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New Jersey: Nicole Jeannette (Colavita) & Geraldine Bernardo

Today we left the formal, air-conditioned office buildings and our high heels behind to join Colavita and emerging leader Geraldine Bernardo from the Philippines for a day on the lake for Dragon Boat racing!

While Colavita as a product (olive oil) is not directly tied to the sporting industry, they are huge supporters of women’s empowerment and sport by sponsoring a women’s cycling team. In an effort to reach out to a broader audience, they brought their product to the competition for taste testings of olive oils from Italy, Spain and California. Geraldine, a former National Athlete for the Philippine Dragon Boat Women’s Team, showed her support not only for her mentor’s company, but for women in sport as well.

Geraldine is a young and vibrant 46-year-old ‘emerging leader.’ In her own words,“I became an athlete at the ripe age of 37 and won my first gold medal at age 39. My sport is dragon boat racing, but I never tried it until I was an adult. When I was a child, I read about the sport and fell in love with it. It wasn’t until my life and career were falling apart because of company lay-offs and corporate lawsuits that I actually pursued my childhood passion.”

“Through sport, I was able to relieve stress in a healthy way. Playing on a team and focusing on a common goal helped me rise above my problems in the business world. Honestly, it saved my sanity.” Geraldine admitted that there was a time in her life that she thought she knew everything because she came from the corporate world, but she found that sports taught her many valuable lessons about life.

Through this experience, Geraldine wants to create a foundation or social enterprise that encourages greater participation in sports for girls and women, especially in rural and conflict regions. Because many families in the Philippines consider sport trivial, Geraldine’s new enterprise needs to be something inherent and appropriate in Filipino culture – and cycling could be that perfect fit.

At Colavita, Geraldine is designing a community-based sports event using cycling. As part of this experience, Geraldine is seeing various marketing strategies in action, including the use of sports to promote a social message. Geraldine has the vision to soar with these ideas and will maintain this partnership well into the future.