Having the support of clients and other businesses has helped Edmund Lee grow his new plastic packaging company.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP has always been a risky business.
But Edmund Lee Kin Yee opines that the biggest risk of all is not taking any risk in the first place.
“I observed the people around me. Many may seem to have a steady income when they are employed. But what happens when they are older?” asks the 45-year-old.
“I have seen those nearing retirement who still need to lift heavy things and climb ladders for work. I felt very bad for them,” Lee adds.
Such concerns pushed him to take a risk even in his forties.
Lee co-founded vacuum forming plastics packaging manufacturer Jasa Kapital Plastic Sdn Bhd in 2014 with two other partners against the tide of naysayers who discouraged him from striking out on his own.
He, too, had read discouraging research notes that said the best years for a person to start a business was in their 30s, while they were still capable of absorbing the perils and stress that came with the territory.
But Lee felt entrepreneurship would provide him with a platform to work hard for his family’s financial security and have enough savings for old age.
He was not wrong. But the first step is always the hardest to take.
Having spent over 23 years in the packaging industry in both public-listed companies and SMEs, it seemed natural to start a business in the same field.
Lee and his partners started Jasa Kapital with an initial investment of RM1mil. They had 10 workers and were housed in a rented 21,000sq ft factory in Senai, Johor.
It was an expensive gamble and he had to make sure things worked out.
“In the first six months of starting the business, my mind was all about making sure that there was enough sales to cover the month’s expenses. Food and sleep didn’t cross my mind and I lost a lot of weight,” he says.
Lee had to strategise and look into how his company could fit into the packaging ecosystem. He also had to understand customers’ pain points and position his company with consumers.
He decided to focus the company’s plastic packaging business on manufacturing plastic trays instead of the more conventional carton boxes. While this means a higher manufacturing cost, Lee says margins for vacuum forming plastics packaging was higher.
“We also started using Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines rather than the conventional milling machines as CNC machines were able to give our clients better quality packaging designs,” he says.
More than two years on, the business is now gaining a foothold.
Today, Jasa Kapital serves over 60 clients from various industries, including food, stationery and electronics.
Lee says his years of experience and network were of great help in building Jasa Kapital. Many of his early clients were those that knew him from his time as an employee and were supportive of his venture.
But this was also because he knew how to address their pain points.
“Some of them shared with me that while more established companies took over a week to fulfill their orders, a new company like mine was able to get it done in three days,” he laughs.
When clients come to Lee, it is not just the variety of tray designs that draws them but the solution that he offers.
“We offer one-stop solutions. So a client can just bring their products to us and we will figure out the packaging matters for them, from preparing the design to selecting the suitable packaging materials, from bubble wraps, carton boxes, offset boxes to other items such as stickers and plastic bags,” he says.
They would even ensure that the packaging complies with the required regulations.
Simply put, the clients would outsource their ‘headaches’ to him and he will find them the solutions.
Lee also notes that the other packaging companies in the industry have been supportive of Jasa Kapital, which helped them grow.
Many of these companies were his former colleagues, he adds.
The company takes in packaging jobs from RM1,000 to RM120,000 and in 2015 achieved a revenue of RM2mil.
Moving forward, Lee says the company will invest more into automation, taking into consideration the cost of technology and electricity against labour cost.
They are also embarking on ISO certifications this year to strengthen the company’s processes.