10 Famous And Successful Filipino Entrepreneurs

It has been said that one of the best ways in becoming wealthy in the Philippines, other than becoming a politician which is most likely corrupted, is starting a business.

But, a lot of people believe that it takes a mysterious process to start a business. In this article, we’re going to find out how certain Filipinos were able to meet success in their business.

Hopefully, the stories of the below 10 successful Filipino entrepreneurs (in no particular order) will reveal to you valuable lessons on how to overcome obstacles that come with starting and running a business and thus develop a will to succeed.


1. Henry Sy


Every time the name Henry Sy is mentioned, particularly, in the Philippines, what comes first to mind is SM, a business taipan, and “how rich he is.” This is one man who regardless of the much adversity life brought his way never gave up on pursuing his dreams.

Born in 1924 to a poor family in Fujian province, he joined his father in the Philippines at the age of 12 and started out in his father’s retail store. He sold alongside his father until when the store burned down.

This did not deter him, not even when his father died, as he continued selling on the street. Selling on the streets exposed him to a lot of danger, to the point where he was one day shot and almost died. He struggled every step of the way, and today is the richest man in the country.

According to Forbes, he has an estimated net worth of $19 billion before his demise on January 19, 2019, thus topping the Philippine Rich List, and 53rd in the world, and this he did for eleven years in a row.

Sy’s success story is one of the most inspiring stories of all time, where a man can be so determined to amass fortune against the backdrop of economic contractions, financial crisis, political corruption, and unstable governments.

He never relented in expanding his empire to the point where as far as assets are concerned it is the nation’s largest.

He is proof that hard work and perseverance is the ingredient every big dream needs to be attained. All through his years running his empire, Henry Sy has won quite some awards, thanks to his sheer will power and optimism.


2. Ms. Socorro C. Ramos

Ms. Socorro C. Ramos

One woman whose success story is worthy of emulation by this generation of Filipinos is Ms. Socorro C. Ramos. The name may not ring any bells for this generation of Filipinos, but history has it that she is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Philippines as the founder of the National Book Store – the largest bookstore chain in the country, as featured in a Vulcan post.

Her success story is one that portrays persistence as an important key to achieving great things. She, together with her husband Jose Ramos, has had to endure many trials right from 1940 that would probably have gotten other entrepreneurs to give up on their vision.

Shortly after they established their first supply mall in Escolta came World War II that led to strict book censorship that they had to suspend their book sales and resorted to selling slippers, candies, and soaps.

As a result of the war, their mall was badly damaged, and so they had to open another as they move to Avenida. Once and again, this bookstore was damaged by a heavy typhoon strike.

One would have expected her to give up on her vision, but she wasn’t deterred but instead rebuilt the mall again. Shortly after this expression of courage, particularly in the 1970s, National Book Store went uphill. By selling reprinted versions of foreign textbooks for as far less as 75%, they became popular and were highly patronized.

Presently, the National Book Store has as much as 160 branches throughout the Philippines along with some mini outlets (National Book Store-Book Express) and specialty bookstores (Powerbooks). As if that wasn’t enough, the Ramos family also operates three publishing imprints, a department store, a music store, plus several convenience stores and gift shops.


3. John Gokongwei

John Gokongwei

John Gokongwei’s life story is a truly inspiring one, where a true Filipino Taipan entrepreneur turns from rags to riches. Even though he was born unto a wealthy family in Cebu, everything changed not too long after his father died. John Jr. was now saddled with the responsibility of supporting his family.

He had no choice but to work, and this he did by selling items on the streets of Cebu. Every morning at about five o’clock he would by a bike ride go to the market with his basket of goods. There, he would set up a table and lay out his goods which were primarily soap, thread, and candles.

John Gokongwei’s business grew to where he began trading items by truck and boat to Manila and Lucena City. This was the beginning of his (entrepreneurial) journey in the world of business.

Subsequently, he got involved in a variety of other businesses such as Amasia known for importing remnants of textiles, used clothing, old magazines, and newspapers from the US.

Another was a corn-milling factory in a Manila Chinatown to produce glucose and cornstarch. He has over the years moved from one venture to another, and so now has one of the most diversified conglomerates in the Philippines.

According to the Forbes magazine issue of 2018, Gokongwei was listed as the 3rd richest businessman in the Philippines with a net worth of $4.4 billion. He is a clear example that even though life deals us a few bad cards, we still reserve the choice of playing those cards the best we can.


