5 Successful Men Who Didn't Get Into the Family Business
They could've given in to the pressure, fallen into the safety nets of joining the family business. After all, there's a legacy to continue, big shoes to fill. Some men decide to strike out on their own, however, venturing into new or familiar territories that may or may not overlap with their families'. One thing they have in common—they are the architects of their own fate, the smiths of their own fortune.
QUARK HENARES - DIRECTOR, GLOBE STUDIOS
The Belo-Henares family has always put the fun in dysfunctional, with Dr. Vicki Belo and her ex-husband Atom Henares raising, somewhat in the spotlight, two bright, talented and relatively drama-free kids. “I think the understanding was, my mom has Cristalle, and my dad has me,” Quark says. “She wanted to be a doctor, and I was supposed to follow my dad.” Cristalle joined forces with her mom to expand the Belo universe of beauty while Quark directed movies and music videos, played in a band, wrote about music, helmed a radio show, hosted the original Rockeoke, promoted concerts, deejayed, and basically lived a free-wheeling life of film and music.
Then he went to business school in California, a concession he finally made for his father, who held hopes that he would still be involved with his various businesses, which include a TV station, a power plant, and a palm oil plantation. “When I graduated, my dad told me, ‘You know, your aura’s different. When you first started business school, it was like you were about to cuss me out.’ Like, this was the last thing I was going to do for him.’” Business school turned out to be a better experience than he expected, and life in La La Land was everything it was cracked up to be—the good and the bad—but after a few years, Quark came back home to reclaim his life.
He now heads Globe Studios, the new production outfit of Globe Telecom, where he gets to make movies and create content for mobile entertainment, as well as develop local talent through their GIFF digital film festival. “It’s still my old life, but corporatized. There’s a balance, and I guess my dad’s happy. Parents tend to have anxiety about their kids being freelancers or artists, as in my case.” You can still catch Quark behind the decks on certain Friday nights at 20:20, reliving the music scene of the late ’90s/early 2000s. The only difference? He now co-owns the club.
VICTOR CONSUNJI - CEO, VCONSUNJI INC.
When Victor Consunji started his own construction company, VConsunji Inc, there were more than a few raised eyebrows at DMCI, the goliath of a construction company that his grandfather David Consunji founded in 1954. “Why are you doing this? Do you intend to compete with us?” Victor was asked. “I have different ideas,” he explains. “I’m more Western in outlook.” Victor knew that if he worked for the family business, he would, as the oldest Consunji grandchild, be at the beck and call of his elders, probably doing things that were way outside of his job scope. “Maybe it was also a bit of pride. I wanted to make it on my own.”
Even as a young engineering student at university, Victor had to fend for himself (aside from being given a roof over their heads and a car, the Consunjis are usually on their own) and he started contracting odd jobs like landscaping and roofing projects, all with just one cement mixer. VCI now is a mid-size construction and real estate company that has developed their flagship family-oriented community in Mahogany Place 3, Taguig, bucking the trend of high-rise, sardine-packed living and offering townhouses you could actually grow in. Victor himself lives there, in a house with a lap pool and gym for his training (fact: he is the first Filipino to run the North Pole marathon, which he prepared for by placing a treadmill inside a freezer.)
At first, there were a few clashes with DMCI, the younger Consunji unintentionally stepping on the giant’s toes when it came to a certain deal. But the two companies have learned to work together, passing on jobs which seem more suited to the other. DMCI is equipped to build high-density condos and large-scale infrastructure like highways, while VCI is design-centric, working closely with its architects and clients to produce a more premium product. Victor also sits as a director at DMCI, so everyone is happy. “It’s all they really wanted, really, for me and everybody in my generation to be part of, be involved in and contribute to my grandfather’s legacy.”
LUDOVIC BRANELLEC - CEO, LEADING BIOTECHNOLOGIES INC.
The Branellec name, synonymous with golden South Sea pearls, loomed large for a French kid who was transplanted to the Philippines at the age of three. Ludovic was born a year before his father Jacques established Jewelmer in 1979, and he spent most of his childhood in the city while his father set up the pearl farms in Palawan. At 16, Ludo went back to France to attend culinary school and carve out his own identity. “I was really passionate about food, I was always in the kitchen,” he says. “Oysters? I loved to eat them.” He spent the next 17 years in Europe, and was happily working for a restaurant chain when he got into a motorcycle accident and had some down time to reflect on existential matters. “I’ve always had an attachment to the Philippines, and it felt like something was missing. I thought, why don’t I try my luck there, be my own boss?”
He moved back in 2011 and gave himself six months to explore his options, the last of which would be to join Jewelmer: “I didn’t want anyone to say, oh he’s just here because he’s the son of Jacques.” Three months in, a doctor friend whom he had met in Boracay convinced him to become a partner at his new clinic, Royal Preventive. Dr. Rex Gloria was a pioneer in the field of preventive medicine, and his burgeoning practice required someone to handle its business side and liaise with the European labs they work with. Leading Biotechnologies, the company Ludo runs, has evolved into a medical marketing firm that connects clients with life science companies here and abroad.
