What compelled you to start COCOLAB and what were the challenges faced?
Opportunity came knocking in 2012 – this was something I started when I was completing my degree in Banking, Finance and International Business. My family is in the business of manufacturing edible and high grade food oils, so I thought of creating a brand that focuses on all the high grade products that we carry. The challenge I faced was that I did not have any retail industry experience so I had to learn from scratch what it takes to be the “person behind the counter”. To make it an even more demanding task, we belonged to a very competitive health and beauty industry.
Tell us about the initial startup.
As with starting any brand, creating a brand awareness of something trustworthy was really arduous. As we are a health supplement and skincare brand, we needed our customers to trust our brand with something so personal to them. Educating customers became part of our mission and it has paid off thus far. Creating a distinct brand identity was also a very difficult challenge as well as setting the tone of our brand – we don’t want to be seen as a “fad”, but to give the impression that we are here to stay.
What would be the most daunting task to date?
Internally, I think it’s got to be the financial challenges. COCOLAB is not funded by investors, therefore our growth and expansion relied heavily on sale profits. Getting the right people into the company is a continuous challenge as well, but I’m thankful that we have a very capable group of staff.
Any advice for those looking to dip their toes into the Malaysian startup industry?
Know what your product (or service) is and completely believe in them. Also, a startup is completely different from working under a big company. Your decisions hold a very strong weight in the direction you want your company to go. Results are also often not immediate and it is a continuous regime that may only show results in months and even years. So make sure not to lose sight of your end goal, set smaller milestones to get there just to keep yourself in check. And for every accomplishment, no matter how small, give yourself the allowance to celebrate them as they form the foundation for your end goal.