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Her business is an open secret

Young entrepreneur rises to the challenge of bringing a foreign brand into the country
By Louise M. Francisco |

For Global LifeStyle Ventures Inc., the Philippine master franchisee of Secret Recipe, a Malaysian lifestyle cafe, everything happened because of a chance dining experience.


"My dad just happened to dine in a Secret Recipe restaurant in Malaysia in 2006 during a break from a business convention," recalls Jennifer James Tan, chief executive officer of Secret Recipe. "The taste of the food amazed him, so he asked for the contact information of the restaurant\\\'s business development officer. And when he came back to the Philippines, he told me how fascinated he was by the offerings of that restaurant."


At that time, the younger Tan was still studying at De La Salle University in Manila but was already being targeted by a multinational company for a promising post. She was also open to the idea of foreign franchising, however, so when her family challenged her to bring Secret Recipe to the Philippines, she agreed to do it. In early 2007, she flew to Malaysia every two weeks over a period of three months to work out the arrangements with Secret Recipe\\\'s principal.



"On top of the back-and-forth travel, e-mail and phone conversations, I also performed first-hand market research on the business," says the  double degree major in economics and business management.


She then tasked her younger sisters to find out if a fast-casual-dining house like Secret Recipe would have the power to attract Filipino foodies. When they returned a positive finding, the Tan family made a firm decision to bring Secret Recipe to the Philippines.


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