How a small home business in Penang turned into a brick and mortar one during MCO
GEORGE TOWN, April 4 — We have read about — and perhaps even experienced — the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on the local economy.
But it has not been all doom and gloom as some businesses not only survived but thrived.
Ong Leng Hin’s muesli enterprise did so well he opened his own cafe here earlier this month. Quite a remarkable feat when so many businesses have had to shutter in the past year.
It all began with Ong’s craving for fresh muesli for breakfast. Since he was unable to find ones on the market that suit his taste, he started making his own with the help of his mother.
“I was posting my homemade muesli on social media and my friends kept asking me to make extra and sell to them so that was how it started,” he said.
He sold his homemade muesli in small batches under the brand “Wonder Penguin” in late 2019 and it grew organically from there.
He only started pushing his muesli more aggressively when the movement control order (MCO) was imposed in March 2020 and soon, he was getting more and more orders.
“Between October 2019 and June 2020, I sold about 122 kilogrammes of muesli to mostly my friends through social media,” he said.
When the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) introduced the Business From Home (BFH) licence for small home businesses during the MCO last year, Ong applied for it.
He thinks it is a very good initiative as it allows entrepreneurs like him to start out small to test the market first without investing in a physical shop.
Wonder Penguin muesli became so popular that Ong was soon producing about 100 kilogrammes of muesli each month.
However, Ong wanted to expand his business beyond the friends and family connected to him through Facebook and Instagram.
That was when he took over the corner shophouse that was previously occupied by a popular restaurant called Gala House on Muntri Street.
“When I saw the space for rent, I fell in love with it,” he said.
Ong decided to keep the name and Gala House Penang opened its doors on February 12 this year.
He said the cafe was more of a hub for people with the same interests to meet up, share information and connect.
“I want this to be more than a cafe, I want people to come here as a meeting point, as a place to chat about their interests such as cycling,” he said.
An avid cyclist himself, Ong said the cafe can also serve as a breakfast spot offering his muesli and drinks like coffee for fellow cyclists and runners.
For now, Gala House Penang only offers a few types of drinks such as coffee, chocolate and matcha but they are working on expanding their menu.
“We are still working on our menu so we don’t offer much food choices other than some cakes and the muesli for now,” he said.
Ong has also started making energy bars under the Wonder Penguin brand.
Customers will need to pre-order the muesli and energy bars as each pack is made fresh and they can either pick up their orders from the shop or have it delivered to them.