How ‘NOT GIVING IN’ to failures made the founder of Naturally Handmade a stronger woman

Addicted2Startup met up with Founder of  Naturally Handmade Miss Bavani Gopala Krishnan recently at the Penang Mini Makers Faire 2017. We at Addicted2startup are always inspired by people who had the courage to step up and take the initiative to start something new, be it a business or start a new talent and have the patience and determination to make it successful. Some of you reading this might smile, shrug and say “Its nothing. Anyone can do it”. Or you might just say, well ‘ I dont know why they dont dare do it’. Having interviewed so many people, 8 out of 10 people will excitingly tell you their dreams, ideas and what they want to do in the future. Only to end up, not starting it due to the millions of excuses they give to themselves.

‘EXECUTION’ is the key. An idea without execution will never see success. An idea with execution will at least have a chance at succeeding.

This is the story of Naturally Handmade.
Naturally Handmade was founded by Miss Bavani Gopala Krishnan who is also working full time as a Talent Aquisition manager in KL. She has previously worked in various Multi National Companies and have been venturing into different side businesses, among which was also to be a Chef. Her relentless spirit of not giving up to pursue her dreams

A2S: You mentioned to us at the start of this interview that Naturally Handmade isn’t your first business venture. In fact you mentioned at some point in time, you were also a chef in the food business then as a property agent and those ventures somehow didn’t turn out the way you expected it to be. Subsequently you started Naturally Handmade. Having go through the entire process of START, FAIL, RESTART, which all entrepreneurs would tell you, is the natural process of having a startup. How do you feel about failure and what advice do you have to the younger generation who wants to startup their own business but who are also afraid of failing.

Miss Bavani: I had my catering business before I worked as a Chef and I left my business when i was given the opportunity to be the Head Chef for another company. I sold all my catering equipment to the same company. They offered me profit sharing with minimal pay for a year. As I was banking a lot on the profit sharing, I was practically living on my savings ( due to my minimal wage) during my tenure as a head chef. After a year, the company went back on their word on profit sharing and things got ugly and I left the company.

Not giving up, I then ventured into the property market as a property agent. At that time the property market started to stagnate due to GST implementation, sales wasn’t doing well. I didn’t have much cash to roll, and decided to find a full time job. But early this year, I caught the entrepreneur bug again, and decided to get my hands busy on formulating DIY bath and body products for my self which involves formulating recipes (kinda like cooking). As get more immersed in this, I realized that the entire process of making your own soap was very therapeutic.
If there is one thing that I have learned over the years is that, if there is anything you want to do. If you are capable, do it yourself with your own skills, energy and time. The harder you work, the more success you will find. My advice to anyone who wants to startup is ” Don’t be afraid of failing. Failure is good as you get to learn from it. And every time you fall down, pick yourself up and strive to go higher”.

A2S: What inspired and made you start Naturally Handmade?

Miss Bavani: I started Naturally Homemade by wanting to cure my own sinus. I use hand sanitizers very often and I found the ones available commercially contain 90% alcohol which was very drying for my skin. One of the things I realized is that as Malaysians , we are exposed to Air Conditioning almost 60% of the time (working in offices) which makes our skin very dry. Therefore I went on to research natural ingredients which I could use to formulate my own moisturizing hand sanitizer.

A2S: What makes your product STANDOUT from the rest of the other handmade products in the market?

Miss Bavani: My Unique Selling Point (USP) is that I originally started by making skin products to treat my own skin problems. These products are delicately made with love and made one batch at a time. The ingredients are all natural, individually selected and formulated to give it, long lasting effective results.

A2S:  Let me start with the Malaysian market, as this is where you are currently based. Malaysians are a very price sensitive lot. As you are using premium ingredients, what are you currently doing to ward off competition that are using chemical based ingredients at a cheaper price?

