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Resilience in Adversity: Chua's Journey to Success and Succession

By Alyanna Joyce Silvestre
Published March 06, 2024

In the heart of Manila's Chinatown, amidst the bustling streets of Binondo, lies a tale of resilience, innovation, and the enduring essence of family legacy – the story of Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli, formerly known as Eng Bee Tin Hopia Factory, its unexpected savior, Mr. Gerry Chua, and their transformation of their once unpopular hopia into a staple snack.

The story of Eng Bee Tin dates back to 1912 when Mr. Chua Chiu Hong founded the Hopia Factory along Ongpin St., starting as a small stall selling Chinese delicacies like tikoy (a traditional Chinese New Year rice cake) and hopia (a traditional pastry filled with sweet or savory fillings). Eng Bee Tin flourished over the years, but a challenge emerged in the 70s as competitors began emerging, saturating the market. From then on, the business faced numerous challenges, from lost suppliers to financial setbacks, testing its survival at every turn.

In the midst of this adversity, 21-year-old Gerry Chua, a third-generation descendant, rose to the occasion to navigate the obstacles that tested the survival of not just their family's business but also their legacy. Determined to turn the tide, Gerry embarked on a journey of innovation and reinvention, starting with the introduction of a new flavor of hopia, the traditional pastry that served as the cornerstone of the deli's offerings. Drawing inspiration from both his Chinese heritage and Filipino roots, Gerry introduced bold and exciting flavors that appealed to modern tastes while still honoring the heritage of Eng Bee Tin.

Beyond innovation, Gerry then led the family business, carefully taking the necessary steps to bring Eng Bee Tin back from the brink of collapse. Through his innovative thinking and strategic decision-making, Gerry revitalized the business, capturing the hearts and taste buds of customers far and wide.

And with decades of experience, Gerry wanted to impart a few things he learned through his journey as he spoke during W+B Advisory Group's webinar "The Family-First vs. Business-First Dilemma" on Feb. 3, 2024.

Leadership amidst Adversity: Gerry Chua's journey with Eng Bee Tin exemplifies a masterclass in leadership and resilience. From humble beginnings to a renowned household name, his unwavering determination and strategic decision-making steered the enterprise through adversities.

Innovative Thinking: Gerry's introduction of the best-selling Hopia Ube was a game-changer for Eng Bee Tin and the industry as a whole. His willingness to think outside the box and experiment with new flavors revitalized the business and captured the market's attention. This demonstrates the importance of daring to explore new ideas and flavors to meet evolving customer preferences.

Succession Planning: Gerry's approach to succession involved stepping back from day-to-day operations while maintaining a guiding presence. He advised leaders to serve as mentors rather than micromanaging bosses, offering support and guidance as their children take on increasing responsibilities within the business. He also emphasized the importance of trust and empowerment in grooming the next generation of leaders while upholding the family legacy.

Balancing Business and Family

Gerry's ultimate advice for maintaining the legacy of family businesses centered on finding balance. While business achievements are important, Gerry emphasized the need to prioritize family bonds and create lasting memories together as he shared personal anecdotes of regret, recounting instances where he missed out on precious moments with his parents due to business commitments.

With this, Gerry urged next-gen leaders to learn from his mistakes and ensure that their dedication to business success does not come at the expense of neglecting their families. In reflecting on Gerry's remarkable journey, his story serves as an inspiring example for family business owners facing similar challenges, showcasing the importance of embracing change while honoring tradition.