Rags to Riches Story of Jollibee’s Tony Tan Caktiong

There is no question that Jollibee is the most popular fastfood outlet in the Philippines. Surely, its owner Tony Tan Caktiong is a Filipino billionaire businessman! He is the founder and chairman of Jollibee Foods Corporation, and the co-chairman of DoubleDragon Properties. But did you know that this rich businessman hailed from a poor family?

He is the third of seven siblings from a poor family who immigrated to the Philippines from China. The son of a cook who used to work at a Buddhist temple, Caktiong experienced hardships early in his life. But this inspired him to help the family earn money.

Their hardworking parents introduced them to business. As kids, Caktiong and his siblings worked as helpers at their family’s restaurant business in Davao. They did everything from washing dishes to bussing tables to serving customers.

Tony Tan Caktiong owner of Jollibee
Photo credit: Lauro Montellano Jr./ Malacañang Photo Bureau/PNA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The family would soon have a stable income and was able to send their kids to prestigious schools. Caktiong graduated from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) with a degree in BS Chemical Engineering.

In 1975, he followed his family’s path in business by franchising the Magnolia Ice Cream House. He was just 22 years old at the time and had paid Php350,000 for the franchise, opening Cubao Ice Cream House and Quiapo Ice Cream House.

But he didn’t just stop there. Instead, he expanded his business by creating Jollibee in 1978 after people suggested they offer something else because the customers didn’t really want to eat ice cream all the time. They served fried chicken which would soon become the famous Jollibee ChickenJoy. They also offered hamburgers and Pinoy-style spaghetti.

Tony Tan Caktiong
Photo credit: TeaHub

From that humble restaurant, the brand grew into the Philippines’ most popular fastfood chain. There are now over a thousand Jollibee outlets all over the Philippines and even in several countries around the world.

As Jollibee Foods Corporation, they expanded the business to include Greenwich, Chowking, Mang Inasal, Manong Pepe’s, and Red Ribbon.

As of January 2021, Forbes Magazine ranks Caktiong as the #9 richest man in the Philippines with his net worth of $2.4 billion. Simply incredible for a guy who hailed from a poor family, huh?

Joy Adalia