(Business Mentor's note: Willen Ma, a pharmacist by profession and mother of two, took over her father’s business for the sake of living up to the legacy. Not knowing anything about managing a food business, her positive mindset as well as managing her people brought the brand to expand to several branches. Today, her children, who are now the fourth generation, are helping her.)
Filipinos have a long-standing love affair with food. Hence, it’s easy for us to spot good food.
In Binondo, one restaurant stands out not only because of its appetizing gastronomic finds but also because of its impressive history.
Established by John Ma in the 1960s in Chinatown, Ma Kong Mami Restaurant, now known as Masuki Mami Restaurant, instantly became the go-to place of Filipino-Chinese families for distinctly delicious mami soup and dimsum dishes.
John--our Dad and known as Ma Chi On to his business colleagues--was into the food business since he was 14 years old, started as an apprentice for his uncle, and prepared, cooked and sold noodles on the streets of Binondo a decade before he opened his own mami house. Indeed, he knows his noodles well and it showed when more and more customers started trooping to the restaurant to experience its best sellers.
Over the years, our family maintained the high quality of food that the restaurant offers. Even with growing competition, we ensure that we don’t shortchange our customers. They trusted us throughout all these years so we owe that much to them.
I, Willen Ma, John’s youngest daughter, took over the business after my brother--Wilson Ma, our dad’s apprentice since he was 14 years old--passed on. My dad has built a name for himself in the food business. It is only fitting for me to make sure that his legacy lives on. Masuki’s recipe hasn’t changed since my dad made the first mami more than 40 years ago.
As a pharmacist by profession, without any business background and being the youngest in our family, I was thrown into the difficult task of continuing the legacy of our dad, especially during the tough times and when the business was slowly going down. My motivation was my parents and my family. This business saw us through. Our father was able to send me to school because of the mami house, so I was determined to continue operating it all these years.
As a food entrepreneur, I acknowledge the importance of taking care of one’s employees. The company experienced labor issues long before I joined it so I’m very careful for that not to happen again. As the head of the business, I spend a lot of time ensuring that good relationships are cultivated at work. My best weapon is not muscle but patience. And I think that’s an asset of a lady boss.
As a single mother, I also juggle attending to the business and taking care of my kids. As we all know, mothering is a full-time job. But 50 people are also dependent on me for their source of livelihood. So, I had to make sure I did well in both departments.
The business continues to grow and my two children are now helping me with running the commissary and operations of Masuki.
My children and I went through different challenges, them being millennial entrepreneurs and me as half/half (half traditional/half modern). What’s important is we turn these obstacles into opportunities for us to learn from and grow, both professionally and personally. Managing the business is an everyday learning experience for us. We agreed to look into the future and hope for the best and also work hard to achieve our goals.
Masuki has definitely gone a long way from its beginnings in Binondo. The mami house is now also in Greenhills, SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia, and Lucky Chinatown Mall.
What is our secret ingredient to success? Believing in our brand.
So, selling the product to other people becomes an easy task. Thus, with my children who are involved in the business, I am proud to say Masuki will go a long way. There are lively exchanges of ideas as well as finding innovative ways to reach to other customers.
Finally, as I have always shared with many people, learn to take a look at the business of your family. No matter how small it may be, given the passion and heart, growth will be around.
For questions and more information, you may contact Armando "Butz" Bartolome by email: [email protected] or on Twitter https://twitter.com/philfranguru. His website is www.gmb.com.ph