Miss Bavani: In my opinion, it all starts with education and understanding the importance of using good quality products for your skin. I mean lets be honest, the reason we are using skin products is so that our skin looks better. So why not use the best for our skin? By slowly educating my customers on what ingredients are used, how they are being formulated, their uses and applications ( online and offline), I am able to convince and show them how good Naturally Handmade items are. Secondly it is about the target market that you are aiming for. There was once I setup shop in KL, and I realized a stall next to me was selling similar items for half my price. I was nervous at first, afraid I might not be able to sell anything. But surprisingly, I had my own set of crowd. Customers that came to me, told me that they realized the good quality of my products and hence, came to buy from me.
In order for my products price friendly, I produce them in smaller quantities, hence with the smaller packaging, the price is reduced to an affordable price. The beauty of it is that the packaging are all now, travel size and very convenient for people who are always on the go. Also because I am using concentrated Natural ingredients and are PARABEN FREE. Customers will only need to apply small quantities of the product for effective results, which is great because then the product lasts much longer.
**Naturally Handmade products are Paraben Free, the best storing conditions are without sunlight and moisture. Products are good to last for 6 months.

A2S: What do you foresee as a major challenge in the future for Naturally Homemade ?

Miss Bavani: Testing and Scalability

Testing: Currently all product testing and formulations are done in an external Dermatologist lab.  As there are so many different skin types out there, the next challenge is to be able to formulate and test products for a variety of Dry, Combination to Oily Skin and also Differentiate between Asian and European Skin as each skin type needs its own individual care and issues to address.

shea butter

The process of making body butter with luxurious mango butter, cocoa butter, Shea butter and a blend of moisturizing oils & essential oils.

Scalability: Currently I am still maintaining a full time day job, I do all my formulations and packing in my own home at night. Usually between 9-11pm, I am able to make between 25 to 50 small batches of products. When the demand increases, the challenge would be to find a bigger working space to store the products, formulate and pack it. The space would  also have to have good ventilation and properly kept (clean and hygienic) and also maybe we will need to look into a bottling machine and also mixer to assist in product consistency and also increase production. As production goes bigger, then there is also the challenge of quality control. Currently because I am formulating and packing it in small batches, I am able to control the consistency of the product.

A2S: As Naturally Handmade reaches the stage when you are looking to expand, then you will probably need to look at fine tuning SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) , QAQC ( Quality Checks) and maybe automation.

Miss Bavani: That is correct. My current worry is the quality of the products. When you hire someone to do the work, there is always the worry of how to maintain product quality. With skin care items, employees are able to cut corners by missing a formulation step or not mixing a certain ingredient just simply to complete the tasks within the certain working period. Most bosses or founders will only look at bottom line ( which is how many bottles produced in a time period). Once the product is bottled, and the texture and scent is the same, it will be difficult to check each bottles contents. Problem arises when the customer buys the product, applies it and after some time, the desired effects are not achieved. Therefore to complement the implementation of SOPs and QAQC checks into the production line, we need efficient supervision to ensure that these necessary steps are taken.

Aloe Vera Salve

Naturally Handmade’s Best Seller
Aloe Vera Salve – The combination of witch hazel, tea tree oil, eucalyptus and spearmint helps to heal cuts, wounds and insect bites. Tea tree oil is known for stimulating blood and keeps acne at bay. Eucalyptus does its share of protecting you from muscle pain, respiratory problems, exhaustion and list goes on. Spearmint is a natural antiseptic and is good for the brain. Witch hazel is an awesome alcohol replacement, helps to control oil and a popular acne treatment. All in all it still works great as a hand sanitizer. Even safe for pets.

A2S: Who is responsible for creating your logo, product designs and marketing material?

Miss Bavani: My husband created the Naturally Handmade’s logo. I laser printed and hand cut the stickers for each bottle. This makes sense as production is still small and i can save costs by doing it myself. ( Miss Bavani was still labeling her products at 1.30am for the SeeknKeep Event at Bangsar Shopping Center, while we were proofreading this article with her. She will then try to catch a few hours of sleep and then head over to the event).

A2S: How are you currently selling your items and what channels are you using to get your product out to the mass?

Miss Bavani:
Currently I am mostly selling our products via facebook and chat applications. It started off with friends knowing about my products and placing orders with me. Then through word of mouth, the news of this product spread and has helped me build my base clientele. I am also participating more at fairs like this to get the word out.

