philippines entrepreneurs

Ninja Van

5 of the Most Successful Entrepreneurs in the Philippines

Their businesses weathered great storms. So can yours.

The most successful entrepreneurs in the Philippines today have one thing in common — they all saw the silver lining in the darkest of nights. It is what sets them apart from the ordinary ones (like me), their penchant for spotting opportunities long before anyone does and having the guts to take that leap.

It is in unprecedented times that the entrepreneurial spirit of Filipinos comes through. Just take a look at some of the most successful Filipino-owned brands present today — one emerged from the rubble of war, another was conceived amid the worst financial crisis, just to name a few. 

The past months of lockdown prompted many Filipinos to try their hand in entrepreneurship, be it out of boredom or the sheer need for survival. And if you are still on the fence on whether you should take the plunge into starting your own business, here are five stories of some of the most successful Filipino entrepreneurs for inspiration.


Who are the successful entrepreneurs in the Philippines?

The list may be a lot longer if you ask who are the successful or famous Filipino entrepreneurs in the country. But these five names will always claim top spots. Other than being household names, they also head the most profitable conglomerates, not just spreading influence here but also globally.

Andrew Tan, Megaworld

Image source: philstar.com

As the country plunged into one of the worst financial crises in the mid-90s, Andrew Tan saw the opportunity to reshape the real estate industry. Instead of focusing on the usual build and sell scheme, he packaged it into a lifestyle — one wherein people can live, work and play within the community. With this pet project, aptly called “townships”, Tan steered his company, Megaworld, into becoming one of the country’s largest real estate players.

The company was incorporated in 1989 as a real estate, leasing and marketing. But in 1996 it shifted focus to providing office buildings to support the growing BPO industry and developed the Eastwood City townships. Today Megaworld develops world-class planned communities incorporating residential, commercial, educational and leisure components. And no doubt that Andrew Tan is now one of the Philippines’ famous entrepreneurs.

Net Worth: US$2.7 Billion

Quotable Quote

When you don’t have much capital, it is paramount that you exercise your nose a lot, much like a dog that never ceases to sniff out for food… That is how you develop an instinct for success.

Tony Tan Caktiong, Jollibee Foods Corp.

Image source: teahub.io

Investing a chunk of the family savings into a franchise did not fare as well as initially thought by a young Tony Tan Caktiong in the late ’70s. But with his sharp eyes and gut instinct, he saw the product that could turn around his business, and his life, for the better.

He now owns Jollibee Foods Corporation, which owns 11 restaurant brands including its flagship brand and namesake — Jollibee, the largest quick-service restaurant network in the Philippines with over 3,500 local stores and 2,500 scattered across the globe. It has stores in prime spots in the US, China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei and Italy. Most recently, Jollibee added London and Madrid to its global locations.

Jollibee Madrid, in fact, is now the franchise’s biggest branch in Europe. The Bee is out to conquer the world!

Net Worth: US$2.8 Billion

Quotable Quote

When it comes to education, the only school I can learn from is the school-of-hard knocks. And I’m still learning today.

Vicky Belo, Belo Medical Group

Vicki Belo
Image source: preview.ph

In a country that comes to a stop for the annual Miss Universe pageant, it comes as no surprise that one of its most successful entrepreneurs is a dermatologist and aesthetic doctor. Vicki Belo, as she is fondly called by patients and fans alike, came into the profession because she used to face the problems she is solving today.

She started her dermatology business in a 44-sqm clinic in 1990. Today her beauty empire, ranging from the Belo Medical Group’s clinics to the Belo line of beauty products, has grown so vast that it caters to the entire spectrum — as long as you are in the quest for beauty. Her brands are also industry trailblazers, bringing beauty technologies and innovations like Picosure, Lutronic GENIUS, Thermage, ADVATx and more to the Philippines.

Net Worth: Data not available.

Quotable Quote

I wanted to be a master, not a jack of all trades, but a master of something.

Dennis Uy, Udenna Corp.

Image source: news.yahoo.com

Then a relatively unknown figure on the national level, Dennis Uy’s investments were viewed with much skepticism. But Uy knew better than to focus on his critics. After all, he started his success by going against the multinational giants to get a slice of the petroleum pie in Mindanao through Phoenix Petroleum.

His gung ho approach to business bought him one of the most diverse conglomerates in the country, Udenna Corporation, which has delved into a new telecommunications company, a hospitality and business college, a chain of convenience stores, and restaurant business, among others. 

Truly, Uy’s story can inspire many aiming to become a successful businessman in the Philippines.

Net Worth: US$710 Million

Quotable Quote

Disrupt something. We disrupted petroleum. And maybe now telco.

Socorro Ramos, National Bookstore

Socorro Ramos
Image source: primer.com

The name Socorro Ramos may not be as famous as the other successful Filipino entrepreneurs on this list. But she is the grand matriarch behind National Bookstore (now NBS to younger generations). It’s a major retailer of books, office supplies and greeting cards in the Philippines.

She went against all odds in putting up the business amid World War II. In 1940, at age 18, she worked for her brother’s Goodwill Bookstore branch in Escolta. The store was, unfortunately, ravaged by the war.

After the war, Socorro and her husband, Jose, started a business selling textbooks, notebooks, writing pads and pencils at their house in the corner of Soler and Avenida. In 1948, the house and their goods were destroyed by a typhoon. But there was no stopping Nanay Coring, as Ramos is often referred to. She and Jose persevered and in 1965, they established a nine-story building along Avenida, which would become the first National Bookstore.

It was this perseverance that made the bookstore’s name a reality — it continues to be the largest bookstore in the country, even venturing into e-commerce and setting up stores in Lazada and Shopee.

NBS will always remain a bookstore that everyone loves and looks up to.

Net Worth: Data not available

Quotable Quote

You have to adjust to the flow of business. If you’re not open to change, your business can’t move on.


What it takes to be among the top entrepreneurs

There are a handful of things that stand out from the experiences of these highly successful Filipino entrepreneurs.

First, how they believe in themselves and the businesses that they enter into.

Second, how each of them took criticisms in stride.

And third, how they looked at the silver lining instead of how dark the night was. 

If you are thinking of taking the leap into becoming your own boss, why not do it today? We are in pretty challenging times after all.

Featured image by Pawel Gaul on Getty Images

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