CEO Series

She Left Her Accounting Career To Run Her Own Tea Business In M'sia—Sold 1 Mil Sachets To Date

  • Rhymba Hills is a company founded by Ciinndey Wong that sells healthy tea-like beverages called “herbal infusions” that are free of caffeine, sugar, and any other additives.
  • Their range of products are made from organic local ingredients such as lemongrass, Bentong ginger, and cinnamon, and are crafted to be healthy alternatives to beverages such as coffee, teh tarik, and other sugar drinks.

“If you’d asked me during my undergraduate years if I’d envision myself becoming a ‘tea lady’, my answer would be ‘no’,” said Rhymba Hills founder Ciinndey Wong when asked about her switch from accountant to eventual health-advocate and tea seller.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Business from RMIT, Australia, Ciinndey worked for a number of years in one of the Big 4 accounting firms before realising how much her job was affecting her health and happiness—stress was leading to poor eating habits, and a vicious cycle began to form.

“After a few years, I realised that I didn’t enjoy the work,” she said. “Not only that, due to stress I was leading a very unhealthy lifestyle—a diet full of fast food, soda, nightly suppers, and no exercise.”

Overweight, a face full of pimples, and without self-esteem, Ciinndey then decided to make changes for the better.

“I cut off fast food from my diet, started exercising, and lost 18 kilograms in nine months,” she shared. “I felt so good about myself that I wanted my diet and lifestyle to be as natural as possible.”

Eventually, her efforts led her to notice a lack of healthy alternatives for the sugary and caffeine-laden drinks at the cafés where she would hang out with her friends during late night sessions.

“That got me thinking—there are others like me who want hot, caffeine-free drinks at night, but who lack enough choices,” she said.

“So I thought, why not look into creating a business out of it? And that’s how I started the business.”

Growing Naturally And Organically

After doing research, speaking to farmers, and deliberating on how to take her ideas forward, Ciinndey finally settled on selling a unique tea-like product called ‘herbal infusions’ rather than selling actual tea itself.

“Tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis family—like black tea, oolong tea, and green tea,” she explained. “Herbal infusions don’t come from this family. Examples of Western herbal infusions would be things like lavender, chamomile, peppermint, and rose, and for Eastern infusions we have ginger, lemongrass, and pandan.”

Image Credit: Rhymba Hills

“We source our herbal infusions as locally as possible for freshness and also to support our local farmers,” she continued. “All our plantations are located in the northern food basin of Malaysia in places like Kedah, Perak, and Penang, except for our gingers which come from Bentong, Pahang.”

Compared to traditional teas, Rhymba Hills’ products are free of caffeine, sugar, and other fillers, making them suitable replacements for some of the more popular beverages found around contemporary eateries.

“It’s really hard to find beverages that have no sugar, colouring, or fillers, unless you drink plain water,” she said.

Also, Ciinndey said that her company places a focus on sourcing their ingredients from smaller scale farmers who practice more natural methods of crop cultivation, meaning no artificial elements.

“Many farmers use chemicals, pesticides, and synthetic fertilisers to increase their plantation yields,” she said. “However, when farmers use these chemicals, they leech into the groundwater, contaminating the water supply that both you and I may drink from.”

“Farming using the natural way is the best and most sustainable way moving forward.”

One Woman’s Growth Is Another Person’s Livelihood

Ciinndey now runs Rhymba Hills and sells her products alongside a team of people who work on things like backend operations, admin tasks, and accounting, with a partner on the side who trusts her with most of the day-to-day running and business decisions.

In order to grow her business, Ciinndey says that she began by setting up shop in local bazaars, and then slowly moved on to approaching organic retailers and eateries.

But after finding her brand hitting a plateau, she then proceeded to increase points of distribution by working with larger retailers such as Jaya Grocer and Ben’s Independent Grocer.

Image Credit: Rhymba Hills

“Also, as we’re in the digital age, we use Facebook and Instagram aggressively, and our products are available on leading e-commerce marketplaces like Lazada and 11street,” she said. “Being in the F&B industry, it’s important for customers to taste the products and for us to have direct interactions with the customers. This is why we frequently take part in events.”

Additionally, Rhymba Hills also strives to give back to the community by working with various NGOs such as Green Valley and Dignity For Children Foundation by allocating a portion of all sales to be donated to these various causes.

Image Credit: Rhymba Hills

“I really believe that if we take from the community, we also give back to the community,” Ciinndey said. “It’s always a blessing to give rather than to take.”

More Hills To Climb

To date, Ciinndey claimed that while Rhymba Hills has sold close to a million tea sachets—the equivalent of two tonnes of tea—she’s still finding it challenging to grow her brand in a market with little awareness of her product and heavy competition, especially from giants Boh and Lipton.

“Competition has been very intense for us—many still don’t understand what herbal infusion is,” she lamented. “Although we’ve been around since 2011, we are still very unknown.”

“Malaysia is blessed with an abundance of ingredients, but unfortunately due to a lack of marketing, we are only aware of imported herbal infusions rather than those grown in our own backyard.”

“The only way to move forward is through a lot of education and marketing effort.”

Image Credit: Rhymba Hills

Still though, Ciinndey is looking forward to taking on the task, and hopes that her brand can grow big enough to go international.

“Our vision is to grow Rhymba Hills to be a global company, exporting to at least 100 countries all over the world five years from now so Malaysian can be known as supplier of herbal infusions,” she said.

Feature Image Credit: Rhymba Hills

 

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