Business Lessons from Mariano Manas, Hen Lin’s Founder

Hen Lin is a popular stall for those who wish to enjoy authentic Chinese takeout dishes such as dimsum favorites like siomai and mami. But did you know that this business was started by its founder Mariano Manas when he was already 46 years old?

Manas got the idea of selling the popular dimsum goods at the beginning of the “malling” phenomena in the 1980s. He opened his first stall at an SM mall, naming it “Hen Lin” after his children Henry and Lyn. The business was so successful that he opened a second stall at another mall.

Today, Hen Lin has close to 300 outlets across the Philippines! Here are some business lessons from Manas.

Know Your Market

No matter how good your product might be, if you don’t target the right market, your business will be a flop.

Manas loves to eat siomai and mami but know that these items are so expensive in Chinese restaurants and 5-star hotels. So, he thought of selling affordable dimsum favorites, targeting those who are on a budget.

Photo credit: Hen Lin

He said that it is personal gratification for him to let the ordinary people enjoy real siomai at affordable prices. Though he earns less per order, selling more items could bring him more money.

I imagine that if I make one peso per siopao at that time, I can make P30 if I sell 30 pieces. I can make P300 pesos up to P7,000. That’s the thing that motivates you. So I started selling to the supermarkets, to schools and then to SM where kept opening new outlets,” Manas explained.

Make Your Product Stand Out

Unless you are selling a unique or rare item, you are likely to have a lot of competition in the market. The challenge is to make your product stand out from the crowd so you’ll attract customers to your store.

Photo credit: Hen Lin

Learn to Innovate

Don’t be content with your products, just because they are becoming popular in the market. Instead, learn to innovate and create new products. This way, your customers will enjoy something new and you can also attract new customers who are looking for such items.

Value Partners and Customers

Manas understands that no man is island when doing business. That’s why he makes sure to value his partners as well as their customers. He claims that in his 40 years of doing business, he has never taken advantage of anyone.

Photo credit: Esquire Mag

Save and Invest in the Future

Manas prefer buying on installment so he still has money left to save in the bank. But he also thinks about each investment he makes and always makes it a goal to invest for the future.

You can buy anything from raw land, commercial lot or a condominium on installment. When you are paying on installment, you are forced to save. Don’t spend more than what you earn. It takes sometimes discipline to do that,” he added.

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