BY JEAN KHOO ON JULY 22, 2015
If you’re a tea drinker in Malaysia, Chatime, one of the fastest growing lifestyle tea chains in Malaysia would certainly ring a bell. This is all thanks to CEO, Bryan Loo, who recognised a void in the culture of drinking tea in Malaysia. At the tender age of 24, he decided to fly to Taiwan, bought a Chatime franchise and brought it in to our country.
Perlis-born Loo has been engaged in entrepreneurial activity since he was 7 years old. Loo started earning extra pocket money by making use of his drawing skills. He drew comic books and rented them to his classmate for RM0.50. Apart from that, Loo’s interest in doing business also sparked when he would sit in his parents’ office observing them running their air-condition retail business back in Perlis.
In terms of future business plans, Loo—who is very passionate about the F&B field—has no plans to stop exciting the market with more F&B outlets. In May last year, Loo rolled out Tino’s Pizza Express which serves Neapolitan style gourmet pizzas, and he recently launched SodaXpress which is the first sparking water machine in Malaysia.
Loo stepped out of the job he disliked with his burning passion for business and tackled it head-on, and today he’s one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Malaysia. Here are a collection of some valuable lessons we could learn from him and his success.
1. Passion conquer all things.
Loo cites passion as the one thing that keeps him going about the journey of starting Chatime.
“When I first started out, never saw it as a challenge, because the passion of doing business, of being my own boss, blinded me to all the challenges in front of me.”
“The fire was so humongous that I didn’t care about what people said about me, I didn’t care what the market was like; I just went straight into it!”
Source: The Star Online
2. Don’t waste time working somewhere you hate.
Loo studied in Monash University and after he graduated, he came back to Malaysia and took up a job as a salesman in a bio-tech company for two years. Loo felt unhappy, he resigned and decided to pursue his dreams and start his own business and it led Loo to look into the possibility of selling bubble tea in Malaysia.
“That job was hell for me. At one point I didn’t even want to wake up in the morning and go to the office at all.”
“Once I resigned, it was like I was free, I could do anything I want, and that’s when the fire in me started to burn! I was in a new world and I wanted to do everything! I was a free man!”
Source: The Star Online
3. Discover your interests and dream big.
When Loo was asked about advice to young entrepreneurs who wish to start their own business, here’s what he had to say.
“To have dreams and discover their interests in life. Young entrepreneurs should have a clear picture of what their dreams are about. Dreams with visions should be able to guide and direct them to where they want to be. It should fuel them with the passion and fire to begin a startup business of any kind. They must therefore be courageous to speak about their dream and give it a chase. In addition, their interests will help them identify the kind of business that they will like to work in.”
Source: Asia Pacific Businesses
4. Despite what others say, education matters.
Although Loo’s passion is not in biotechnology, still he would like to focus on his studies if he were given a second chance.
“If I were given a second chance, I think I would really like to focus on my studies. When I started working, I realised that education and the knowledge you learn growing up is something that you can imply into your career along the way. My weakness was that I was not the brightest kid in the class but I used that as a strength today to hire people that outsmart me. They help to contribute and expand our company. It’s all about self-realisation, you see.”
Source: My Rojak
5. Don’t start a business without knowing your true purpose.
Entrepreneurship isn’t merely about earning money, it is also about entrepreneur satisfaction and purpose. Before Loo brought in Chatime to Malaysia, his vision then was to bring the culture of drinking bubble tea into Malaysia as well as cultivate a tea-drinking culture among Malaysian consumers.
“A lot of people think that entrepreneurship is a lifestyle. They don’t want to work for other people. I find that so wrong because I always reinstate that entrepreneurship is a true calling, not merely a decision. I feel that there has to be a true purpose behind an action. Which means that before you decide to do a certain business
Source: My Rojak
6. Having an early start to your love life isn’t a bad thing.
It’s a misconception that an entrepreneur should stay single in order to focus on one’s business. Loo got married with his first and only love in his early twenties. Currently, his wife, Sally Quah is the Financial Controller for Chatime and he believes a committed relationship makes things easier. For instance, he can go all out into his business and never have to worry at the back of his mind and get distracted about looking for love.
“I settle the relationship part early in my life so that I can focus solely in my business.”
7. Treat competitors as partners.
Competition is everywhere. Instead of treating competitors as rivals, Loo views them as people who he could join forces together with to grow the tea culture in Malaysia as that can also be good for his own business. When asked about his thoughts on how Chatime is different from its competitors, he remarked:
“I would not treat others as my rivals in the bubble tea market; but rather, we help each other to grow the business and tea culture in Malaysia. Without healthy competitions, it is very difficult and almost impossible to run an excellent bubble tea business.
The competition has encouraged me to do even better in the business. As Chatime is the leading bubble tea business in Malaysia, every move we make is monitored closely by other bubble tea businesses. We try to extend our competency by introducing Chatime Card and collaborating with Horlicks. With this, Chatime is able to stand out from the others in the market.”
Source: Asia Pacific Businesses
8. Don’t just sell a product, sell your vision.
Loo had no previous working background in the F&B industry. He started doing research on the industry by visiting different trade expos with his father in Taiwan. With an aim to look for an F&B business that requires only an automated process to control quality.
Then Loo saw a gap in the beverage industry, at that time the coffee market like Starbucks was the trend. He described, “There was no real tea beverages offered to the middle low range target market.”
Of course, all business weren’t smooth sailing initially. Loo was rejected by many top brands as none of them were keen to expand their business in Malaysia. Nonetheless, he persevered and continued to look for potential partners. He finally made contact with the director of Chatime, Henry who had a global mindset and was willing to work with Loo to expand Chatime.
When asked how Loo convinced the director despite being a nobody couple of years back, he answered that he sold a vision.
“If Chatime was franchised to a MNC or corporation such as Berjaya Corp, it will only be one of their products and mostly being taken care of by another GM. But I sold him the vision that if I was given the chance, I will go all out to sell your brand and make sure a success.”