[Executive Edge] Meet Mica Tan, the 23-year-old angel investor

Ezra Ferraz

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[Executive Edge] Meet Mica Tan, the 23-year-old angel investor
The young president and CFO’s company aims to build communities of optimistic angel investors and provide more Filipinos with hope and resources to succeed as entrepreneurs

Mica Tan, the president and CFO of the MFT Group of Companies, fell into investing almost accidentally.

“Since I started venturing into business, I would always count on my network of friends and partners for leverage and learning,” Tan said. “After some time, it dawned on me that my network was comprised of two kinds of people: those who had money and didn’t know where to put it, and those who were good at selling but needed cash to operate.”

Tan recognized an opportunity to connect the two groups. “I played around with these dynamics, matching a capability of one with the need of another, and created a win-win scheme for both sides,” she said. “We’d all share the profits and gains afterwards; everybody benefits and everyone is happy.”

Tan admitted that she did not know this was a form of angel investing at the time. However, this did not keep her from succeeding. “I kept doing that for years, connecting small business owners with aggressive and optimistic investors, and everything grew from there,” she said.

Starting young

Of course, such success always seems easier in hindsight – in reality, Mica has had a lifetime of business preparation.

At 13, she was trading stocks on the Philippine Stock Exchange floor with the help of Regina Capital. Two years later, at 15, she was trading foreign exchange (forex) and getting mentorship from renowned investor Mark So, in addition to working at her dad’s family’s pawnshop business.

Tan eventually wanted to attend Fordham University like her business idol Donald Trump, but after getting admitted, she decided against it. “If I went to Fordham: Fordham would be my university – New York would be my campus,” she recalled. “If I enrolled into the school of ‘hard knocks’ [business in the real world]: Life would be my university, the world would be my campus.”

So fresh out of high school, Tan became an independent distributor for a beverage company, and it was around then that she began the small-scale angel investing by connecting small business owners in need of capital with the investors who could provide it.

It was not until 2014 that she formally founded the MFT Group of Companies with other investors. She credits her co-founders as one of her main sources of inspiration and support.

“The top people who believed in my vision and trusted me with their money are my directors now in MFT Group: Luis Cancio, Jr. Albert Barranco, CK Agbayani, Wenijoy Naelgas, Roxanne Gimenez-Agbayani, and Jenna Fuentes,” she confided.

More than money

Tan summed up how angel investing works in a nutshell: “Utilizing the angel investing business model, money from an ‘angel group’ (a group of angel investors) is pooled together to come up with a large lump sum. This money is then used to fund and support the companies under the MFT Group portfolio. A portion of the profit of these companies goes back to the angel investors.”

When asked to define what an investor is, most people would stop at the above explanation – it’s someone who infuses money into a business. Tan originally had this thinking as well. “I’ve been exposed to businesses of different kinds, some of them really flew high while some became unsuccessful, and what I realized is that money alone cannot solve all business problems,” she said.

The companies that Tan takes into the MFT Group of Companies are thus provided with very specific strategic support. “Apart from infusing capital, we also help these companies in major business roadblocks in the fields of legal, taxation and accounting, and marketing, as these are our strengths,” Tan said.

The MFT Group of Companies has a diverse portfolio that spans across multiple industries, including publishing (Inkwell Publishing), fashion (Ralph Raven Shoes), and distribution (Bloomquest).

When asked why she prefers to invest across a breadth of fields rather than a single one, Tan cited the need to diversify risk and maximize returns. She also has a somewhat altruistic reason for doing so. “As ‘angels,’ we want to help as many small businesses as we can,” she said.

According to Tan, helping small business owners is the most rewarding part about being an investor:

“We can talk about growing your money and the rewards of making money work for you, but everything really comes down to this – when you see an extremely passionate entrepreneur who’s madly in love with his business that he’s willing to commit his whole life to it and throw in all efforts to make the business work, and you see that the business has so much potential and the owner knows what he’s doing but he’s struggling with some aspects of his business, and then you come in to assist and support, gearing up and equipping the business for the upswing, and then seeing the business get back on track and be profitable again,” she said.

This outcome is what drives and motivates her on a daily basis. “It’s getting to see everyone win – you see happier and more driven entrepreneurs, more satisfied and productive employees, and fulfilled angel investors,” Tan concluded.

Investing as nation-building

What does the day-to-day work of an investor look like?

According to Tan, most of her time goes to talking and meeting with people, which is part and parcel to the broader goal of “building relationships and connecting people, one business at a time.”

She broke her daily schedule down in greater detail. “I start my day very early for quiet time and for conditioning myself for the hustle and bustle,” Tan shared. “En route to my office, I talk to business partners through phone for daily alignment. When I get to the office, I check on updates from the accounting, legal, and marketing departments and meet with people I have set appointments with.”

Tan also has a curious habit that she encourages other Filipino entrepreneurs to adopt. “I have breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings everyday – I make sure to never eat alone,” she said, adding that these meal meetings see her interacting with a wide range of people. “My regular day consists of talking to and dealing with a bunch of people – factory workers, business owners and their clients, potential investors, business partners.”

If her schedule sounds exhausting, it’s because it really is. Still, Tan finds energy and inspiration in the idea that investing can contribute to nation building. “We want the angel investing industry in the Philippines to flourish and be a common ground where angel groups gather together to empower entrepreneurs and help them navigate through the most common challenges business ventures face,” Tan said.

Tan went on, “This is why the MFT Group of Companies wants to pioneer angel investing in the Philippines – we want to build communities of optimistic angel investors and provide more Filipinos with a different level of hope and resources to succeed as entrepreneurs.”

While most people would assume that one needs to be extremely wealthy to be an investor, Tan is more modest in what she thinks is necessary. “Everyone who is optimistic in setting aside cash to invest in small lucrative businesses can be an angel investor,” Tan said, adding, “The good thing about being in angel investing is that you get to help small businesses and promote entrepreneurship.” – Rappler.com

Rappler Business columnist Ezra Ferraz is also the chief content officer at ZipMatch, a tech company backed by Ideaspace Foundation, Hatchd Digital, IMJ Investment Partners, and 500 Startups. He brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Connect with him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz

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