How much money is needed to start a business? Not much, if you start with a dream

This is what ten Philippine centavos looked like in 1934, back when we were still part of the Commonwealth government of the United States. It is also exactly how much Henry Sy, affectionately called “Tatang,” had when he arrived in Manila as a twelve-year-old boy. 

“In today’s money, it would be worth about PHP 120,” says Eduardo V. Francisco, President of BDO Capital & Investment Corporation. 

The amount is still not much for a young boy in a big city. But for Tatang, it was enough for the start he needed—not to start a business, but to start dreaming of a better future. 

“Even at that age, Mr. Sy had the gift of vision, of looking at a far bigger picture. Later in life, he would be able to see the finer details of that vision until it is fully realized. The growth of his investment to what we know as SM today is a testament to that,” Mr. Francisco added.

“From the very start,” Tatang once said, “I knew I had the drive and determination to make something of myself.” 

As his father’s assistant at the sari-sari store they operated in Quiapo, Manila, Tatang recognized the value of money early on. He saw his father pick up stocks from Divisoria and bring these to their store on foot. Tatang himself would walk out into the streets to try to interest customers in their merchandise. Together, they saved every bit they could scrape from their earnings, hoping to be able to put up more small stores. 

Tatang learned the value of financial wisdom early: “I learned from my parents the importance of hard work and good credit.” 

But their moderate success was interrupted by chaos and violence of the Second World War. The Battle of Manila at the end of the war saw their stores razed to the ground and their business all but eradicated. Everything they had slowly built was quickly gone, and along with it, most of their hopes and their savings. 

One thing that remained, however, was the hard work Tatang had learned from his father, and earned in his early years in the city. Determined to rebuild his dreams, he sought an opportunity that would give him a chance to start something that could grow bigger, with the little he had left to his name. 

The small shoe store Tatang established decades ago would become a chain of shops, and then a string of malls and department stores. Decades later, he would see his business flourish into a conglomerate that would enter various other industries. 

The old Banco de Oro building

In 1976, the SM Group would purchase Acme Savings Bank—a thrift bank that would eventually become Banco De Oro, which would later be renamed BDO. Today, the SM Group stands as the leading business conglomerate in the country, with further interests in real estate development, retail, banking, and other industries. 

Safety protocols are observed at BDO

Tatang’s dream for a better future began with ten centavos and a deep understanding of how even a small start can have powerful potential for growth. On this Super Month of October, Tatang’s birth month, it is a wisdom that SM aims to share with every Filipino today. 

About SM Super Month

The SM Super Month campaign is SM’s biggest celebration across its well-loved retail brands, SM Supermalls, SM Store, and SM Markets for the whole month of October.

It is a time when SM honors its roots by sharing the legacy of its founder, Henry "Tatang" Sy, the visionary behind one of the country's leading conglomerates today, during his birth month.

SM finds more reasons to celebrate with those who matter most-- family and friends-- with fantastic offers, amazing sales, and exciting events across its retail presence nationwide starting October 2022. Find your reason to celebrate this #smsupermonth.

Zach Golez

A lifestyle blogger based in Iloilo City

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