A2S: An observation that we would like to share, but we know maybe due to manpower limitations, this step hasn’t been implemented, is that your Social Media pages are not fully utilize to fully amplify your business and product presence. Most of the posts on Facebook, do not garner enough engagement from the public and also content are not posted up regularly. And I personally understand the issue at hand, because for our own hotel as well, we get stuck sometimes with what content we should post and whether it is relevant to the business. Most small startups that are mostly 1 man team or a 2 man team, would be looking for affordable and reliable one stop digital marketing services to handle all the marketing and Q&A sessions with the curious customers online.

 

Addicted2startup would like to sincerely thank Ms Bavani for stepping over the line to share with us, her valuable journey. It is our hope that we get to inspire others who are just waiting to start their own business journey but are still happy in their own comfort zone.  Addicted2startup is here to give you that extra push, guidance and network to get your business off the ground.

We would like to take this opportunity to grab hold of all your thoughts and ideas of what you would like us to ask in the future so that the questions are more relevant. Please join us on our Addicted2startup community as we discuss on different startup ideas.

 

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5 Tips on How to Build Your Startup’s Brand From Scratch

Beauty!-4

Branding is a key differentiator and a major reason why some startups are successful while others are not. Good branding is at the heart of any good business, but most of the branding advice you’ll find online or in person is about making sure that your brand remains consistent in your marketing efforts, or gets improved, if it’s already established. What happens if you’re just starting out, trying to build a business from scratch? Startups need to connect with people and get them to buy into their yet-to-be-proven solution.

Here are five things startups should do to differentiate themselves effectively with branding.

1. Identify your target market.

The first step to branding your startup is gaining a complete understanding of your target market. Who are you trying to reach? Think about who you want to experience your brand.

Once you’ve determined your target audience, everything in your branding should connect back to it. In short, your ideal customers should become part of your startup’s identity—after all, you can’t succeed without them.

A failure to connect with your target market will lead to long-term failure; therefore, it’s important to constantly receive feedback to determine how your customers perceive your brand and product.
Survey your early customers with questions such as:

  • How would you describe our product to a friend?
  • Tell us how you’d feel if you were no longer able to use our product.
  • How can we improve our product to better meet your needs?

Your goal should be building passionate customers who will share their experience with others, and that comes from correctly identifying your target market.

2. Study your competitors’ brands.

Next, start evaluating your competitors’ brands. You can learn a lot about marketing in your industry just by studying these previously established entries. What do their logos look like? How are they different from one another? How do they talk to your shared customer base? It’s important that you not take any of these qualities and copy them for your brand. Instead, look at the motivations behind these choices, and use the qualities themselves for the next step of your process.
If you don’t understudy your market and competition, then your venture has already failed. Here are three reasons why you should study your competitors:

  • You’ll be prepared- You will know what you are up against. By studying your competitors you have an idea of what the obstacles and challenges would be and can plan ahead on how to overcome them should the situation arise. One resourceful way is to improve and improvise on ideas and concepts from your competitors.

  • You don’t have to start from scratch- Finding outlets that are willing to work with you and distribute your product/service is one of the most tasking, time-consuming and completely necessary parts of building a business. That’s why it makes sense to study what the competition is doing so you can improve on that, especially in the area of market research and reach.

  • What works for them, ‘MIGHT’ work for you- In some cases, by studying the competitors’ websites, social media posts and existing ad campaigns you’ll be able to see what they do, what works for them, what doesn’t and what you can improve on or do better than them. There are also quite a few digital, automated tools that you can use if you don’t want to do the job yourself. One amazing free web based tool Addicted2Startup.com uses for its social media advertisements is Canva. You can easily sign up, choose the layout, add the pictures and text and your ready to share.

3. Being unique and selling your story

Identify how to differentiate your brand from the competition. It could stem from your business plan in general: One example is if you have a price advantage over your competition, you would want to emphasize that in your branding. Otherwise, find a way to make yourself stand out. Are most of the other brands more traditional or more conservative? You could inject some fun, add some technological twist to it. (i.e Websites, Viral Video). Are the other brands elitist and pretentious? Shoot for something more down to earth.

Thailand creates very creative advertisements and this is one of them.

