Meet Chemist Pinky Tobiano — The Exceptional CEO of Progressive Laboratories and Qualibet Testing Services
Pinky Tobiano talks about managing motherhood while starting a business, her passion for chemistry, driving a six wheeler truck and giving back
Take a look at Pinky Tobiano’s Instagram account and you’ll be surprised to know that this youthful, petite lady has not only survived cancer but has built a successful company — Progressive Laboratories and founded successful businesses such as Qualibet Testing Services and KPP Power Commodities. To call her an overachiever is an understatement — she’s found success in an industry typically dominated by men thanks to the valuable lessons she learned through childhood. Here’s her story…
Pinky Tobiano on motherhood, success and giving back
As the eldest of four children in what Pinky describes as a very traditional Chinese family, the burden of her family’s success in business lay on her shoulders. It was Pinky who took charge of the store after school and on weekends, while her friends enjoyed doing what other kids do. She had little choice — she lived where she worked: the family home was upstairs, while their poultry supply business was downstairs.
But it was through this experience that Pinky developed her business acumen and love for the field of chemistry. “My mom started teaching me the value of hard work when I was only five years old, ” Pinky shares. “She also taught me how to be a good salesperson. Everything I know, I’ve learned from her. She’s really my inspiration.”
And because of her family’s poultry business, Pinky was inspired to study chemistry. “I wanted to make the best medicines for animals,” says Pinky. “I wanted them to live longer — it makes sense because we were selling medicines for animals too. It was my dream to have my own lab one day and make a difference in the agriculture industry.”
A dream come true
Despite Pinky’s parents urging to study business, she convinced them that she would succeed in chemistry. During her senior year in college, she was invited to teach chemistry at ICA, which she considers one of the best experiences of her life. And eventually, she was able to live her dream of having her own laboratory — Progressive Labs — a venture she started after giving birth to her eldest daughter, Pianne. Instead of taking it easy, Pinky threw herself into her career.
Working with a limited budget and in a field typically dominated by males, Pinky had to dig deep and use the ambition, drive and passion she learned from her mother. “When I started, I couldn’t even turn the air conditioning on,” Pinky reveals, “We had to stick to a budget and my staff of three and I had to do everything ourselves: from weighing raw materials to mixing and compounding until the quality control stage, we did everything. I even remember manually counting the tablets and bottling them. After each batch, I would drive our six wheeler truck and deliver the medicines with my two staff.”
A mother’s sacrifice
Although having her own business was exciting, Pinky was a single mother and she knew that she needed to make a choice. To make ends meet, she needed to give up precious time with her children. Late evenings were part of Pinky’s repertoire, and despite her busy schedule, she prioritized her children’s school drop off every morning. It broke her heart to have to explain why she couldn’t be there for yet another school event but she knew that she had to stay strong to keep her business going. “I was lucky to have two sisters — Vicky and Jinky — who helped me out. I couldn’t have done it without their help,” Pinky says.
Although her two daughters, Pianne and Karrel, have grown up and have become successful in their own ways, she’s proud of how grounded and level headed they are despite not being able to be there for them. “I’d sacrifice my own comfort just to know they are both okay.” says Pinky.
How trauma inspired her to do good
In 2003, Pinky Tobiano was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She was rushing to the airport for a business trip to China when she slipped on her the stairs and hit her head. After being taken to the hospital and given a scan, they found two cancerous lumps in her throat. Two years later, Pinky was declared cancer free and it was this pivotal moment that inspired her to give back to those in need — through QualiBet Testing Services Corporation, Pinky Cares and the online show Grateful Tuesdays.
A change in perspective
Pinky’s near brush with death taught her that each day is a blessing — a blessing she needs to share with the needy. With QualiBet Testing Services, Pinky is able to help people know the quality of the water they drink and the food they eat, cosmetics — basically any product people come in contact with — and ensure they are safe. She also started the Pinky Cares Foundation after the passing of her grandmother, where she took over the Golden Acres Home for the Abandoned Elderly and now helps with the care of the 300 abandoned lolos and lolas through monthly feeding programs.
Taking it to the next level
And Pinky continues to practice gratitude though her online show, Grateful Tuesdays, where she assists those affected by the pandemic and recent typhoons. With a slew of celebrity co-hosts volunteering their time to Pinky’s cause, it has also become a vehicle for them to pay it forward. Her most recent co-hosts are Yeng Constantino and KC Concepcion. Through this show, she’s reached and helped more than 1,000 individuals and more. Recently, she’s helped various communities in Rizal, Cagayan Valley and Marikina who were affected by the super typhoon Ulysses. Grateful Tuesdays was a response to the pandemic that eventually took on a life of its own — thanks to Pinky’s desire to touch so many lives with her big heart.
Propelling women forward
Being a successful woman in STEM is a feat not accomplished by many — and seeing Pinky Tobiano thrive in an industry that isn’t known for promoting gender diversity is refreshing and very inspiring for any budding female scientist. By successfully leveraging on the unique strengths of being a woman — being perceptive, resourceful and inclusive — Pinky is able to come to life in her role as President and CEO and is helping barriers to fall.
In a world where representation could change the way girls set goals and think about their future, Pinky Tobiano continues to inspire by smashing proverbial glass ceilings — a feat she embarked on and overcame years ago, and to that, we tip our hats to her.