Mega Prime Food’s CEO Michelle Tiu Lim-Chan: On Continuing The Family Business Legacy

Sardines have become one of the staple foods for Filipino families because they are an affordable source of protein. Whenever you want an alternative dish or ulam, you can open a can of sardines and enjoy it with rice. Some also like ginisang sardinas (sauteed sardines) to make it more flavourful.

Sardines are also readily accessible through groceries or sari-sari stores, and these cans of sardines have provided Filipinos nourishment for many years. And at the heart of this, a female entrepreneur ensures that Filipinos enjoy a fulfilling meal in their everyday lives.

So, get to know Mega Prime Food’s CEO, Michelle Tiu Lim-Chan, on how she maintains the family business legacy and how Mega Sardines has become a household name in the Philippines.

Growing Up With Entrepreneurial Parents 

Michelle Tiu Lim – Chan’s upbringing shaped the way she is now. With entrepreneurial parents, she had early exposure to how business operations work, from dealing with employees to ensuring a seamless process in daily production. On top of this, her Filipino-Chinese background also influenced her to become a better entrepreneur. 

“Chinese by blood, Filipino by heart for me are practicing the Chinese values of hardwork, integrity and frugality that my parents have instilled in me. These are what I bring to the company. They also told me to be humble and to treat people fairly all the time.”

Her parents also taught her valuable lessons that will positively influence her entrepreneurial skills. Her mother taught her how to negotiate, while her father taught her that gender is not an issue to achieve whatever she wants.

“The best lesson I learned is when my mom brings me to Baclaran every Wednesday, and she will go to the clothing store and negotiate with the people there. That’s where I got my negotiating skills because I can see how hard and tough she is.”

While for her father, she remembered: “I was treated like the boys. I was not given special treatment. If they climbed the tree, I climbed the tree. If they swim, I swim. So I do everything that my brothers do. I think that’s what molded me to be a tough and strong person. Also, because I believe that everybody is equal. I saw that and I picked up [on] that.”

Moving to Canada 

At age 15, Michelle Tiu Lim – Chan and her family moved to Canada, and this life-changing event gave her the training ground to become a more well-rounded entrepreneur. While living in Canada,  she also experienced working in fast-food restaurants, earning her own income and becoming more independent. 

“I was in Canada when I was 16. When I was studying in grades 11 and 12, I have jobs. Kasi in Canada, uso yon eh, di ba? So, I worked two jobs. I worked in McDonald’s and I worked in Pizza Hut while studying in Grades 11 and 12.”

Her learnings from her stay in Canada gave her more motivation to become a better entrepreneur, especially after finishing a Business Administration degree from The University of British Columbia. 

“I finished college. And I think intrinsically, I decided to come back home, even though they didn’t ask me to come home. After all, it was my exposure early on in the business where I felt that they needed help.”

Building The Mega Sardines Legacy

Having set her heart on helping her parents, Michelle Tiu Lim-Chan returned to the Philippines to continue the family business that will eventually pave the way to the Mega Sardines legacy.

“When I came back in 1999, we were just in the fishing business. So we were fishing for 20 years at that time and we were supplying fish to all the canneries here in Manila and Zamboanga. But my dad decided to build a brand of sardines and manufacture our [own] sardines. So that’s when we started building the brand from scratch.”

The beginning was not easy because they faced rejections from different grocery stores as there were more well-known brands. This rough start motivated Michelle to develop the brand and improve the business further. 

“But we pushed through, we pushed and we tried our best to put it out in the market. And fortunately, because of our good quality and our competitive advantage, we were able to get the number one market share in 15 years.”

In the pursuit of developing the Mega Sardines brand, the company hired Cesar Montano as their first endorser to gain more customers. And with the growth of customers, she handled sales and marketing to establish a better working system. Additionally, with the fast industry changes, Mega Prime Foods Inc. also decided to digitalize the business operation.

“So we had to go to some longer operations and we had to digitize and make sure that the data is available for us to be able to come up with good decisions. And so through that time, I was able to learn a lot of things about the shipyard business, the fishing business, and the canning business.”

Giving Back to the Community 

With the success of Mega Sardines, Michelle Tiu Lim-Chan believes in giving back to the community. Her father has taught her to be empathetic and help other people as it reminds them to stay grounded. 

“I believe that our employees are the number one priority. And I want to enrich their lives and their families so they will grow with the company. We always go back to our purpose of nation-building with the same values that we embody in our company.”

Aside from this, the Mega Tiu Lim Foundation supports the advocacy of health and nutrition. They have feeding programs where they teach mothers how to give nutritious food to their children. Mega Prime also has a sustainability program by participating in cleaning the sea and initiating projects for environmental care. 

Finally, the Mega Sardines CEO shared advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, “Here are the ways to achieve a work-life harmony: the family should always be your first priority. You should surround yourself with good, trustworthy people, and you should lift everything to God.”

Catch Mega Sardines CEO Michelle Tiu Lim-Chan in the latest episode of Chinese By Blood, Filipino By Heart, coming out this Sunday, August 13 2023, at 8 PM on CNN. 

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