 

 

Once you have established your brand, you have to sell your story. A major challenge you will face as part of the startup phase is people may not instantly recognize who you are or what you do.
Building your story not only helps you focus on your company identity and culture, but it’s a memorable way for your clients and customers to identify with your brand on a more personal level. Sell an experience before selling a product.

A company that applies this very well is Soaplab Malaysia. Addicted2Startup wanted to highlight the great work they have done by telling the story behind their startup, their company vision and following constantly through with their marketing campaign.

I specialise in guiding startup Entrepreneurs to create their own handmade skin care product by teaching formulation to create the best premium product right in your own Home.
I also have been in Business line for close to 10 years now (few different businesses) and know the ups and downs when it comes to business. Ive lost close to few hundred thousands of dollars during this time and im here to guide you so that you avoid the mistakes I did.

 

SoapLabMalaysia builds its social media following by creating useful content. i.e online soap making classes, personalised formulations and detailed explanations between the difference of lotions, cream, body butters and more.

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Successful branding is closely tied to a successful story, and by using that story as a jumping off point, you add to your own credibility.

 

4. Good Design Matters

If-you-think-good-design-is-expensive-you-should-look-at-the-cost-of-bad-design

How your product looks and is being marketed are very important in branding your startup. When it comes to visual branding, fonts, colors, logos, etc. all contribute to your image and purpose. An example is when you go to a shop, and you have 2 similar products to choose from. Both with similar content, however 1 of them looks visually appealing, colourful and has all great packaging while the other comes in cheap finishing. Which would you choose?

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 7.52.05 AM

Controversy aside, we have to admit that the Mast Brothers really did an excellent job in using great design to visually tell their story and sell their bean to bar craft chocolates.

When applied correctly, these elements can quickly define and communicate the mood and values you want to give your target audience.

Images are easy to share across social media platforms and can offer a first impression of your company. Make sure your visual output is a reflection of your target market and story.

5. Maximize Your Visibility

Once you have created a unique visual and verbal story—now it’s time to leverage assets across digital channels and integrate your marketing campaigns.

The goal is to reach your target market through a coordinated messages across multiple channels. Target marketing to your user demographics, which sounds obvious, but it’s necessary. An example would be, if you are selling durian products, chances are you would want to target the Asian market as opposed to the Western crowd. One marketing strategy that was recently applied by a durian stall in Penang, was that this durian seller tied up with a virtual coin/points company, which enabled you to buy your durians using your coins/points. This was a big hit with the Chinese tourists as they came in bus loads after shopping at this virtual mall. The idea was simple, Chinese loved durians, they were shopping in a virtual mall using points, so why don’t my stall accept virtual points.

Attack your social media outlets simultaneously and use them as a way to reinforce your brand; think about “share-ability”. We talked about using visuals to reinforce your brand, and moments captured in photos are some of the easiest moments for customers to share.

 

We at Addicted2Startup would love to hear your startup stories. Kindly send us your stories or let us know who you want featured here.

Good luck and all the best in your ventures.

How one woman created this amazing Jewellery Brand from scratch

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Peek&Boo designs, produces and sells bespoke handmade jewellery both online and offline, and actively participates in domestic and international trade fairs.

The ethos at Peek & Boo is to help make a difference around the world by using their wonderfully cute jewellery inspired by Nature to raise awareness in hopes of encouraging new consumers to help against environmental issues. To make their  message go deeper than just visually crafted timeless cute jewellery. Peek&Boo will be donating 10% of the profits to their charitable partners, your purchase does not just help awareness of environmental issues, it helps the people who are on the front lines trying to make our world a better place.

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We managed to have asit down with Kaze Ng the Founder of Peek&Boo as she shares the secrets that makes her entrepreneurial hunger growl;


A2S: What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in your life? How did the idea for your business come about?
KAZE: This was back a few years when I was studying in Germany, and every one was so conscious about going green and saving the planet. It was a culture shock compared to back home in Malaysia, although we were slowly progressing to the Green Concept and idea but it wasn’t so widely accepted. And as a student abroad, I was also struggling with expenses which got me thinking, “Why don’t I use the skills I have to make some money in order to make a change and help others to create Environmental and Civic awareness”.
One of the key trades as an entrepreneur is that you need to be resourceful. By observing my surroundings and experiences from my travels, I was able to assimilate this with my background in Jewellery and Design to create PeeknBoo.