4. Alfredo M. Yao

Alfredo M. Yao

Alfredo M. Yao is one entrepreneur who has practically shown the payoffs of determination and your pursuit of a vision. In spite of the harsh realities that he was set with, he was able to come out of them successfully.

At a tender age of 12, he lost his dad and was left with his mother to support him and his siblings. Even though his family also received financial support from a relative, Alfredo still had to drop out of school at the Mapúa Institute of Technology, because of inadequate financial assistance. He resorted to engaging in minimal jobs, and one of the jobs at that time was at a printing press.

During his time working at the printing press, he learned the art of printing wrappers for biscuits and candies. This singular knowledge paved the way for him to start his own printing press business.

I guess this one experience was really worth it, giving birth to one of the country’s renowned printing press – Solemar Commercial Press – named after his mother. Even as only his first business venture, the printing was doing well. But, he stumbled on an idea known today as the Soy system during his Europe business tour that skyrocketed his business.

He tried to sell this discovery to local juice manufacturers and none was interested and so decided to use it for himself and this birthed his juice/beverage business – Zest-O Corporation.

Over the years, Alfredo has innovated and diversified into other businesses such as Zest airways, Asiawide Refreshments Corporation (RC Cola), Macay Holdings Inc., Philippine Business Bank, Summit Hotel & Resort Specialist Inc., Movenpick Resort & Spa Boracay Island, Amchem Marketing, Inc., Harman Foods Philippines Inc., Solmac Marketing, Inc., and Semexco Marketing, Inc.


5. Tony Tan Caktiong

Tony Tan Caktiong

One name that has over the years made a mark, not only in the Philippines but also in other parts of the country, like china, japan, the US, Hong Kong, and Indonesia, is the founder and president of Jollibee – Tony Tan Caktiong.

The life of Caktiong is a typical example of a rags-to-riches success story. His journey in business started in 1975 – from owning a small ice cream franchise, and then transformed to one of the Philippines’ most famous food chains. Formerly known for selling Magnolia Ice Cream, Jollibee is from around 1978 became recognized as a franchise that is into selling chicken and burger.

This is one franchise that has in history successfully competed with MacDonald’s when they came in the picture in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, it became a joke that the only place McDonald’s comes in second place in the Philippines.

His results in business have over the years earned him several awards according to Sino Sila. According to Forbes, he has an estimated net worth of $4 billion in 2018 and ranks as the number sixth richest entrepreneurs in the Philippines.

Today, his business has grown to over 2,500 stores cut across the Philippines and a couple of locations in surrounding countries. Such as China, Vietnam, Brunei, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and all the way to the US.

As years have gone by, this franchise has grown to unimaginable heights, thanks to the value of hard work he learns from his father who owned a restaurant business, and this he applied in his business.


6. Dado Banatao

Dado Banatao

One success story that always amazes me every time it crosses my mind is that of Dado Banatao. Born on May 23, 1946, to a father who is a rice farmer and mother a housekeeper in Cagayan Valley Province, he grew up to become one of the best minds in Silicon Valley, a tech innovation community has ever encountered.

This was a kid that once upon a time used to walk barefoot along the dirt roads to school, but now has introduced technologies that transformed the computer industry.

At 15, he pursued a college education at Mapua Institute of Technology graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering degree. After graduation, he was offered a job which he declined for an experience that paid off way more in the future – a pilot trainee at Philippine Airlines. And off course, he had always dreamed of becoming a pilot when he was a child.

But, his pilot career was short-lived, as he discovered a more profitable route to his desired future – a design engineer at Boeing in Seattle.

A few years after working for Boeing, he decided to start his first company. Unfortunately for him, lack of funds resulted in the fall of the company. One thing he never did was to give up. He was courageous enough to start all over again more creatively offering it to the public and this marked the successful rise of his business.

Who would think all these of an individual of such a humble beginning? But, his life involved a lot of unexpected turns before he became the engineer that transformed the lives of many through his invention. Thanks to him, today we have two very notable discoveries that have imparted the tech world -the PC chipset and the Windows Graphics accelerator chip for PCs.

Challenges never stopped coming; but, the more the problems came, the more ready they were to offer solutions.


7. Corazon D. Ong

Corazon D. Ong

One story that has over the years fueled the drive of many to succeed is that of Corazon D. Ong. She is a living testimony that no matter how stacked the odds might be, there’s always a way.

Corazon is a dietician, who leveraged her knowledge in turning a passion into an internationally recognized brand. According to a Filipino news portal – Philstar her business was born out of boredom and a simple dream of meeting her family’s need for delicious food.

