Trev Ng worked in the PR industry in his mid-20s but as days went by, he felt more depressed. Besides dealing with peer pressure, he felt that he wasn’t able to unleash his creativity.
Before he kicked off his entrepreneurial journey, he took a part-time job at a café to see if he liked to work behind the bar. He found his happiness in making a simple cup of coffee for every customer.
“The relationship with customers and the sense of fulfilment that I was able to make someone’s day with coffee amazed me,” Trev said.
In December 2014, these moments led him to open his own coffee kiosk, Optimist Coffee at Ampang Park LRT Station.
Later, in November 2017, he opened its second outlet at Kerinchi LRT Station. Trev is planning to launch a third outlet in August this year.
Spreading positivity through coffee, food & the right attitude
Running Optimist Coffee, Trev Ng and his team want to inspire lives and lift up the customers’ mood, especially those who are feeling blue.
In order to do that, he has to serve what he thinks is at the best of his abilities. This means having hours of practice perfecting the drinks, getting the right flavours, and combining what the customers like.
“Trust me, customers can feel it,” he said. “You can’t please everyone, but at least you must be serving something that makes you feel good and proud.”
The beverages are served with motivational quotes, which is a deliberate choice.
“When you sip a good coffee and look at the cup, a motivational quote fits your mood and goes straight to your heart,” Trev said.
“To me, if I am able to inspire someone through quotes, that’s how I define success.”
The customers are also attracted by the quirky messages and fun quizzes on their displayed chalkboard, which include some of Trev’s original ideas. For past five years, as a mini personal challenge, he makes sure that he doesn’t repeat the messages on the board.
Due to the customers’ requests for food, he opened up the Bright Side Sandwich Bar which serves affordable artisan grilled cheese sandwiches.
For Optimist Coffee, he received about RM150,000 startup capital from the Young Entrepreneur Fund. He also put in the same amount for Bright Side Sandwich Bar.
He recently launched Sugar Mummy Boba which is served every Friday lunch hour as a special drink at Optimist Coffee in Ampang Park LRT Station.
“I created a humorous and fun brand for the boba—something fun, bold and unconventional,” he said. “Something opposite of Optimist Coffee but spreading joy differently.”
To suit the local tastebuds, they use specialty coffee and gula Melaka instead of milk and tea with boba.
Trev was worried that the customers will compare it unfavourably with other boba drinks but the response was encouraging. These limited Sugar Mummy Boba drinks usually sell out within a few hours. Sugar Mummy Boba’s first store will be opened at the end of June.
Shining a light on mental health
Trev’s darkest days are part of the reasons why he established Optimist Coffee. So every year on Optimist Coffee’s anniversary, they collaborate with Befrienders KL to place the spotlight on mental health.
“Not many companies include mental health as their CSR campaigns and most people take talking about mental health as a taboo”
Together with Befrienders KL, they want to break this stigma and reach out to their audience to tell them that it is absolutely okay to talk about their lows and mental health problems.
Enjoying the entrepreneurial roller coaster ride
For Trev, every day is a new challenge. He reminds himself to focus on what he can, not what he can’t do.
Sustaining the business may be the hardest thing for him. Still staying positive is the fundamental value that keeps him and his team going.
“Getting the right people, with the right attitude, and cultivating the company is always an ongoing challenge,” he added.
As a leader, to provide great customer service, he has transparent conversations with his team so he can understand the scenarios and how to improve them.
He gave a piece of advice to those who want to run F&B businesses—look at the worst case scenarios of running the business instead of the best ones.
“A lot of people only choose to see the good side, such as profitable business, and want to be their own boss,” he added. “But being a boss doesn’t mean you don’t have to work, in F&B.”
“Entrepreneurship is a journey. Enjoy the ride, not only the ups but also the downs.”
- Optimist Coffee outlets are available at Ampang Park LRT Station and Kerinchi LRT Station. Bright Side Sandwich Bar is also at Ampang Park LRT Station. Learn more about how Trev and his team spread positivity by visiting Optimist Coffee’s Instagram page.
Feature Image Credit: Optimist Coffee