A2S: When you first started, how or what did you do, to get the word out for Peek&Boo? Could you share with us on where you got your funding to start your own project?
KAZE: It was a DO or DIE situation for me, when I decided to take on this project. Initially when I first launched Peek&Boo, I decided to put the project on Kickstarter to crowd fund and promote the brand. Adopting a simple “pay and promote’ strategy, I withdrew all my savings to buy myself a marketing package from a US company to help me market the campaign. But the package was a complete failure. I did not manage to pull a single customer from it. Having only 30 days to promote and I was already broke, it was a stressful period for me. By the time I had 15 days left and only 20% goal achieved, I was mentally broken down as I had no idea what to do. No money for marketing. Knowing that I can’t give up, I went and start doing what I ‘think’ I can do ( at that moment ). I went on Instagram and start liking every single picture that are related to my post ( nature / wildlife picture ) , I started sending them a private message promoting my Kickstarter. I did that on Instagram, also in Pinterest , Facebook , Twitter. I spent countless hours every day doing that and even Email and private messaging the companies. Slowly but surely, I saw some progress, as the 15 days slowly pass, my % of funding slowly increase. And in the final dash for the finish line, the very last 2 days, a company found my campaign, they like my idea on how the concept of my brand is , they funded 80% of my campaign with nothing in return. This was how I got Peek&Boo started.

A2S: What would your 3 best advice you would give to newbies who wanted to start their own business?
KAZE: If I had to sum it up, it would be

  1. Make sure you have done extensive research to ensure that your product and concept is unique. Its a ‘Dog eat Dog world” out there. So make sure you are able to differentiate yourself from the competition.
  2. “Cheong” ! Which means ATTACK or GO FORWARD! in native Hokkien. If you are constantly on the go and moving forward, I believe you will always see progress. If you stay put however, then you would never move.
  3. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. You make a mistake, you learn from it and then you move on. You will become stronger with time.

Beauty!

A2S: What have been some of your failures and what did you do to overcome them?
KAZE: One of the things that I have learnt in the course of starting up a business, is to ensure that you have a strong product concept. Some people start a business by thinking that the only ingredients you need is just money and product. I have learnt that without a concept, I was unable to sell as there wasn’t a valid selling point.
Just to elaborate more on product concept. Product concept is the understanding of the dynamics of the product in order to showcase the best qualities and maximum features of the product. Marketers spend a lot of time and research in order to target their attended audience.
A2S: How did you manage to address this problem?
KAZE: Picking the right mentors and brainstorming with them always works for me. Finding the right people who has similar entrepreneurial experience and learning their mistakes and how they managed to overcome these hurdles have helped me with my own.

A2S: How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
KAZE: NEVER. That is why it is so important to ensure that your initial idea is valid and you have done all your homework on the back ground and scalability of the idea. Once I start, I will tell my self ‘My idea will always work”!!

ONCE I START A PROJECT, I ALWAYS TELL MY SELF THAT MY IDEA WILL ALWAYS WORK

A2S: How many hours do you work a day on average? And what are your tips on staying productive and efficient? Because being busy and productive are 2 very different things that people often get confused with.
KAZE: I have my full time job from 9am til 6.30pm. I tend to work on my own brand after dinner which is 7.30pm til late ( usually til 11-1am). On weekends, i work 7-9 hours on my own brand. I try to give myself a day off per week and a weekend off per month just to reward myself for working hard. I go to the gym, swimming and morning hike. I believe working out and maintaining a healthy diet helps give me better focus.
To keep track of my productivity and efficiency, for every task, I will set a specific deadline to complete it.

A2S: Jewellery is a very niche and specialised product. Could you share where you get your inspiration and ideas for your designs from?
KAZE: Haha, ideas pop out after coffee, but most of the time I have some sketch on what I want to do. like if I know I am going to Japan, I would search on places I want to go (reference places : cafe , wholesale place , textile area ), the meaning of Japanese symbols, so when I am there, I take photos of it and then brainstorms my way to my collection.

