Filipino Entrepreneurs Who Have Made it in America

The migration of Filipinos to other countries has a long history. An article from the Pulitzer Center notes that the Philippines is one of the major sources around the world for migrant workers in the seafaring, domestic work, and nursing sectors. Although many Filipino families are sustained by temporary labor migration, plenty of Filipinos have also made their homes in countries around the world, including the United States.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are currently 1,942,000 Filipinos in the immigrant population in the United States as of 2016. Some of them have found a home overseas, making names for themselves as entrepreneurs. Here’s a list of Filipinos who successfully established businesses in America.

Jen Rubio

Jen Rubio developed her company from her personal need for sturdier, more dependable luggage. Being a frequent traveller herself, Jen Rubio co-founded Away Luggage with Stephanie Korey. Away Luggage is a direct-to-consumer company that provides an opportunity to invest in luggage that is functional, sturdy, and efficient. In building her company, Jen Rubio made sure that she focused on details and features that she needed as a traveller. Each piece of Away Luggage comes with smooth, sturdy wheels, durable zippers, and a built-in powerbank to charge your phone. They don’t skimp out on looks either, and the company focuses on designing streamlined, chic polycarbonate hardshells. Apart from providing sturdy luggage for frequent travellers, the company also paired up with non-profit organization Peace Direct, which provides aid to families in Mindanao who are affected by armed conflicts.

Tom Cunanan

Washington-based chef Tom Cunanan made recent headlines after being awarded the title of Best Chef in Mid-Atlantic cuisine by the James Beard Foundation, a highly lauded institution in the American culinary and hospitality field. Tom Cunanan is the head chef of Bad Saint, which was also food magazine Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant back in 2016. Cunanan, born in Olongapo, Philippines, stays true to his roots with unique Filipino-inspired dishes that have won over both connoisseurs and average diners alike in the US. For inspiration, he regularly travels to the Philippines to explore local techniques and ingredients from authentic Filipino cuisine.

Josie Natori

The Natori Company is a clothing line founded by Josie Natori that aims to create timeless but unique pieces for women. Taking inspiration from a fusion between Western and Eastern art, the Natori Company has grown into the chic fashion label it is today since its beginnings in 1977. Currently, the label retails in large department stores in the US such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus, and is also available to be purchased in the Philippines.

Mally Roncal

Mally Roncal paved her way to becoming a household name in the American beauty industry. Currently, she is one of Hollywood’s top makeup artists, with her list of clientele including famous artists and actors like Hayden Panettiere, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J. Blige, Rihanna, Teri Hatcher, and Celine Dion. Based in upstate New York, Mally Roncal has come a long way since her first job working at the counter for make-up brand Shiseido in Barney’s. Her own cosmetic brand Mally Beauty also reaps the benefits of her passion, talent, and creativity.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo

Competing among the hustlers in Wall Street is Sheila Lirio Marcelo, one of the few women CEOs of a publicly traded company listed in the New York Stock Exchange. Her brainchild is an online market focused on providing family care services, giving millions of site visitors the opportunity to  look for full-time nannies, part-time babysitters, caregivers, special needs providers, tutors, and the like. Marcelo founded the company in 2006 after her experiences and struggles as a working mom with two young children. Under her wing, has expanded, and now serves around 34 million people in 20 countries across the globe.

Rafe Totengco

Based in New York, Rafe Totengco is currently one of the top names in the fashion world since his namesake brand Rafe was established in 1997. Rafe was initially just known for its bags, but grew to include footwear and accessories. The brand gained popularity quickly, showcasing pieces with unique structural designs inspired by art and architecture while still being timeless and chic.

Chef Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa

Husband and wife duo Chef Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa developed a deep passion for authentic Filipino cuisine. Before the new generation of chefs and restaurateurs in America began exploring Southeast Asian cuisine, Dorotan and Besa had already restaurant Cendrillon in 1995 in SoHo. Taking inspiration from their childhood experiences in the Philippines, their secret technique is authenticity — paying homage to memories of their mothers’ or grandmothers’ methods of cooking, as well as little tricks and techniques that they picked up. After Cendrillon closed its doors in 2009, they opened Purple Yam in Brooklyn soon after, giving diners a more upbeat and casual Filipino dining experience.


Looking for more tips and tricks on how to expand your own brand? Check out our blogpost on 10 Reasons Why You Need Self-Awareness to be Successful in Business.