Top 10 Successful Entrepreneurs in the Philippines Story


We’ve been there before; that stolen moment in a day when we find ourselves daydreaming of owning a business. Perhaps we were motivated by an epiphany that whatever we do, we’ll always be wage earners. Our boss will always make more money than us.

We may have been influenced by a moment of inspiration to have the power to transform the lives of the downtrodden citizens in the society. Business after all is a powerful lever of transformation. Abundant resources result in the capacity to build lives and societies.

Regardless of the reason, everyone wants to own a business. However, not everyone is willing to put in the time, resources, and effort to manage one. Once the daydreaming starts and the reality of business and its inherent risks hits home, most budding entrepreneurs remain as they were: daydreamers.

Entrepreneurship requires a special kind of person; someone who is willing to risk it all for the fulfillment of a dream. The statistics are not encouraging for individuals who want to attempt entrepreneurship. Only 55% of start-up businesses remain operational after five years.  Nearly 80% have closed by year 10.

These figures are downright frightening for anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur. However, risk is a constant companion in entrepreneurship.

By definition, entrepreneurs are risk takers. They want to be in the driver’s seat all the time. They take chances but do not mistake their risk-taking nature as that of gamblers. The difference between entrepreneurs and gamblers is that entrepreneurs take calculated and educated chances. Gamblers are reckless, have no discipline, and usually give in to their weaknesses.

If an entrepreneur is a special kind of person, what then is a successful entrepreneur?



Kissed by God?

A successful entrepreneur is all that and more! Despite the horrifying statistics, anyone can be a successful entrepreneur. Here is one way to look at the statistics:

Using 2012 World Bank data as basis, let us assume that 16,000 new businesses are registered in the Philippines every year. Assuming that 98% of new businesses are small, we can make an educated guess that 15,680 small businesses run by budding entrepreneurs are registered annually. In five years, only 8,624 of those businesses will still be around.

A total of 8,624 is still a considerable number! Whether they are profitable or not is another story. However, you should focus on enterprises that continue to stimulate the economy by generating aggregate demand and providing employment.

If you are still scratching or shaking your head in disbelief, give yourself time to process the information. In the meantime, be inspired of these stories from 10 of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Philippines.

At the end of the article, you will be able to determine the ONE quality that made them succeed while others failed.

Top 10 Successful Entrepreneurs in the Philippines Story

1. Henry Sy, Shoe Mart

henry-sySM is more than just a shopping mall. It is a beloved institution. Many of my favorite memories happened in SM. From shopping, watching blockbuster movies, date night, ice skating to food tripping, SM has it all.

However, this gigantic chain of more than 44 large-scale shopping centers in the Philippines and throughout Asia has very humble beginnings.

Henry Sy came from an impoverished family in Jinjiang, a town near Xiamen, China. The entire family left China in 1936 to help the family patriarch manage a thriving convenience store in Manila.

Unfortunately for the family, their store was burned down during World War II. However, business-minded Henry saw an opportunity selling used military combat boots and other postwar goods from supportive American soldiers!

His success led to the opening of his first shoe store, the SM in Avenida, Manila. Henry had problems finding shoe manufacturers who could design shoes according to what he had in mind, but he persisted. He spoke to customers and built his own network of suppliers and manufacturers.

That never-say-die attitude got Henry Sy to where he is now: one of the richest men in the world and a world-class commercial center developer who provides opportunities to both entrepreneurs and the working class!

2. Tony Tan Caktiong, Jollibee

tony-tan-caktiongIf you thought you only loved The Champ and Chicken Joy, then be prepared to be inspired by the man behind the franchise.

Also coming from an immigrant family from China, Tony learned the value of hard work and dedication from his father who worked as a cook in a Buddhist temple. Tony’s father started a Chinese restaurant in Manila with his savings so he can send him to college.

In 1975, Tony bought a Magnolia ice cream parlor. However, it was not generating enough business. After talking with his customers and people within the neighborhood, Tony decided to include sandwiches, fried chicken, and French fries in the menu. In time, the restaurant found itself packed to overflowing capacity.

By 1978, Tony had opened six more restaurants, but the main item was no longer ice cream. Tony then decided to adapt the McDonald’s concept and named his franchise after his work ethic of being as “busy as a bee.”

Today Jollibee has grown to more than 2,500 stores in the Philippines plus locations in the US, China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Brunei.

3. John Gokongwei Jr., JG Holdings

john-gokongwei-jrJohn’s life story is a “rich-to-rags-to riches” story. John Jr. was born in China to the scion of one of the wealthiest families in Cebu.

When the father died, so did the business and the family fortune was soon gone. John Jr. supported his family by peddling items along the streets of Cebu by bike. Soon, he was trading items by boat to Lucena City and to Manila by truck. Eventually, he started importing items from the US.

John Jr. soon realized that importing carried too much risk and low margins. Thus, in 1957, he borrowed Php 500,000 from China Bank and started a corn milling business named Universal Corn Products.

By 1961, Universal started diversifying its products and launched several popular brands such as Blend 45. Universal Corn Products was renamed Universal Robina Corporation.

Today, the Gokongwei family owns several successful and highly diversified businesses. Among these are Robina Land Corporation and Cebu Pacific.

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