A2S: Protecting Peek&Boo as a brand and its designs would or course be your utmost concern. In this modern world of technology where information is shared so freely, as a designer yourself, do you have to deal with copyright and infringement or ideas/designs?
KAZE: Copyright and patenting costs a lot. This is one of the challenges you will face as an Entrepreneur.  Even if you have a written agreement with your retailer (pertaining to copyright issues) and somehow the designs are copied. Both of you would have to go to court, and go through a lengthy legal process which takes time and money. And maybe at the end of the day, the compensation isn’t enough to cover the legal fees. You need to ask yourself if you are ready to go through this. For now, I just have to continue innovating Peek&Boo’s designs and hope no one copies them.

A2S: When you first launched your product and while you were trying to make your first sale, what are the hurdles both emotionally and physically did you encounter and how did you overcome them?
KAZE:I was mentally and emotionally prepared for the hardship of starting up a brand that nobody knew about. When I first started, different days had different problems that needed different solutions. There were some days that I had a handful of sales, and some days I didn’t have even one. I didn’t allow this to make me sad or pull me down or give up. For every sale I made, I reminded myself how lucky I was, and that I was doing something correct. I just had to continue doing what I was doing. Keep on pushing forward.

A2S: What are the top 3 must have marketing app that you would recommend ?
KAZE: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram

  • Facebook – By far is the largest social media platform on the internet, Facebook boasts more than 700 million active monthly users. If you’re looking to reach the masses, this is the best place to start. It’s also the most credible platform. Any healthy and established business has a Facebook page, and a lack of one is a warning sign to potential customers.
  • Pinterest- Pinterest is of supreme value for many businesses. It’s the fastest growing social media platform and is particularly conducive to startups with physical products.
  • Instagram- You have a blog–great. You tweet your posts, and you update your Facebook page–that’s great too. But Instagram lets you brand like nowhere else. Only 123 of the Fortune 500 companies have adopted Instagram, and plenty of startups too are guilty of not using Instagram as a core part of their content marketing strategy.

While corporate Instagram adoption may not be overwhelming just yet, big companies are learning quickly from more marketing-savvy peers. Check out the growth in the chart below. This is the number of Fortune 500 companies using Instagram between December 2010 and August 2013.

Why are they betting on Instagram? Well, if you want to put a piece of content in front of someone, 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text.

A2S: As an entrepreneur you would have your share of ups and downs. When you are feeling down and out, as some of us normally do. How do you dig into the extra energy and keep yourself motivated?
KAZE: Failure is not an option for me. The margins for error is so small, that I need to be really precise in my execution. I take great pride in my planning and detail in my products. This is exceptionally true, when designing and producing Jewellery Pieces. As each piece is small and delicate, and needs to be produced with care. We cannot afford any mistakes especially in the moulding stage. (When the master mould for each design is created. Otherwise all the subsequent products will have defects).
Traveling works best for me. Being in a different environement helps to distress me, and by experiencing various sights and ideas, I am able to refresh myself with new concepts. Each time I come back from travelling, I have so many new ideas that I would want to start.  

Peek&Boo was also recently featured on Taiwans lifestyle magazine JUKSY.

PnBoo

All her items are made with plenty of care and love. Below are some of her processes while making the beautiful pieces.

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Finished moulds of her products
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Voila!! Our finished products!
chicken
Did you know…..
Roosters were very important in people’s daily lives in ancient times. They were not only treated as food, like today, but in ancient times people regarded them as a mascot since they ate harmful insects.
———————————
D E T A I L
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Dimensions: 8mm x 8mm
Metal: Brass with 925 Sterling Silver needle
Enamel
**limited pieces
bull terrier
Did you know…..
Bull Terriers love attention and do not do well being left alone for long periods of time?
The lifespan of an average Bull Terrier is 10 to 12 years, but sometimes longer?
————————————-
D E T A I L
————————————-
Metal: Brass
Plating : 24k Yellow Gold
Material : Enamel
Size : Adjustable from S – L
*If you have a certain size you want me to adjust, please drop me a message.

