ENTREPRENEURS often say that passion and grit are needed to see a venture through. And if there is one thing that the winners of The Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) 2019 have shown, it is that perseverance is indeed often well rewarded.
“One of the major challenges when you start off is that things are always tough. You find that you are always working alone. But don’t give up. Keep on trying, keep on doing it. Eventually, you will get there, ” shares Patrick Sim, business development director of Secret Recipe Cakes & Cafe Sdn Bhd.
Sim certainly understands this mantra.
Secret Recipe Holdings Sdn Bhd started out with a single outlet in SS2, Petaling Jaya about 22 years ago with little certainty that it would make the cut. Today, it has grown into a formidable brand in the cafe chain industry.
The team’s efforts in growing the business over the years came to fruition when the company took home six awards at SOBA 2019 last Wednesday, including the coveted Malaysian Business of the Year (above RM25mil). It also won Platinum in Best in Marketing and Best Brand, Gold in Best Green Initiative and Silver in Best in CSR and Best Innovation.
Secret Recipe is no stranger to SOBA, having participated in the competition in previous years. However, Sim says it returned this round to further benchmark the company’s performance in other areas of the business.
“We wanted to try out some of the categories that we did not enter previously. For example, Green Initiative, CSR and Innovation. We wanted to challenge ourselves to see where we stand. Although we didn’t get Platinum in these categories, we are very proud to receive an award.
“We weren’t really expecting anything but this shows that we’ve progressed in terms of not just brand and marketing, but other areas as well. We don’t want to be stagnant and just be good at certain areas but we wanted to expand and do something more from our normal business like giving back to the community and thinking about things like the environment and being more sustainable. These are important values that we are implementing right now, ” says Sim.
Sim’s sentiment is shared by Maxvue Vision Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Selvam Kanniah.
Maxvue first won Malaysian Business of the Year (up to RM25mil) at SOBA 2016. It again made a clean sweep in the Up to RM25mil revenue tier last week with four awards including Malaysian Business of the Year.
Selvam says the company’s progress in the export market made him consider trying out for the Best Global Market category again to see where the company stands.
“We managed to go to Europe with Amazon. And we are working on Japan and Singapore at the moment, with more to come. With that happening last year, we decided to apply for the awards again. We didn’t expect to win again, ” he says.
He notes that the company’s participation in the awards over the years has raised its brand recognition and awareness among its customer base.
Selvam also advises other SMEs to explore the vast opportunities of the export market to grow their brand.
“Don’t limit yourself to Malaysia. There’s plenty of opportunities overseas. But prepare yourself. Get your company and products standardised and certified. If you are going abroad, you need to meet compliance and quality standards, ” he adds.
Currently in its tenth year, SOBA continues to recognise the important contribution of local businesses towards the national economy and in nation-building by honouring the country’s top non-public listed companies across various sectors and categories.
Star Media Group Bhd (SMG) group chief executive officer Andreas Vogiatzakis says the awards’ reputation is built on trust, credibility and objectivity, making it one of the most coveted business awards in Malaysia.
“It is indeed an achievement to be proud of, fulfilling SOBA’s mission – to reward Malaysian companies that have proven their worth, created an impact and made a difference in people’s lives.
“We hope that SOBA will continue to provide an impetus for the nation’s economic growth through the growth of its SME sector, ” Vogiatzakis says.
The impact of SOBA on the business community can perhaps be summed up by how enthusiastic past participants are about returning for each new round of the competition.
One example is Ko Chuan Zhen, co-founder and chief executive officer of Plus Solar Systems Sdn Bhd, who won Young Entrepreneur of the Year (above RM25mil).
“We have a great relationship with SOBA since we started and won the Rising Star award. Now, getting this award is kind of a milestone that witnesses the growth of our company from nothing till today. This is also a recognition for our team.
“When we won the Rising Star award, we had 30-40 people. Now, our headcount is at about 130 people. This is exciting. SOBA is witnessing our growth, ” says Ko.
Likewise, Lexis Hotels & Resorts Sdn Bhd founder, director and president Mandy Chew, who won Female Entrepreneur of the Year (up to RM25mil), is greatly encouraged by the growth the company has seen within the context of the awards.
“I’m very surprised to get this award. This is our second participation in SOBA. It is a real honour and privilege to receive this recognition, ” she says.
Chew hopes her win will encourage more women to embark on a career in the hotel industry, which she says is currently male-dominated.
“But it involves a lot of hard work and dedication. You’ve got different guests coming to the hotel every day, different wants and needs and you must be able to meet those wants and needs. But I believe nothing beats hard work and dedication and passion for the job whether you are a male or female in this industry, ” she adds.
Meanwhile, new winner Mentari Yakin Management Sdn Bhd director Jeffers Lim Soon Cien says the Male Entrepreneur of the Year (up to RM25mil) award came as a pleasant surprise.
“I thought I wasn’t going to make it because all the other participants were really senior.
“But I believe what makes a good entrepreneur is having the passion and the right attitude. If you only focus on profits, I don’t think it will do well. If you come across challenges, try to find a way around it. Because it is going to turn into a story instead of a failure if you go through it, ” says Lim.
For 33-year-old Michael Teoh Su Lim, founding chief executive officer of Thriving Talents Sdn Bhd, winning the Young Entrepreneur of the Year (up to RM25mil) award was a big recognition not only for him but for the services industry.
“Thriving Talents is in the services business. But often times, the services industry is being ridiculed for being unscalable. They always say you will end up better off working in a factory or industrial line or the IT line. But not services.
“But after winning this award, we hope we become an inspiration for other young enterprises that are service-based to believe that there is an opportunity to scale, there is recognition for our type of business and that youths, if they are talented and are willing to work hard, sky’s the limit for them.
“The advice I would give other young entrepreneurs is, participate in awards like SOBA because the judging criteria is very strict. Whether you win or not, the most important thing is to use the judging criteria as a health check for your business and know where to grow forward and set higher ambitions and aspirations. There is hope in the services sector, not everything is about the tech startup sector, ” says Teoh.
The event was graced by special guest Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) chairman Datuk Abdul Majid Ahmad Khan.
Also present at the awards were SMG chairman Datuk Fu Ah Kiow, group adviser Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai, chief business officer Lydia Wang, chief content officer Esther Ng, Digi channel development and new business head Khairan Nasir, PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd group chief executive and managing director Datuk Michael Tio, RHB Bank Bhd group business and transaction banking head Jeffrey Ng, Credit Guarantee Corp Malaysia Bhd president/CEO Datuk Mohd Zamree Mohd Ishak and Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) CEO Datuk Wan Latiff Wan Musa.
SOBA 2019 is organised by SMG with Digi, PKT Logistics and RHB Banking Group as main sponsors, CGC as co-sponsor and Matrade as official trade promotion partner.
It is endorsed by the International Trade and Industry Ministry, supported by Bursa Malaysia and audited by BDO, with dimsum as official media partner.
For enquiries on SOBA 2019, call The Star Events Business Unit at 03-7967 1388 ext 1857 (Pei Wen) or visit www.soba.com.my.