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Henry Sy Success Story

Henry Sy Success Story

Henry Sy


Henry Sy, a well-known figure in business and retail, is recognized as one of the Philippines' most successful entrepreneurs. Born on December 25, 1924, in Xiamen, China, Henry Sy migrated to the Philippines at a young age and went on to build a business empire that would leave a lasting impact on the country's economy.
With a humble start in the retail industry, he ventured into the establishment of SM Prime Holdings, which has grown into one of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines. Henry Sy has established himself as a role model and a success symbol in the corporate world thanks to his inventive thinking, imaginative leadership, and dedication to perfection.


Henry Sy, who was born on December 25, 1924, in Xiamen, China, was raised in poverty, which influenced his resolve and fortitude. He learned the value of hard work and perseverance early in life because of his poor upbringing. Henry moved to the Philippines at an early age with his parents in in search of better possibilities. He encountered many obstacles and difficulties along the road, and the journey was not straightforward. However, he developed a strong work ethic and an unwavering desire to succeed as a result of these experiences. Despite the hardships, Henry Sy remained focused on his goals and carried the lessons learned from his childhood into his entrepreneurial journey, ultimately shaping his path to success.


Due to his family's poor financial circumstances, Henry Sy had a mediocre education. He finished his primary and secondary schooling at the Chiang Kai Shek College, a neighborhood school in Manila. However, he had to begin working at a young age to support his family, thus his formal schooling was interrupted. Henry Sy had a thirst for knowledge despite not having the opportunity to attend further school, and he continued to educate himself through self-study and real-world business experiences. His tenacity and natural business sense enabled him to acquire important knowledge and abilities that subsequently helped him become a successful entrepreneur.

Early career/ shoe business:

Henry Sy became a store manager working for an American business involved in the local shoe industry in the Philippines in his twenties. In the Carriedo neighborhood, which was then recognized for having a lot of pedestrian activity, he opened at least three shoe stores. In 1948, he established his first business as a solo entrepreneur in Quiapo, Manila. Due to the losses his family endured during World War II, he made the decision to sell shoes, believing that everyone would require footwear in the years to come. In 1958, he founded Shoe Mart. The start of SM Prime was his own modest shoe shop in Quiapo. Later, when finding shoes locally proved impossible, he started to import shoes from abroad. As a result, he found a local source and decided to import shoes as well.

Chain of Department Stores:

Two months after martial law was declared in the Philippines in 1972, Sy launched his first department store in Makati City. Despite obstacles like competition, inflation, and political unrest, he persisted and remained committed to giving his clients high-quality goods and services. He also used innovative strategies including the introduction of credit cards, loyalty programs, and advertising campaigns. In order to serve a variety of market segments and income levels, he expanded his department store chain to additional cities and provinces. He owned 25 SM department stores around the country by 1985.


Sy diversified his business interests into various sectors such as banking, real estate, tourism, lifestyle and entertainment. He acquired Banco de Oro (BDO), the second-largest bank in the Philippines, in 1982. He also established SM Prime Holdings, Inc., the holding company for his real estate ventures, in 1994. He built SM malls in the Philippines and China, which became popular destinations for shopping, dining and entertainment. He also invested in hotels, convention centers, cinemas, skating rinks, bowling alleys and other leisure facilities. He also ventured into mining, education and healthcare services.


One of the most well-known and prosperous businessmen in the Philippines and Asia was Legacy Sy. From 2008 through 2018, Forbes ranked him as the richest person in the Philippines for 11 years in a row. His estimated net worth was $19 billion at the time of his passing on January 19, 2019. He was also renowned for his social consciousness and generosity. Through his foundations and CSR initiatives, he sponsored numerous causes, including those related to health, the environment, education, and disaster relief. His tale of rising from poverty to wealth and his desire to improve the lives of Filipinos served as an inspiration for many ambitious businesspeople.


“There is no substitute for hard work. There is no such thing as an overnight success or easy money.” ~ Henry Sy

“Outwardly, I may look quiet, but deep inside, I’m full of this sense of challenge. I’m always striving to work harder, to improve by learning, to do better and keep dreaming.” ~ Henry Sy

“Our store was so small, it had no back or second floor. We just slept on the counter late at night after the store was closed.”~ Henry Sy

"I’ve always wanted to be a businessman. No other ambitions – I just wanted to be in business, even when I was a child in Fujian province, south china." ~ Henry Sy


Henry Sy's success story is a testament to the power of perseverance, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. From humble beginnings, he built an empire spanning various industries and became a philanthropic force. His journey inspires us to believe in our potential, embrace challenges, and make a positive impact on the world. Let his story motivate us to pursue greatness and leave a lasting legacy of success and generosity.

"Success is not a destination, but a journey. It requires hard work, perseverance, and vision. It also requires you to embrace the challenges that come your way, and to learn from them. As Henry Sy showed us, nothing is impossible if you have a dream and a plan to achieve it."


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