You are able to shop for Peek & Boo items direct from their website www.ipeekyouboo.com
( also available in Etsy, Dawanda and Pinkoi )

We at Addicted2startup.com would like to wish Kaze all the best in her ventures and may she be successful in bringing Peek&Boo to the international jewellery scene.
Like us, share and follow us for more inspiring stories. Do tell us what you want to hear or if you have an inspiring story to share. We would love to hear from you.

 

 

What businesses to start NOW in Malaysia?

It is already June. Today marks the half point of 2017, and for most of us, this means we should at least be in the middle of completing our New Year’s Resolution. For those of you, who are still struggling on your future plans and looking for business ideas, this article is for you.
This year has been a challenging year for all Malaysians. The Malaysian economy is hit by higher inflation, volatile capital flows and lingering uncertainties in the global economic and financial environment. It is common nowadays to hear people saying “Business isn’t as good as it used to be”, ” We do not see substantial tourists coming nowadays” and the usual “Prices of everything especially household essentials are going up!”
If you are one of them, what are you going to do about it?
I would like to share this statement that has profound meaning to me. “The quickest way to become rich is to change your realities faster“. ” Most people would rather live within their means, than to expand their means“.

Does this sound familiar? How often do you hear people telling you, “As long as i live within my means, i will be ok“. This is an over simplification of someone convincing us that, if i earn RM 1200, and i can spend and live within this money, i will be well and ok. (Its ok that i dont have any insurance, because i am still young now and i can use the money for insurance on other better things now. I will worry about it when i am old).
This is common, because to expand and to think of how to earn more than RM 1200 requires additional effort, and hard work. Hard work which not many people are willing to sacrifice for. Read; Richest Man in Asia advice’s on how to spend to be rich.

“Malaysia should further diversify away from traditional export sectors towards higher value-added segments to support economic growth,” 

What are the best small business investment opportunities in Malaysia? Are you interested in starting a business in Malaysia but you are short of business ideas? Then I advice you read on as we explore the best business opportunities in Malaysia.

Top 5 Business Investment Opportunities in Malaysia for 2017

1.Observe and take advantage of the situation

Election Paraphernalia
 There is talk that the 14th General Elections for Malaysia is coming around the corner. After attending a talk organized by Lelong.com, the presenter revealed that the hottest selling items were T-Shirts during elections!

bersih shirts
(Picture used is for illustration purposes, as I couldn’t find a picture that could represent the election. This does not in any way represent the ideologies of the writer)

The message to learn here was to observe the trends. In Malaysia we are a land of many seasons. Rainy Season, Flooding Season, Hot Season and now Haze Season. Should you already know when the Rainy Seasons are, you would be selling umbrellas and any other device that could help flood prone areas. For Haze, you could be selling N95 masks online. The message we are trying to get through to you, is to be observant and notice what does people need or anything that can make their lives easier. If you fulfill this criteria, your product will sell.

2. Tourism Related 

The chart below shows the domination of Budget Airlines flying through Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Travelers that use budget airlines, need not necessarily represent the lower income group. Most of the time, the travelers are often just realigning their budget, saving on flights and giving them more spending power on other things like hotels and experience.

air asia

Business Oriented Services
Malaysia is strategically sandwiched between service and technologically inclined economy of Singapore, consumer hungry Indonesia and the growing markets to the north, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia.
As a business hub, many people travel through Malaysia. This amounts to huge opportunities for travel agencies and businesses that cater to travelers directly or indirectly. Among the ideas that are feasible would be

Travel Agency
Questions to ask are

  • Think of how can you service people who already have flights and hotel bookings. Is there a gap that you can fill? We are now in an APP dominant society ,and with Booking.com, Agoda, Skyscanner, UBER and Tripadvisor to name a few different apps out there that enables business people to self book. How can we compliment these services to make their trip more complete and fulfilling?
  • What do business people need? Find out what their needs are, so you can find out what to provide in return.
  • What are the popular businesses within your area? You will need to drill deeper into specifics to identify the differences in each business.