To achieve this, she took lessons to improve her cooking skills – particularly in learning how to make siopao and skinless longganisa. Unknown to her, she was unto something that will someday turn into a money-making venture that would cater to the needs of Filipino consumers and beyond.

With the support of her husband, she was able to grow this business gradually to what it is today. Today, CDO Foodspere has become a highly recognized brand known for processed meat products. No doubt there’s more to come from this brand, as Corazon D. Ong is constantly thinking of more innovations and new products to offer.

She also established a foundation via which the company addresses the nutritional needs of impoverished children as a way of giving back further to the community.


8. Andrew Tan

Andrew Tan

Andrew Tan was one entrepreneur with the humblest of beginnings before he rose to fortune as the 10th in the list of Philippines richest men, according to Forbes.

He was born into a very poor immigrant family in Hong Kong from Fujian, China who couldn’t even afford to pay rent and so had to share a unit with another family. The cost of living in Hong Kong became unbearable for them and so they left for the Philippines in search of a better life.

This was where his father got a job at a radio factory, and he joined his father to do some minor task and the company paid him for it. They were able to raise enough money to get a manageable apartment in Star Cruz Manilla. According to iFranchise, his father would always scold him every time he fails to wake up before 5 am. This probably served as a foundation for Tan’s diligence in later life. Despite the dire poverty, Tan was able to complete his college education.

Upon graduating, he got a job with Leonard Ty, a taipan businessman. Soon after he stepped out and birthed his first company Megaworld.

There were a lot of challenges he had to go through at the early stage of his business. To start with, he didn’t have enough capital for his business. Another was the Asian crisis in 1997, which particularly threatened the real estate industry, and this was a huge test for him. Series of other challenges followed after but Tan creatively came out of them all successfully, thanks to his positive attitude and faith as recorded by Philstar.


9. Gregorio G. Sanchez

Gregorio G. Sanchez
Sanchez, third from left, Source

Every true success is founded on many failures and persistence, and Gregorio G. Sanchez is a perfect example of its paid offs.

Gregorio G. Sanchez was a Civil Engineer based in the Philippines and was formerly engaged in construction works business in the US. In 1983, when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, he decided to return to his home country where he turned a street parliamentarian.

He shortly became a Provincial Board Member in Cebu City, and during this time, one of his concerns was the malnourished pig being that was all over the place. He took it upon himself to conduct researches and perform experiments where he used just pots and pans and a small tank as his equipment.

Who would have thought that his persistence in this experiment that resulted in the development of food supplements for piglets will birth a full-blown business?

This food supplement which he named LactoPAFI Probiotic Bacteria was aimed at increasing the level of good bacteria in livestock and thus smothering the bad bacteria. Gregorio’s discovery gained recognition and reached global acclaim as the no.1 probiotics supplement. It’s now exported to places like France, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, the US, Japan, and Hong Kong.

According to iNews PH, these products have received many awards.


10. Lucio Tan

Lucio Tan

Who would have had the slightest idea that a little boy once known to be a janitor would be one of the richest men to walk the face of this earth?

Born on July 17, 1934, in the province of Fujian, in China, Lucio Tan is his name. Lucio’s parents were very poor Chinese emigrants to the Philippines, Naga province to be particular, in search of a better life.

While in the Philippines, he started a career in Chemistry Engineering, but didn’t go through with it, but started a business of selling scraps. But, this business didn’t work out, and so he went for a job in a tobacco factory. He worked in this factory in several capacities, from which he acquired experience from which later started his own tobacco business. His humble experience paid off as his business was a huge success.

For Lucio Tan, the journey to success was not an easy one at all. From the tobacco business, he moved into the airline, and then to liquor, education and real estate. All his business grew to become top brands in the country – From Fortune Tobacco Corporation to Asia Brewery, and Philippine Airlines.

According to 2018 Forbes magazine, he is the 7th richest entrepreneur in the Philippines with a net worth of 4.7 Billion dollars. With all these successes, this is one entrepreneur that was never interested in keeping a high profile among other billionaires in and around the country.


Final Words On Famous Filipino Entrepreneurs

No doubt starting a new business is never easy. It requires the willingness to risk it all for the fulfillment of that vision. Studies have shown that a good percentage of startups fail to remain operational after 4-5 years.

I believe these statistics can be improved if new entrepreneurs are exposed to information about what it takes to run a successful business from entrepreneurs who have already gone ahead.

Did you find the above list useful? Or do you have names that you think I missed? Feel free to say in the comment section.

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