Profiles, Stories

Justin Uy: Innovating Products and Pursuing Dreams

Creating a business is not just about having the heart to do it. Having the brains to execute that passion is also just as important because wisdom, knowledge and strategy dictate the success of your business.

Flourishing entrepreneur Justin Uy will surely agree with this statement as he learned the hard way that strategy is at the heart of any successful business.

The drive to succeed

Born in the province of Cebu, Uy grew up in a family struggling to make ends meet. Living with eleven children in a tiny household, his parents took any opportunity to generate income. Recognizing the struggle of his parents and gaining inspiration from their hard work, this ignited the passion in Uy to support his family and look for a stable source of income: creating his own business.

With the help of his brother, Uy tried out every possible business. He and his brother started with selling necklaces and bangles made out of shell scraps. Seeing that it was not a stable business, they ventured into the poultry industry and raised eggs for selling. They were not able to take into account the immense capital needed for this business so it was a no-go as well. Their third business venture was mushroom farming. This included growing the mushrooms and delivering to restaurants but given the very short shelf-life of their variety of mushrooms, Uy had to abandon this business as well.

Fourth time’s the charm for Uy and his brother as they finally struck gold and found the business that would stick with them: the fruit processing industry.

Challenges along the way

Although they finally found their pot of gold, it was never easy traversing the journey towards that. They had to borrow money from friends and relatives to keep their business afloat. “It was not an easy path. In fact, we jumped into the business without even knowing food processing. So for the first three years, we failed. In fact, we failed miserably that all the borrowed money was gone,” shared Uy.

Notably, Uy was still a college student during this time. Having to juggle his academics with his teetering business was no easy feat, yet Uy used this opportunity to improve both. “As I was in my second year of college, I forced myself to learn food preservation. In fact, I took a 2-week course in UP just to know the basics of food preservation to upgrade the quality of the finished product,” he said.

Aside from developing the product, Uy also had to strategize on how best to conquer the market with the stiff competition in the dried mangoes business. 

“When I started the dried mango business, we were the underdog. We are not the pioneers. We don’t have a brand name. We don’t have the money, and we don’t have the name,” said Uy. 

Acknowledging that it will be difficult to compete with the local market, Uy’s solution? Penetrating the international market via exporting his products.

This became the start of Uy’s success as his business finally stabilized by focusing on supplying the international market. Today, his products are now being sold at supermarket giants such as Costco and Walmart and distributed in over 50 countries, effectively introducing Filipino delicacies to the global market .

Realizing that it is not mango season all-year round, he expanded his business to produce more dried fruit products which eventually became a success. What started as a small dried mango business is now known as Profood International Corporation, the largest Philippine-based dried mango producer and the standard bearer of world-class processed fruit products from the country.

Not putting all eggs in one basket

A true entrepreneur would agree with the saying to never put all your eggs in one basket. This can be seen in the numerous ventures of legendary entrepreneurs such as John Gokongwei and Henry Sy, and the same goes for Uy.

Despite the massive success of his fruit processing company, Uy looked for other opportunities to invest on and this ultimately led him to the tourism industry.

Growing up in the beautifully scenic province of Cebu, it is only fitting that Uy ventured into businesses related to promoting local tourism. This gave birth to his other pot of gold, Jpark Island Resort and Waterpark.

This venture was a considerable success given that Jpark is now one of the leading resorts in Cebu. It is a 16 ½  sprawling hectare with more than 800 rooms and various amenities that provide exemplary hospitality services to both locals and tourists alike.

Embodying the turtle

Uy recounts being a fan of turtle memorabilia and figurines. Some would have found this odd but for Uy, it is because there is a certain character of a turtle that he embodies throughout his life. 

“The character Turtle is something that, although I have to go slow, for sure, I will reach my destination,” said Uy.

Indeed, life is not a race and the same goes for being an entrepreneur. An aspiring businessman will not find success if he/she rushes the entire process. It is a slow-burning path filled with bumps and cracks before finally reaching the top of the mountain and claiming victory.

Message to the younger generation

Embodying the character of the turtle and savoring every step of the journey towards victory, Uy reminds the younger generation to never be afraid of challenges.

“During my time, I don’t have the factory, I don’t have the money. I don’t have the buyers. I only have the will to do it. So don’t be discouraged if you fail. You have to continue to do it because if you can do it without anything, how much more if you have everything already,” said Uy.

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