“My family was not expecting me to do this well. I was completely the outsider,” Ludo says of his surprise success in such an unrelated field. “It was really a leap of faith that started with friendship.” He also gives credit to his experience in the very demanding restaurant industry: “I applied that discipline to this business. My dad showed me that example in Jewelmer, I barely saw him, he was flying to Jolo just to bring fresh oysters. There was a culture of effort and work that helped the business grow.” Ludo is not closed to the possibility of ever working for Jewelmer, however, as his appreciation for what the company has achieved keeps growing. “Every Christmas we would spend with the workers in Palawan, while all my friends were going to Boracay. Now when I look back, I was so freaking lucky! I just needed to get out to realize it.”
MIGUEL ONGPIN - OWNER, RAFIK SHAWARMA
Miguel Ongpin got into food by way of cigars, as a taste tester and reviewer at Tabacalera, the century-old cigar company that was acquired by his uncle Roberto Ongpin in the ’90s. “I learned how to evaluate different blends, and I applied this to food later on in life,” he says. After five years at the company, he went to work for a series of newspapers, starting as a night editor for Today, then Manila Standard, and finally the Manila Bulletin. During that time, he also put up an open-air shawarma stand at the Araneta Center bus station, which would do well during the summer, not so much during rainy season.
Why shawarma? “Oh that’s easy. After the total collapse of the Manila shawarma fad of the mid-to-late ’90s, there were very few, if any, decent shawarma stands left. You’d have to go all the way to Ermita.” Miguel was always a gourmand, appreciating everything from fine cigarettes to fried lizard in Spain, and for this endeavor he thoroughly studied the distinct ways grilled meat is eaten with flatbread in the Mediterranean and Middle East, because, if you didn’t already know, a shawarma is different from a kebab, a doner, and a gyro, all of which have their own individual ways of being prepared.
Rafik Shawarma can be found at the Salcedo and Legaspi weekend Markets, and a new food truck is about to be installed at the Caltex station in Sta. Rosa. Miguel retired from publishing to focus on his food stands, which he and his wife Grace operate on their own. “It’s very much a mom-n-pop thing,” he says. Many Ongpin cousins have worked for Alphaland, Bobby Ongpin’s development company, at one point or another, but Miguel knew from experience that for his generation, it can be very frustrating to be tasked to embark on a project only to have it shelved or replaced. “I wanted to be independent, do my own thing. At least with this, I’m earning, developing stuff, trying things out, yielding results—all for myself.”
PAOLO LORENZANA - EDITOR IN CHIEF, TEAM MAGAZINE
“There were so many attempts by my dad to get me into business, specifically food, because it was the most reliable,” says Paolo Lorenzana, whose grandparents started the Lorenzana Food Company, producers of fine Pinoy condiments like fish sauce and bagoong. His siblings are also in the restaurant business, with two sisters part of the Wildflour empire and one brother behind Single Origin, Nikkei, and La Cabrera. As a kid, Paolo would spend the summers selling buko shakes at his parents’ Subic resort. But his talents lay in the written word, and he freelanced for newspapers and magazines until he went to graduate school in journalism at Columbia—after which he returned to Manila, and swore off publishing for a while.
“It was a difficult time to get a job in New York. I even considered doing foot fetishism sessions for $30 a pop,” He tried applying for barista jobs, but the manager told him he belonged behind a desk. In Manila, Paolo started sketching logos for a seafood sandwich shop he was going to call Merman Dan, but shelved that when he was lured back to media, where he discovered that he was really passionate about gay content. “It started with the “Love All Kinds of Love” campaign for Bench,” Paolo says, referring to the 2015 billboard campaign that gained viral notoriety for the blacked-out hands on the photo of Vince Uy and Nino Gaddi. “It was controversial, but what shocked me was that there was very little negative feedback related to the campaign itself. Not how it was handled—that was different—but the material itself, seeing a real gay couple for the first time. This told me there was a need to keep showing these kind of images.”
Three months later, he launched the quarterly Team magazine—not the first, but currently the only gay magazine on local newsstands. Team diverges from its predecessors in its aesthetics—less hypersexual, more Kinfolky. With a roster of cover stars that include Geraldine Roman, Boy Abunda, BJ Pascual and the occasional hetero screen hero like John Lloyd Cruz, the magazine has been empowering the gay community, making a diversity of voices heard, images seen, and experiences felt, not just through the printed page but through collaborations with gay filmmakers, apps and establishments. Paolo still has plans to one day foray into food, since he’s already got a name for a sorbeteria: Dirty Ice Kween.
This originally appeared in our March 2017 issue under the title "Prodigal Sons."