Entrepreneur

These Fresh Grads Spent Over RM10k On A Solution For Students’ Expensive Coffee Woes

Accessibility to good and high quality coffee is plentiful in KL. 

With the rise of a cafe trend in our city’s F&B scene, we are exposed to an abundance of caffeinated beverages that caters to a diverse range of palates.

However, this accessibility has its limitations as well.

What if we need to get our caffeine fix to burn the midnight oil? How many of us, especially students, can afford spending RM10 for a cup of coffee daily?

These are the questions Zoe Chow and Chan Kang Neng asked themselves before starting 3am Coffee.

“This issue is widely experienced by many students, which was what pushed us to create 3am Coffee. It wasn’t because KL lacked quality coffee, but rather, students lacked accessible quality coffee, especially at an affordable rate,” said Zoe. 

It Started With A Simple Espresso Machine

As architecture students previously, Zoe and Kang Neng shared a passion for making coffee with an espresso machine that Zoe had in her architecture studio. 

“Many individuals were very interested in my espresso machine at first, but that interest gradually decreased as time passed. He was one of the few who were very eager to learn and used it frequently,” Zoe shared. 

Noticing Kang Neng’s passion for coffee coupled with his responsible attitude, Zoe decided to approach him about starting a coffee business.

Thus they began their partnership and started 3am Coffee in July 2020.

Now, a simple espresso machine alone wasn’t going to get them, or anyone for that matter, very far in a coffee startup. 

As a barista herself, Zoe believed they needed a higher-end espresso machine to be able to meet the quality standards they set for their coffee.

3am Coffee’s 150ml latte and cold brews / Image Credit: 3am Coffee

Hence, they started saving up through their full-time and part-time jobs as well as some photography gigs on Zoe’s end.

Through this, the two of them managed to cover some of their initial cost.

At the same time, they also approached their relatives, friends and family for advice and investments to cover the remaining gaps of their initial cost. 

Leveling Up To A High-End Espresso Machine

Once they got sufficient funds to proceed with the startup, they purchased a higher-end espresso machine and coffee grinder, the Rocket Appartamento and Eureka Mignon Specialita respectively.

These two machines alone cost them RM10,000.

Although this was a pricey investment for a tiny startup like theirs, Zoe and Kang Neng pulled through with their objective of serving high quality coffee at an affordable price.

3am Coffee’s selection is as follows:

  • Chilled Series
  • Cold Brews
  • Bottled Espresso

There are different flavours in each selection as well as sizes (either 150ml or 250ml), and these factors affect the pricing.

If you were to purchase a 250ml cold brew white or black from 3am Coffee, it will be priced at RM13-14.

I compared this with cold brew blacks sold by other cafes, and I found that 3am Coffee is relatively cheaper than them:

However, their main selling point is making their cold brews strong enough that they encourage consumers to ration it for 2 to 3 servings with or without milk.

“These products were released for the purpose of providing our market with coffee at just RM2.90-5 per serving,” Zoe said.

3am Coffee’s 250ml cold brews / Image Credit: 3am Coffee

Moreover, their cold brew blacks last at least three months which is significantly longer compared to cafes’ cold brew blacks, which typically last no more than a week.

3am Coffee’s cold brew black’s higher shelf life is thanks to longer brewing hours on their end.

In case you’re wondering what it tastes like, their cold brew blacks have prominent nutty and cocoa-like flavour notes, followed by a hint of stone fruit, Zoe shared.

Prepared For Surprising Challenges And Expanding

Starting the business at the end of their university career had its restrictions. 

Neither of them ran the business on experience but rather passion and grit, hence, they were taken by surprise by many obstacles in these couple of months.

However, these didn’t hinder them from pursuing their business’ growth. 

Recently, they collaborated with Za & Co, a homebaker startup whom they met through a mutual friend as part of their goals in expansion. 

It was a simple collaboration they called “Coffee Meets Cookie”, which allowed both of their customers to pair desserts with a cup of coffee, just like you would in a cafe. 

Coffee Meets Cookie / Image Credit: 3am Coffee

“We wanted to communicate a message that our brand isn’t only for a 3AM caffeine fix or a solution to those sleepy afternoons.”

“We wanted our audience, and theirs, to also understand that we can also be a ‘treat yourself’ type of coffee!” Zoe said.

In the long run, Zoe and Kang Neng want to have their own vending machines to place across universities and centralised offices in KL and Selangor.

They believe having those vending machines would increase the convenience and accessibility of 3am Coffee’s products for their market.

Finally, Zoe also believes in the importance of marketing and getting creative with their brand’s content and aesthetics in order to grow the business.

“As an individual who is also branching into social content and brand content as well as social media, these are very important platforms/aspects in marketing our brand.”

“The 3am Coffee team intends to improve individually and collectively and ensure that reflects in our brand as well,” she stated.

  • You can read more about 3am Coffee here.
  • You can read about other Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Zoe Chow and Chan Kang Neng, co-founders of 3am Coffee

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