Meet Henry Sy's bachelor grandson who's building his own SM

Art Fuentes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2018 04:22 PM | Updated as of Jun 26 2018 09:35 PM

Howard Sy, grandson of the Philippines' richest man, strikes out on his own with StorageMart, a company that rents our storage space for space-starved urbanites. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The grandson of the country's richest man, Henry Sy, said he hatched the idea for his own business while watching the American reality show Storage Wars, betting on a "slow and steady" burn instead of riding on fads.

StorageMart may share the SM name of his grandfather's shopping mall, banking and real estate empire, but the 2-year-old enterprise is funded entirely by 29-year-old Howard Sy.

"I wanted to try a new industry na there's no competitors or there's a few," said the son of Hans Sy, who quit his job as an investment banker for Macquarie Group, which had him shuttling between Singapore and Hong Kong.

"I just really wanted a business that you could scale. So I thought na storage is a good business to scale," he said in an interview at his third and newest branch in Quezon City.

StorageMart offers spaces as small as lockers that can fit 8 balikbayan boxes, to "XXX Large" with enough room for 173 boxes, according to its website. Rates are available upon request.

Each storage unit is equipped with its own alarm. The facilities also have security guards and are equipped with surveillance cameras and PIN code access. They are open to users 24/7.

SLOW AND STEADY

The young Sy said he toyed with the idea of setting up a different business, including a restaurant, but he dropped the idea because he wasn't sure he could scale it up in the face of intense competition.

"At the end of the day, it's real estate. It grows very slowly. It's stable but very slow. So it's nothing like those startup companies (where) people are bringing over so much capital, making so much money so quickly. This business is very slow and steady," he said.

The first StorageMart was established in Makati City where Sy saw potential clients with the clusters of high rise residential spaces.

"I realized, since there's so many condos and there's no storage in the area, especially in Makati because Makati is so dense. I decided na that should be where my first location should be placed and we'll figure out from there," he said.

StorageMart opened its newest facility in Quezon City this year. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

But running his own company was a lot trickier than his previous job as an investment banker, Sy said. As an employee, he had the luxury of "switching off" right away after he finished his work. 

"When you're in the business, especially if it's your own business, you really worry about it," he said. "The business becomes your life."

"There are some times where I stay up in bed like "Oh my God, how am I going to improve this? How am I gonna do this?" and then, you know, instead of being able to switch it away, you think, you stay awake for one hour just thinking."

StorageMart offers rental space for people who have run out of space in their homes and small businesses who need to store inventory. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

As an employee, he also had access to back office services like human resources, accounting and marketing. He found out that being his own boss meant taking care of all of these aspects of the business. 

"I think the biggest thing about having your own business is the fulfillment," he said.

While slow and steady may be his mantra, Sy is looking at a fourth location, possibly in Alabang.