CEO Series

Meet The T-Shirt Startup That Grew From A RM6k Capital To A RM18.4 Mil Worth Company

Since co-founding SaltyCustoms in 2010, King Quah has seen his business grow from fledgling custom tee manufacturer to local B2B powerhouse, with Grab, Facebook, and Coca-Cola among the names of distinguished clientele.

Together with his long-time friend Shannon Toh (who has since moved on to numerous other projects), King first began SaltyCustoms with the idea to sell customised t-shirts to businesses with a focus on quality, fit, and design.

Today, the brand has grown to team of 35 in two countries, including a number of key directors to help run the company.

For those unfamiliar with King and his company, SaltyCustoms prints customisable t-shirts for businesses, usually in bulk amounts. They’re a one-stop service providing external businesses with all the necessities—design, manufacturing, and logistics.

All this is done using an online platform that makes the experience seamless for clients.

But while the model works well, it’s the principles behind the process that have made the difference. In a separate interview, the founders noted a special emphasis on “quality, consultancy, and experience”, and so far that emphasis has borne fruit.

One of SaltyCustoms’ highlights includes being part of Facebook’s F8 Global Conference, where they required to manufacture and ship apparel to 26 countries within a set time frame.

“We’ve seen some interesting trends over the years and it’s been a roller coaster ride,” said King. “Our last valued position was at USD4.5 million (around RM18.4 million). This was a year and a half ago.”

This comes in stark contrast to when SaltyCustoms was first founded with a meagre capital of RM6,000.

“We feel very lucky, and are humbled to have come this far,” King added.

But success is only half the story.

To achieve success as an entrepreneur is no easy feat, something King himself will agree with. Over the years, the SaltyCustoms journey has taught its team a number of important values, chief among all being the boldness to stick with the vision that they started with at the beginning—to “be at the forefront of innovation in the apparel industry”.

“Essentially, myself and the team made sure that we all came together to understand everyone’s version of the vision so that we could work together in making it come true,” explained King.

“Practicing our core values and making sure that it happens every day has proven to be the key to overcoming every hurdle thrown our way.”

King also testifies to the importance of having the right people in the team.

“Hiring wrong people that do not fit the company culture is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. It’ll eventually take a toll on both the employee and employer,” he said.

“These days we take our time to understand the candidate better and instead of an interview, we have conversations over coffee to explore a potential of working together.”

It’s all to do with two intrinsic values.

On running his business, King cites growth and innovation as the two pillars behind everything he does.

“What motivates me is the desire to be more innovative and more creative when it comes to solving a simple problem,” he stated. “At the same time, growing myself as a person while also helping the people around me grow has always been a deep-rooted passion.”

King also attributes the success of SaltyCustoms to his team, with whom he has always been able to reaffirm the company’s goals and visions.

“Having our vision as the one point of reference to look back to always helped my team and I to know where we’re headed.”

“We never settle,” he added. “We always try to find more innovative ways to present a solution to the problems we are solving.”

Image Credit: Collaged From SaltyCustoms

With all these values filtered down into the core of the company, SaltyCustoms has positioned itself as more than just a custom t-shirt business, instead wanting to be more of a platform to “help businesses launch their brand to the next level” by ensuring quality every step of the way.

“We treat our clients as partners and make sure that we bridge the gap between retail fashion and company apparel,” King said.

“I also think that what truly sets us apart is that we care about each and every one of the processes involved and we ensure that everything is checked meticulously to measure up to our high standards.”

There’s also more coming from SaltyCustoms.

Speaking on the future and possible expansions, King was keen to mention LAUNCH, a new feature under the SaltyCustoms brand that enables users to create and sell t-shirts to anyone with no upfront cost.

“It allows creatives, influencers and designers to put up their ideas and start a full-fledged campaign to sell merchandise,” he said.

This all happens with SaltyCustoms taking care of printing, manufacturing, and logistics; allowing anyone to kickstart their business in a hassle-free manner.

According to King, starting LAUNCH was a very natural and organic idea.

“We realised that campaign launching to sell merchandise was picking up in America but there were several gaps that we believed we could plug and the idea for LAUNCH was born,” he said.

Image Credit:

LAUNCH specialises itself by working closely with its clients to create designs and deliver them. And some of the challenges it currently faces is capturing the essence of the brands or influencers working with the service as closely as possible.

“At the end of the day merchandising is one of the best ways for influencers to garner more interest and money to continue running their business,” King explained. “It’s just another way to give back to their community and we just figured out that LAUNCH would be the perfect business model for them.”

Since starting LAUNCH, King says that they have managed to gain a foothold Asia, China, America, and some parts of Europe, something they hope to capitalise on in the coming year.

All said, 2018 is shaping up to be a big year for SaltyCustoms.

On entering 2018, King is adamant that the next year will prove to be SaltyCustom’s biggest year yet, and tells everyone to expect great things from the company.

Firstly, they hope to improve on things at SaltyCustoms by innovating on the current process and upgrading the supply chain, making life better for all involved.

“We want to ensure that the manufacturers’ lives are changed for the better, that includes all the cloth cutters and the tailors and seamstresses,” he said. “We’re also striving to be at the forefront of championing environmentally friendly apparel manufacturing.”

As for LAUNCH, King says that they hope to iron out the kinks before making the service available to the public.

Then there’s also the relaunch of Doobie—the mobile app that allows users to upload t-shirt designs and get them individually printed—to look forward to.

And last but not least, SaltyCustoms also has plans to expand into Australia within the first quarter of 2018.

“This is a very exciting time for us as we grow our team,” he enthused. “The sky’s the limit for us.”

Image Credit: SaltyCustoms

Lastly, King also has advice for would-be entrepreneurs.

Concluding his thoughts on his journey as a business owner, King had some sagely words of inspiration for those looking to make their business model work:

“It is important to remember that we are all on our own journey and not compare with others,” he advised.

“There are days when I feel like I’m making very little progress and it gets very frustrating. But eventually you’ll get over it so long as you persevere and keep making improvements.”

Feature Image Credit: SaltyCustoms

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