Holiday Tourist Oriented Services
Malaysia is blessed with beautiful beaches, diverse culture and abundant flora and fauna. Any service related business that caters to tourists does have this opportunity.
Read: Step by Step on how to start your own beach resort
Read how to start your own Hostel

Medical Tourism Oriented Services

  1. “Medical tourism expected to hit RM1.3bil in revenue this year”
    Chief executive officer Sherene Azli said the industry was experiencing a 30% growth year-on-year.
  2. “Malaysia has the ecosystem and infrastructure to provide quality end-to-end healthcare system and services that are globally competitive,” she told reporters after the launch of ShareMyLove campaign here.
  3. The top five treatments sought by medical travellers were cardiology, oncology, orthopaedics, IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation), dental and cosmetics. The travellers came from the Asean region, with China and India not far behind.
    (quoted from the Star 14 February 2017)

The challenge again is to set up a business idea or an application to help people come to Malaysia for Medical Treatment.
An idea that i used to have way before UBER and GRAB car came into play. This was probably 3 years back. I noticed that patients coming to Malaysia were usually accompanied by a few family members. When the patients were getting treatment, family members did not know what to do and were lingering around in the hospital or around the hotel. There fore, if we could set up tour vans that could shuttle the families to do some sightseeing and then back to the hospital, it would be AWESOME.

Read: How this medical APP became a hit

3. Logistics

With more people setting up businesses online. There is a greater need for reliable logistics. People are coming up with Food Delivery Services like FoodPanda,  Wedapao and Delivereat

As you already know, there is a great disparity between the North of Malaysia and South of Malaysia. To send goods over, people used to rely on the KTM Trains (Keretapi Tanah Melayu), Flights or Slow Trucks/Lorry. Lorries were owned by companies or private owners and it was hard to get their contact or even get a proper price comparison or quotation. Addressing this disconnect is another company called Thelorry.com which provides a selection of various lorry’s for rent.
There is still gaps that you can fill up in terms of logistics that you can fill.

4. Fashion/Online

Malaysians, like every other people, love fashion. They show great concern for what they wear and what they look like. Though there are many fashion outlets spread all over the country, there is enough room for new investors to make money. If you’d like to start a fashion business in Malaysia, keep in mind that local fashion sells best. So, you will need to learn about this if you are not a native of Malaysia.
One company that has done great online is FashionValet

5. Food and Beverage

Malaysians LOVE and are passionate about their food. The basic greeting when you see some one is “Sudah Makan Belum” which means “Have you eaten” in Malay. Their enthusiasm can be seen when the food comes, and they take pictures of the food first, and then start sharing comments about the food even before they try it.
The food and beverage scene in Malaysia is unique. There are the Malaysians who are attracted to FOOD TRENDS and those that will patronize as long as it is good food and not forgetting those who eat just because its cheap!

Because Malaysians are blessed with abundant choices of food. You might notice a few gimmicks to attract customers that come up like:
BIG BOWL NOODLES 

Big Bowl Noodles at Captain M Bistro de Cafe Miri
(Credit to: Big Bowl Noodles at Captain M Bistro de Cafe Miri- Miri Food Sharing)

Not forgetting Boat Noodles
31494362a62dbfe04c21116288_original-
(Credit : Burpple)

Depending on the F&B business you have in mind, you will need to look back at your core business plan and ask these questions:

  1. Does the service cater to the public in that area?
  2. Will you be employing gimmicks to gain traction?
  3. Revisit your costings

Food Truck Business
One of the businesses that has been gaining some attention are the Food Truck Business. We should not confuse the term Food Truck with traditional Road Side vendors. There are different rules and regulations for each different state in Malaysia. Selangor however was the first state to launch and support Food Truck Initiatives.

TheRoadChef
Read: Why you should own a Food Truck Business
The state of Selangor is the first state in Malaysia to come up with a official standard guidelines for owning a Food Truck Business. See video below. 

smart trak

This is a SMART Trak bay that is reserved for Food Trucks. Read: Food Trucks in Selangor
I would like to end this article with a sentence from the Rich Dad Poor Dad series, ” The World Has Abundant Money, we need to change our reality in order to make more money“.

We would like to hear your thoughts and business ideas so we could share them.