Entrepreneur

They Learnt To Make Ice Cream Off Google—Opened 5 Stores In Just Over 2 Years In M'sia

In our hot and humid climate, it’s probably no surprise that softserve ice cream is a popular dessert courted by many, for business options and dessert cravings alike.

Softsrve Ice Cream & Dessert Bar opened on the streets of Damansara Uptown in 2015, and they are part of the wave of softserve desserts now operating throughout the Klang Valley and beyond.

The original founding team of Softsrve were inspired to start up the business when they came across the trend in other countries during their travels.

The founders shared with an interview on Buro 24/7, “When we got back to Malaysia and started working, we felt really bored by our day jobs.”

“Then, Redmond and Jack went to Korea for a holiday and saw that softserve ice cream was a pretty popular thing there. So they came back and got us all together to go back on a 2nd trip to Korea to observe the market.”

The team consists of four friends: Amily Chong, Redmond Ho, Jack Liau and Terrence Tea. Most of them are 26-years-old while the oldest is only 27.

Image Credit: Softsrve

They launched their first store in Damansara Uptown in February 2015 and have expanded to 5 more stores to date.

“During the conception of our idea in 2014, there were barely any competitors. We were the first to bring artisanal softserve ice cream to the Malaysian market.”

With the foresight to create a market opportunity in the F&B industry, one would expect that they would have a culinary background of sorts. On the contrary, they had none and all graduated with design and marketing degrees.

The founders revealed on an interview with The Edge that their entire knowledge on how to make ice cream came from Google, with months of trial and error.

“It took us nine months to perfect our flavours, get the right ingredients and so on. Obviously, there are many recipes that you can find online, but the key is to tweak them to suit the local Malaysian tastes. For example, Americans love very sweet ice cream, but Malaysians don’t, so we had to take that into account.”

They have expanded from their first store in Damansara Uptown to 4 more other stores in Sri Petaling, Johor Bahru, Pavilion and MyTown.

“At Softsrve, we mainly focus on handcrafting.”

This can be seen with their signature flavours Roasted Oolongcha and Cereal Vanilla Milk, which are made by steeping freshly brewed tea and crushed cereals in milk overnight before sieving them to produce the ice cream.

Their current hit the Watermelon Sorbet is another example of the handcrafting process, where they juice the watermelons and craft the ice cream and tacos by hand, all from scratch.

“We handcrafted the Watermelon Sorbet from fresh watermelons and hand-drew each waffle cone and waffle taco with watermelon stripes just because we thought it was cute to do, which we later regretted because it was very tedious!”

For a small brand starting out, many events were huge milestones for them.

“In our first year, it was a milestone when we saw a huge crowd lining up for us even before we opened up shop.”

Later, it motivated them to open a second store at Sri Petaling in early 2016. Nearing the end of the year, they decided to step out even further by setting up Softsrve Mini at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.

“At that time, we were warmly welcomed by queues day after day for at least the first 3 months within the store’s opening.”

Image Credit: Softsrve

Softsrve Mini operates on a different concept from the main store. Each month, they introduce 4 new rotational flavours. With this option, customers can customise their softsrve any way they like by picking their preferred flavour and toppings.

September 2017 marked their biggest break when they were approached by Insider Food and Insider Dessert to do a coverage on their Watermelon Sorbet taco.

The team shared on their Facebook page how happy they were to be able to cross this achievement off their bucket list.

“Looking back at 2015, we were just a small little store started by four young Malaysians who were barely 25. We never anticipated it to be what it is today. Our founders always thought that it would remain as a humble ice cream parlour loved and anticipated by the good folks at Damansara Uptown.”

For one of their early challenges, the team shared that a recurring obstacle was overcoming the perception that softserve ice cream should be cheap.

“Everybody perceives that if fast food chains can make it cheap, we can too.”

Image Credit: Softsrve

Each of their softserve flavours is meticulously put together with fresh milk and high-quality ingredients. Similarly, their toppings and cones are also personally handcrafted by the kitchen.

“Hence, we really put a lot of effort into our servings, and the difference in the ingredients and process definitely marks the price higher compared to the retail price of an ice cream at a fast food chain.”

As a trendsetter, they already have an edge in terms of starting out early; but this isn’t stopping them from setting their sights further.

Therefore, their next goal? Bringing the brand overseas and making Malaysia proud.

Feature Image Credit: Softsrve

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