Entrepreneur

What Started As A Snack Side Hustle Earned These M'sians RM50K In 3 Months

  • Hou Sek is a brand of Asian-style gourmet snacks founded by Ivan Lim and his co-founder Su at the end of January 2018.
  • Their products feature a small selection of snacks that include crispy fish skin and potato chips.
  • Since beginning operations, Hou Sek have already managed to sell more than 4,000 packets.

It’s not often that one finds instant success when starting on a new business venture. But that’s exactly what happened to Ivan Lim when he co-founded his gourmet snack brand Hou Sek earlier this year, along with his co-founder Su.

Run as a two-person operation, Hou Sek sells three distinct products—salted egg fish skin (RM22), original crispy fish skin (RM9), and salted egg potato crisps(RM20)—both on their website, and offline through pop-up stores and partnerships with a number of vendors around the Klang Valley.

“I’ll be honest, I was just thinking of doing this for fun and I said to myself that if we could hit 100 packets a month it would be quite an achievement and we’d have an extra RM500 in our pockets monthly,” Ivan said.

So it came as a surprise when Hou Sek ended up making RM50,000 within three months of business.

“I guess we weren’t dreaming big enough,” Ivan joked.

Hou Sek’s current product offerings / Image Credit: Hou Sek

According to Ivan, the recipes for their snacks were developed after intense periods of research and taste-testing.

Ivan and Su went on to try out every single salted egg-flavoured snack in the market and tried to create something better.

“We did a lot of R&D and ate so much salted egg that our bodies started shivering,” Ivan explained. “We wanted to localise the flavour and give it a tinge of spice as both of us love spicy food—I eat nasi lemak every single day.”

“We played around with the recipe and eventually found one that both of us really liked.”

Quality Is Key

Within the first week of starting out, Hou Sek had already received orders for 500 packets. This would seem like a blessing for some, but Hou Sek was faced with a problem.

“Our suppliers couldn’t supply us with the ingredients as we first started our business one and a half weeks before Chinese New Year,” said Ivan. “We used a replacement and prepped at least 100 packets, but it didn’t taste as good.”

So they never sold those 100 packets—a deliberate decision made by both Ivan and Su because they never want to compromise on quality for the sake of earning more money.

“We were honest with people about the problems we were facing, and I wrote a post about it on our website,” Ivan recalled. “Thank God the majority of people were forgiving enough to not get mad and told us that they would be willing to wait for it.”

Image Credit: @euniceeunny on Instagram

Their approach has led Hou Sek to selling over 4,000 packets of their snacks in less than half a year of operations.

“We are confident that Hou Sek is a product of extremely high standards,” Ivan said. “We wouldn’t simply use the term ‘gourmet snacks’ if they weren’t high quality.”

“We’ll definitely continuously innovate our products to be relevant in the industry.”

Going All-In

Ivan thinks that he’s learned plenty about how to run a business despite only being officially operational for such a short time.

For one, he’s learned how to manage his time better. Juggling between working his bank job, conducting weekend math tuition sessions, and running Hou Sek, Ivan has had to give up plenty of other things in order to make his business a success.

“I’ve had to sacrifice some stuff in my life such as my gym time and chilling with friends to make this business a priority,” he said. “Now, I feel like I can work a lot smarter by automating a lot of processes.”

Hou Sek sells their products online as well as via traditional retail such as pop-up stores / Image Credit: Hou Sek

Salted egg products aren’t exactly unique in the market, but Ivan welcomes the competition.

“Competition is healthy, in fact, I strive when there’s competition,” Ivan said. “It pushes us to not be in our comfort zone and continuously be on top of our game.”

“We strive to disrupt those who are monopolising the market. We’ll do it by making our products better.”

Up Next, Southeast Asia

Moving forward, Ivan wants to continue building Hou Sek by expanding their product line via audience feedback and also collaborating with some of the other players in the F&B industry.

“We’re in discussions with a couple of big brands right now that are keen to have some strategic collaboration with us. Tealive has contacted us for a meeting and FoodPanda approached us to be the main sponsor for their birthday,” he said.

“A number of social media influencers have also purchased our products although we really have no idea how they found out about us.”

Ultimately, Ivan hopes for Hou Sek to become the go-to brand for gourmet snacks in Malaysia and eventually Southeast Asia.

“It’s a big dream,” he admitted. “But sometimes you just have to have a ‘just do it’ mentality and start something.”

“It doesn’t have to be the perfect product, just start something and learn from the journey.”

  • For more information about Hou Sek and their upcoming pop-up events, check out their website or Facebook page.

Feature Image Credit: Hou Sek

 

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