Balancing business opportunities and maintaining quality, Wis Yap, a one-man-show entrepreneur, tells SIKS MIKAH how he is wow-ing the market with his premium packages of nut mixes produced from his home kitchen.

Every time someone receives a W Place package he is made to believe the sender has personally made the gift just for him. This is how Wis Yap, the founder of W Place presents his products.

Inside the luscious packages tied with a bold gold ribbon, his signature, are packets of healthy granola mix and nuts. The whole presentation spells premium and the delicate taste of the granola mix attest to the care put into producing this delectable selection.

Wis is 36 and a graduate in creative work from the Malaysian Institute of Arts. He has been working in an advertising agency from 2012 until two years ago when he felt he has had enough of a life with little sleep, long working hours and poor diet.

“The more I thought about it then, especially when my grandmother was stricken with cancer, the more I felt it was pointless to be rich and successful if my health is sacrificed,” Wis spoked of how he started the business.

Even though the advertising agency was a lucrative business Wis began distancing himself from the agency of which he is a partner, to set up a pop-up stall in a shopping mall to sell his mixed nuts. “In fact before experimenting with granola, I had considered making yoghurt ice cream. But the product uses powdered milk and sugar and that’s unhealthy.”

Meanwhile, my sedentary life continued with days ending at 2 am with unhealthy meals at any convenient outlet. It was the same for my boss and colleagues. It was not an easy move but looking back it was a necessary one. Like many start-ups today the internet was a great resource for Wis to begin his granola venture. “It was a lot of trial and error and not every recipe from the internet is workable. I kept on trying and sending to my friends for tasting. At that time I was not the most organised.”

“My most important principle is never to compromise on quality. I had to juggle pricing, taste and freshness and I was working alone in my tiny kitchen with a 4-tray small oven,” Wis said. With feedback from friends and some regular customers, Wis began to adjust the taste taccording to market demand. His flavours range included the popular cocoa and matcha nuts but his best seller is the Pepper Cashew which he claimed came about by chance.

Still forging ahead alone, Wis continues to be fueled by his passion to provide a healthy alternative diet for others. With each packet sold Wis’ desire to grow the business intensifies and he goes on to learn more technical know-how from friends and the internet. “I can now remove phytic acid from walnut and almonds so they become more palatable and healthy to consume.”

Business for W Place has doubled over the past year with Wis’ friends and mother to help him over the festive seasons. His products are now sold online and on shelves in the Home department in Robinson’s Departmental Store in Gardens, Mega Mall. Online demand has also grown but Wis is still alone handling the orders, packing the goods, sending them via courier and baking the nuts.

“The way I am working now I am afraid I am missing out on many business opportunities. These are perishable goods and temperature of the place where they are stored while on transit is crucial to maintaining the quality of the nuts. I am also sensitive to customers feedback and that being the reason why I kept changing the ingredients. I guess I have to learn to assess when a change in really required. I have replaced a lot of my ingredients with organic products.

“There is an aggressive market in Singapore but I cannot meet the demand because of my lack of manpower. Many of my clients are regular customers and some companies are buying from me to give their staff as a healthy snack. This is my target market for the next two years,” Wis said.

Some of his customers buy in bulk and that does not require individual packaging. His premium packaging presents well as corporate gifts. For the next two years, Wis plans to break into the Halal market.

“As my business grows I keep reminding myself to do business with a conscience and to use my gift to help others.”