Entrepreneurship – How I Started The Business?
Entrepreneurship is in the blood.
It is in the mind.
It is the constant analysis of the world’s interactions, transactions, products and services to see how these can be further enhanced, improved and optimised.
Entrepreneurship is the endless stream of thoughts to create a product or service to fill a gap in the market, buy low and sell high, to link up person A with person B to complete the deal or to bring a great idea from one geography to another.
While ideas and plans are great, what is important is the next step.
My late grandfather started with nothing, and through sheer hard work, determination and after many different ventures of varying degrees of success, scaled up his most successful business in Malaysia.
Despite growing up in Australia, we saw him at least once per year. One of my fondest memories of our family trips to Malaysia were the visits and tours of his factory. I could see the twinkle in his eye whenever he brought his little grandchildren to tour around the property, showing us the huge machinery, getting updates from his factory manager, and chatting with the factory staff. He would patiently explain the entire production process, starting from the raw unrefined inputs to the final product ready for shipping. I was huge impressed by the sheer scale of the property, machinery, and transaction sizes. I was impressed before, and I am still impressed today. He was an honest and loyal businessman, providing for his family and the families of his staff. He had the right balance of ideas and successful implementation.
There are many entrepreneurs and businesses that have essentially the same product or service. Why does one become a Unicorn and the other stays an SME?
The founders and leadership team’s vision, ability to expand team, increase customer base, expand across geographies, supply chain and access to capital. All these factors, the execution of the idea, determines whether a company becomes a Google, Apple, Facebook, or something that everyone has long forgotten and shut down many years ago.
Years ago, I decided to action an idea. I gave up a lucrative job in finance to pursue something.
What would I do? What is my passion? What can I apply my skillset and experience to?
Hong Kong is an amazing place for food. From the 3 Michelin Star to the hole-in-the-wall, there is a vast array of foods to satisfy customers of all budgets and cultures.
I have always associated food to happiness and love.
I love the flavours, aroma, colours, and textures. I love how it brings people together through their shared meal and conversation. I love seeing the joy that an excited pallet, mouth, and belly can bring.
When I was younger, my mum and her friends loved to cook, bake and refine their signature dishes. They would experiment with new flavours and ingredients. We would have these huge, wonderful potluck feasts with over 30 friends and family regularly, rotating through each families’ house. Each family would bring their signature dish and being surrounded by multi-cultural friends meant experiencing flavours (and spiciness levels) from all over the world and Asia.
My own cooking skills developed much later in life. I feel a sense of accomplishment multi-tasking the different dishes to serve an entire meal at the right time, right mixture of flavours and temperature for my family and friends. I love seeing the look of enjoyment on their face.
So this brings me back to my business. What type of food related business would I start?
During my annual trips to Australia, I would always visit the supermarkets and grocery stores to see what the latest trends in food, healthy eating Australia had to offer.
Australia has a lot of locally grown and imported healthy, natural food and ingredients. There exists a complimentary cycle where there is a strong customer base for healthy, all natural, no preservative foods which encourages more entrepreneurs to provide to their needs. Some of the supermarket chains are also more willing to try smaller brands to keep their shelves stocked with interesting new brands for their customers to try.
I was alerted to an up-and-coming brand Natvia, the natural stevia sweetener. The packaging was exciting, the brand young and vibrant. It is a product that can help many consumers reduce their calorie intake whilst maintaining the flavour profile and texture of the food or beverage. It can help diabetics still enjoy an occasional sweet treat to improve their quality of life. It is an amazing innovation in the food industry: that something that tastes like sugar, all from natural sources, safe to use in cold and hot temperatures, but has nearly zero calories, zero GI (glycaemic index) and zero sugar content!
Now this was a brand I was excited to represent. It is a product that I feel good increasing my sales. The more customers I can serve, the healthier the Hong Kong population becomes. Sure, there are plenty of Australian food products that can sell well in Hong Kong, but I would be selling those just for the sake of sales and profits.
I contacted the Natvia business owners, who were willing to give someone like myself, with little business experience, a chance.
Years later, after a roller coaster of ups and downs, we now supply to major supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, private clubs, cafes, health food stores, baking ingredient stores both offline and online.
We aim to completely replace artificial sweeteners with Natvia, to serve Hong Kong by providing healthier alternatives to what is already in the market.