In photo: Mekeni Food Corp. founder Tatay Felix Garcia (Wearing hat) poses with sons, from left Angelito Garcia, VP for Admin and Finance, Adrian Garcia, VP for Supply Chain Management, Nardo Garcia, VP for Sales and Marketing, Pruds Garcia, President, and Diosdado Garcia. VP for Manufacturing. Pruds and his brothers have been helping the company grow even as it faced different crises throughout the years.
By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios
In the Philippines, most of the micro, small and medium enterprises are operated by a family corporation, and while this is the prevalent setup, not all family businesses end up with a happy ending or successful. Needless to say, others become ugly that even led to the division of family or even legal action against one another. For whatever reason of this falling out, it is really hard to speculate. But according to Business Mentor Butz Bartolome who made a humble Inasal house from Iloilo City into a billion-pesos worth company, in most cases, it is all about money and share.
But there is one of the few companies in the Philippines that shows that family first and legacy matters in the business, more than the share of the money they gain in their company, and that is Mekeni Food Corp, the only meat processing company in the Philippines that is allowed by the Japanese government to export to Japan for the Japanese market, and a grand slam winner in European International Quality Awards meat category awards of Gold (2012) in Geneva, Switzerland; Platinum (2013), in Frankfurt Germany; and Diamond (2016) in Paris, France.
From the backyard to world-class business
Not denying their humble beginnings, Mekeni is one of the most successful brands not only in the Philippines but throughout Asia. But just like any successful company today, Mekeni started as a small family business. But their success was not served in a silver platter.
On several occasions, Mekeni experienced several crises in their business but successfully conquered them through teamwork, going back to their purpose and look at the legacy they want to leave behind.
Started in 1986 as a home-based chicharon and tocino maker in Balubad, Porac, Pampanga, the couple, Tatay Felix and Imang Meding Garcia, who were both public teachers envisioned to make their backyard business bigger. However, fate seemed to be challenging their tenacity. when Mount Pinatubo erupted and wreaked havoc in their business just as when they were gearing up to make make it bigger.
Since they were caught flat-footed by the eruption and the damage was big and beyond immediate repair, they realized that this is not the time for them to show despair to their employees as well as their community has given their predicament. Hence, they talked to their two sons Doods and Nards who were left in the Philippines as three other sons had their respective illustrious careers abroad. They agreed to keep the business and also discussed with their workers back then on how they give hope to their community using Mekeni as their springboard.
Knowing that their community is already part of their family and that their community needs help immediately, Tatay Felix wrote his three sons, Adrian, Pruds, and Lito, and summoned them to come home to help their community. They did this because the couple believes that the members of their community are also part of their family. Hence, the distress call to his three children who were well entrenched in their respective careers was a plead to fulfill their life’s mission to make a difference in the lives of others.
“It was the peak of my career,” said Pruds Garcia, president of Mekeni, recounting his time working as an accountant in Saudi Arabia. “But I had to leave my high-paying job so that I can go back and help my parents rebuild the business.”
Eventually, the business recovered and even grew exponentially thereafter. By 1994, a new processing plant had been constructed with a capacity to process 3,000 kilos of meat a day, which operated 24 hours daily. Employee count had also grown to about 35 people, all of them are neighbors of the Garcia family. But not long after, back-to-back challenges sprung up but this did not dishearten the family behind Mekeni.
While Pruds admitted that closing down the business was being considered back then, the challenge posed by their father prompted them to make the right decisions.
“My father said: ‘Son, I just want to remind you the reason why you came back. It’s not for us, it’s not for you. It’s for the people’,” the President of Mekeni recalled.
Through perseverance and dedication, the family got through the obstacles they faced and enjoyed a period of growth and success that propelled the company to what it is now—one of the most awarded processed meat companies in the country.
Over the years, Mekeni has encountered many problems, but they always went back to the most important things to them: their people and their community which they call their family. This kept them centered. And now that the country faces one of the greatest challenges in our history, Garcia has a piece of simple advice for businesses of various sizes.
“In times of crisis, you go back to the mission and vision of the company,” Pruds said.
Having experienced numerous major crises over the course of its life, Mekeni has proven that with hard work, perseverance, and a profound sense of dedication to service, any business, no matter the size, can conquer any challenge that life throws at it.
“Crises will always be there. The important thing is to always go back to your ‘why.’ Why did you start this business? You can always change the process, you can always change the strategy, but never the purpose,” Pruds concluded.