Raising an Industry Giant: Natividad Cheng, CEO Awards Honoree for Entrepreneurial Excellence 

How Natividad Cheng grew Uratex into a household brand and a titan of business in the Philippines 

The dream of Uratex began under a santol tree where Natividad Cheng and husband Robert put up their makeshift office. What began as a business with PHP4,000 in capital and 10 employees would grow into a massive enterprise–an institution that has touched the lives of millions of Filipinos. 55 years since the company’s birth, Uratex is now the leading foam manufacturer in the Philippines with 25 plants nationwide.

While Uratex has gained prominence for its mattresses and bedding, the brand has expanded its product range to meet the increasing needs of various industries. Additionally, it oversees other companies and partnerships as part of the Uratex/RGC Group of Companies. This 55-year-old enterprise includes business divisions focused on automotive parts and seats, foams and mattresses, monoblock and home accessories, fabrics, and food packaging.

Difficult as it is to imagine a Philippines without Uratex mattresses, monoblock chairs and more, it wasn’t always this way. Natividad and Robert Cheng began the business by initially trading furniture supplies and construction supplies. It was a way to make ends meet, as the couple had just started a family. Yet they were quick to spot the opportunity that would change their lives.

“That time may isang factory lang ng foam,” Cheng explains. “Ang makina niya galing din sa Germany. Ang supply niyang chemicals all came from Germany lang din…Sila parang palitaw eh. Ngayon may foaming, may supply. After 2 weeks, wala na naman. Siguro walang planning. Kaya naisip namin, gagawa lang tayo ng negosyo, bakit hindi foam na lang?” 

[“At that time, only one factory produced foam. Their machine came from Germany and their supply of chemicals also came from Germany. They’re not consistent. Today, there’s a supply of foam, then after two weeks, there’s none. Probably didn’t plan things out. This was why we thought: why not make a business out of foam?”]

The decades that followed were not easy ones. From financing the business, scaling its growth and venturing into new products and markets, Natividad Cheng triumphed through both sacrifice and hardship.

The Business Manual recognizes Natividad Cheng’s life’s work by honoring her with the CEO Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence. Through traditional values of perseverance, grit, and hard work, she began a business that would grow into a giant in its industry.

The CEO Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence

The CEO Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence is a special category in The Business Manual’s CEO Awards where the website’s editors choose honorees for their entrepreneurial achievements in growing businesses.  In partnership with Pharmaton, the award showcases leaders who are one in both body and mind. Each honoree must display outstanding leadership in two categories:

For the “Mind” category, candidates should demonstrate impactful pivot decisions made within the last three years. These individuals must substantiate their capacity for active decision-making, thoughtful analysis, and strategic leadership.

Keen insight and critical decision-making is only half the story. For the “Body” category, candidates should exhibit successful milestones achieved during their tenure through proactive execution and entrepreneurial initiatives.

The guiding hand of Natividad Cheng throughout the 55 years of Uratex is testament to this kind of leadership. From Uratex’s inception, she astutely spotted the opportunities available and made the most of them. And through the wisdom of being a mother, she shepherded the company through both good times and bad.

The Values Behind Uratex

Over time, Uratex expanded its offerings beyond mattresses and foam. In 1974, the company ventured into bed spring production. The following year, in 1975, Uratex began manufacturing car seats for brands such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Chrysler, Benz, and Nissan.

Today, the company’s product line has further diversified to include textiles, auto parts, houseware, and even food containers. This expansion was not only driven by customer demand but also a commitment to continuous innovation, as well as addressing evolving needs in the market.

At the heart of these innovations are values that Natividad Cheng constantly upholds. The first is an unbending commitment quality.

“Unang-una, hindi kami nagpapalit ng formulation, unless to make the product better,” Mrs. Cheng declares. “Tapos di kami masyadong nagtataas ng presyo. Minsan kahit tumaas ang raw materials, pinipilit namin istretch, kahit konting tubo, okay lang.”

[Translation: First and foremost, we don’t change our formulation, unless it will make the product better. We don’t raise our prices too high also. Sometimes, even if the price of raw materials goes up, we stretch (our margins)—despite earning less. It’s okay.]

The goal, according to Mrs. Cheng is to create a long-lasting product. “Sabi ni Mr. Cheng, mag-isip tayo ng isang product na tatagal gamitin ng customer,” she says. “Tapos ang presyo, affordable naman sa kanila. Kaya nakaisip kami, gagawa tayo ng magandang foam para sa public, sa consumers natin. Nakita ng mga customer na ‘Aba, ang tagal masira nitong foam ah.’ Kaya balik sila ng balik sa atin. Pag bibili ng new foam, sa atin kumukuha. Tapos nirerekomenda pa nila sa kaibigan nila.”

[“Mr. Cheng said that we need to think of a product that customers will use for a long time. And it has to be affordable, too. This is why we thought of making good-quality foam for the public—our consumers. When they see that our foam takes a long time before it breaks, they will keep coming back to us. Whenever they buy new foam, they buy it from us. They even recommend (Uratex) to their friends!”]

Continuing to Grow

In time, Mrs. Cheng encountered another challenge: the unexpected death of her husband. This profound loss was a heavy burden for the matriarch and her family. However, life continued. The business needed attention, employees depended on their wages, and orders required fulfillment. After allowing herself time to grieve, Mrs. Cheng recognized the necessity of continuing.

 “[Dahil] biglang namatay si Tatay Robert, ang ginawa namin, kailangan tuloy pa rin negosyo namin,” Mrs. Cheng says.

“Medyo marami na kaming empleyado. Edi, mabait din mga supplier namin at yung mga customer. Mga malalaking customer, mga multinational—sila mismo nagsabi samin, ‘sige kaya mo naman, sige ituloy ninyo.’ Hanggang lumaki na nang lumaki negosyo namin.”

[Translation: Because Robert passed away so suddenly, we knew that we needed to still continue the business. We had a lot of employees (that needed to be paid) but our customers and suppliers have been good to us. We’ve had big customers—multinational companies—who told us “You can do it, just continue the business,” until our business kept growing.]

Despite all the success Uratex has experienced, Natividad Cheng remains grounded in the values that brought her company to where it is today: hard work, sacrifice, dedication to her partners and employees. Her advice to young entrepreneurs?

“Kailangan lahat ng kikitain mo, wag naman ubusin,” she advises. “Wag tayong bibili ng luho na hindi natin kailangan. Iplano natin. Kaya kami pag may pera, improve yung machinery namin o papatayo kami ng warehouses ng additional factory. Yun, di mo uubusin sa luho. Eh kami naman, pamilya namin, hindi maluho. Nasanay na kami.“

[Translation: You shouldn’t spend all of your profits. Don’t splurge on unnecessary things. Plan ahead. This is why whenever we have money, we use it to buy new machinery or build warehouses or factories. We don’t overspend. My family and I…we don’t spend. We’re used to it.]


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