketing operation on Guam after one year. MBI made good on its promise and assigned him to Guam, where he held the position from 1996 to 2001.
MBI then assigned Barja as Saipan’s general manager in 2001. Under his management, MBI has maintained sales leadership in various consumer items. MBI carries renowned brands such as FritoLay, Gillette, Hershey’s, Nestle, Clorox, Dial, and Johnson & Johnson, among others.
“To a certain extent, I feel I’m successful, and I’m successful because my people have supported me,” Barja said.
Barja advised the youth to study well and set goals for them to achieve. Hard work and perseverance are traits that lead one to become successful, he said.
“It is not an easy task. There’s a lot you will encounter. You will encounter frustrations and trials, but if you hold on to your dream, you will accomplish what you dream of,” Barja said.
Besides managing Saipan’s MBI for several years now, Barja is overseeing the facelift of the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, which he now additionally manages. The restaurant will soon incorporate the Tropical Blends Coffee and Ice Cream, which would allow coffee lovers to have their coffee and a piece of their favorite chicken, too.