At 13, you were probably thinking of your high school term papers. At 18, you were considering what to do after college.
At 13, Mica Tan got interested in stock trading. At 18, she experienced her first heartbreak that cemented her drive to make a mark in the world: "I was supposed to fly out to New York," she said during a recent Go Negosyo one-on-one online mentoring with successful female entrepreneurs. "But because of that heartbreak I said, ‘I’m not gonna leave, I’m gonna do my thing, and he’s gonna regret leaving me, and maybe one day, he’s gonna see me on TV or read about me.’"
At 27, she is now the CEO of an international private equity firm, and the man who broke her heart is now her husband.
Mica Tan is the type of woman who knows what she wants and who laser focuses on them to achieve them. She has led the MFT Group of Companies to expand to "nine countries and 18 cities worldwide." The goal is to "establish 100 business areas" internationally, and with her tenacity, it's not at all an impossible task.
In an exclusive interview with Female Network, Mica shares her journey, and offers advice on how to "fail foward" while keeping your eyes on the prize.
Female Network: What is the thrust of the MFT Group of Companies?
Mica Tan: We are a holdings company focused on three sectors:
Healthcare. We have a portfolio company that supplies medical equipment. In our own little way, we know how important healthcare is for the country and how there is a very big gap to fill in terms of providing affordable technology for hospitals so we want to address that through that company.
Another sector would be financial services. We have a credit company and we also have a hedge fund that trades both local and foreign stocks.
And then the third would be F&B. Part of our F&B portfolio would be Mimi and Bro’s, that’s here in BGC. Also, we’re the strategic partner of La Lola. We are their partner to take them global, so we started by opening a few stores in Singapore… Also Salad Stop, but not Salad Stop Philippines. They’re doing incredibly well under a Filipino management team, but we’re their partners and we have taken them to Spain and Vietnam.
MFT functions with the goal of establishing ourselves as a private equity firm, but mainly we focus on operational turnarounds. We buy into companies. We acquire companies and do their best to turn them around.
FN: What were the hurdles you had to get over back when you were just starting your venture?
MT: Not just when we were starting… I started very young. I wasn’t afraid of putting myself out there and somehow declaring the things I wanted to achieve.
I was 13. I got interested in stock trading. I’m now 27, recently married. I didn’t really pursue stock trading as a career... I pushed [over] hurdles by seeking mentors who already knew what to avoid, and I think gave also a young person the edge.
And the hurdles never stopped. I think we just get better in finding ways to overcome them. With entrepreneurs, it’s really about starting and protecting your momentum. I’d like to compare it [to] riding a bike: you know when you ride a bike slow, you fall off, but once you find your momentum…
To me, momentum means finding the right people, finding the right business venture, failing forward. You find momentum and the next thing you know, you’re biking and covering long distances.
So, I think, that’s what happened to me. Here and there, you make a few wrong turns. Sometimes you fall of the bike, but should discourage you to get on the bike again? That’s the life of an entrepreneur.
FN: How did you find yourself in this industry?
MT: I didn’t expect to really embrace this space. It’s such a big space. We’re involved in operational turnarounds, and that means dealing with a lot of older people, more experienced [people], a lot of foreigners also. I think more than a specific industry of finding what you like to do, it’s enjoying winning every day. It’s enjoying closing your first deal, putting up your first office—those little wins that eventually you look back and say, ‘Those big wins in the past, they were just small wins that will push you to do bigger deals.’
To me, really, I love building teams. I feel that I am in the business of bouncing back. Regardless of industry, it’s really bouncing back from mistakes and attracting the right people for the team.
FN: What are the projects or ventures that made you feel good about yourself and strengthened your conviction that you're in the right path?
MT: [It's] different for different sectors, but one of the companies that we’re really proud of is Mondial Medical Technology. It’s a medical equipment company, and we focus on bringing innovative medical devices to the Philippines that will help in promoting affordable healthcare or affordable treatments. It’s very fulfilling, knowing how big the gap is in terms of the number of beds in the hospital, the right equipment needed…
Right now, we lack about 200,000 beds. If anything happens, that’s what we need to feel. So we’re focusing our efforts on that.
[Another is] Salad Stop, they’re a legacy business. They’re based in Singapore, but our relationship with them… is really for Europe and Vietnam… Getting to work with this very professional and passionate family is a big win for us.
FN: You mentioned that you're in the business of bouncing back. What would be your advice to the would-be entrepreneur who have had many mistakes and is having a hard time getting back on track?
MT: I’d make it very short, but I’d say practice every day, turning that no into a maybe, and the maybe into a yes. I think each entrepreneur has a choice, either to be a victim of fear, or to be someone who could utilize that energy into something good. We’re only fearful because we don’t know what’s gonna happen next, and I think finding the right people with, to figure out what will happen next, will eradicate fear in anything that we do.