For the final installment of our Young NTUC's LITerally Online, we had the privilege of interviewing Ow Yau Png, the young CEO and Co-Founder at HoowFoods, a startup company that specialises in reformulation technology.
Reformulation technology...? Although it may sound a little too serious, in reality, it is actually something fun - ice cream! But not just your ordinary ice cream, it's low calorie that everyone (even people with a medical condition) can enjoy it.
They actively started the company in 2018 and in just two years, their product, Callery's, can already be seen in different stores. While the product can be considered a success, Yau Png had faced multiple failures in the past. Such a story is fairly common for most entrepreneurs and as Yau Png well said, there's no shame in failing.
In this article, he generously shared his experiences with high hopes of helping youths who would like to start their own venture.
Why he chose to create low calorie ice-cream?
Of all the food products available in the market, some of you might think why he chose ice cream. Well, the simple reason is that ice cream is already popular. They do not have to explain what it is, and many people already love it. But there's a certain percentage in the population that deprive themselves from eating this awesome food for a number of reasons. They could be suffering from diabetes or just watching their weight.
While there are other low-calorie ice cream brands available already, it doesn't taste well. Apparently, such will not sit well with the Asian palate. Thus, his team created a better formula to close that gap. It took them two months to reformulate and six months to get it out to the market. Impressively, they used technology and even algorithm to perfect their product. That's something you won't usually see.
How to create a business idea that will work?
Anyone can have ideas. But what is important is the execution and the timing. The general rule of building a business is to provide true and unique value.
At first, it's not going to be easy, and people might not be receptive to the idea. But you have to keep on going if you really believe in your product
How do you deal with lack of support and negative feedback?
There will always be noise and naysayers about your business. But you have to learn how to block these things, mostly if it isn't beneficial to your venture. Remember, most of your supporters will not come from your family and friends. They will likely come from strangers.
You need to build tolerance and persevere through it. Eventually, with perseverance, you will make it. But of course, this is not to say that all ideas will materialise. In Yau Png's case, he failed multiple times before he found the right product that the market accepted. However, if you just give up and do nothing, then you will have zero chance of making your business work.
How to finance a new venture?
Some people do have an unfair advantage in terms of financing a business. They are born with a silver spoon, and they could easily ask for money. However, the case was different with Yau Png. He lived with a budget of $300 a month at the start of his career, in order to save enough to be able to fund for Callery’s. So bottom line is, if you are just like him and eagerly want to succeed, be prepared to sacrifice as well.
How to stay mentally motivated?
When you are an entrepreneur, it can be mentally draining. But there are ways you can do to help yourself release those tensions. For intance, you can opt for a regular exercise routine or sneak in a quick workout sessions in between work hours where possible. Besides keeping fit, exercise helps to release endorphins in your brain - a feel good chemical that makes you feel happier.
Also, it's always good to meet up with your friends walking the same path. You would soon realise that all entrepreneurs experience the same, and it will eventually make you feel better.
Taking advantage of your network
Your business will unlikely propel if you don't go outside and build your network. These people exist not just to buy your products but to also provide you with ideas.
As a business owner, you have to be receptive to criticisms and be able to devise the right plan.
You should also not wait for feedback, but rather, have the initiative to ask. Practice humility and you will be surprised how many people are willing to help you.
Know when to stop
It is also important to acknowledge when to stop your business. You need to have a gauge so that you will be able to assess if you need to change your plans, or if you have to stop. Usually, the first year is the hardest. Review your business after that period, and from there, see if it is still worth it. You have to be honest and objective.
And in case you have to shut it down, you need to be more resilient and try once again. These failures make your success even sweeter.
Yau Png shared that if there is one thing he could have done differently, is that he would start doing business earlier. Take note that he started his first venture back in university and he would rather have started it even earlier. That's a true-blue characteristic of being an entrepreneur.
How to gauge success
Success is subjective, and as for Yau Png, he would call himself one if he was able to build an NGO and still be able to run a sustainable business. While having a business is not all about money, you still need to think about how you are going to pay the people who work for the company.
In a nutshell, starting an entrepreneurial journey is never easy. At times, you have to sacrifice. You will fail but as Yau Png puts it, you need to have the courage to stand up and try again. Have something valuable to offer to the market and be humble enough to ask for advice.