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After 18 years in fishery, he’s opened his first store to sell live seafood in KL

Author’s blurb: As a lover of fish and all things seafood, I sure know nothing about buying them myself. I’d usually default to whatever’s in the frozen section at the grocery store, as I don’t know how to choose from the fresh catch laid out where the fishmonger is.

If you’re anything like me, Mr. Chen Ling Choy may be the right person to call. He and his wife, Mrs. Chen (Regina) have been involved in the local fishery industry for at least 18 years. 

A livelihood built on fish

Starting out as a fisherman at 19 years old in Seremban, Mr. Chen was born into a family that’s long been involved in the industry. As a teenager, he would single-handedly catch and supply his fish to wet markets prior to launching CLC Fishery with Regina in 2003.

“Having noticed a demand in fresh seafood supply, we began the business by initially providing seafood to wet markets, followed by restaurants and hotels. We have now expanded to supplying seafood overseas as well, from neighbouring countries such as Singapore all the way to Hong Kong and Macau,” he told Vulcan Post.

Over the years, the couple would continue supplying their catch to the B2B segment, even opening up their own 43,560 sqft fish-rearing factory in 2012 to cater to larger volume orders. Throughout, one major challenge Mr. Chen faced while running this factory was working with the uncontrollable weather.

Feeding his fish in the factory / Image Credit: CLC Fishery

“Our supply depends on the weather. We need good weather for the fish to survive well. On rainy days, the quality of the water will deteriorate and may affect the fish as not enough oxygen is able to be supplied, thus the fish may die,” Mr. Chen told Vulcan Post.

This is why a regular day for Mr. Chen begins at 6.30AM, where he’d check on oxygen levels in the water. In the case of frequent rain, an RM40K backup generator will be activated to maintain oxygen levels, helping them maintain their supplies for the next 8 years or so.

Reeling customers in

For 14 years, supplying to corporate clients was enough for Mr. and Mrs. Chen. Until COVID-19 happened, that is. 

The pandemic severely impacted F&B businesses who’d decrease their seafood orders when faced with fewer customers to serve during the MCO. Hence, CLC Fishery’s sales subsequently decreased.

However, home-cooking became prevalent amongst Malaysians stuck at home. “It led us to re-strategise and shift our business model online to accommodate the increasing demands of our B2C customers,” shared Mr. Chen.

Though their customer base doubled with the launch of their online business, Mr. Chen—who’s used to supplying large volumes to restaurants—noticed one big difference. “The volume per order was small as they came from individual families. It was unlike what we used to get from corporate businesses pre-MCO,” he told Vulcan Post.

To boost their online sales, CLC Fishery provided free delivery, good customer service, and made an active effort to grow their social media reach on Facebook.

Late last year, CLC Fishery was offered another opportunity to expand the business in the retail segment. After being approached by Growers Market in Rivercity Jalan Ipoh, the duo have opened their first flagship store where customers can drop by and purchase seafood in person.

This store presents a more uncommon seafood shopping experience, as customers here can browse not just frozen seafood, but live fish too, leveraging on Mr. Chen and Regina’s shared experience in rearing them to pull it off.

Their first flagship store / Image Credit: CLC Fishery and Growers Market

There’s always a demand for fish

Even with all the changes that CLC Fishery has gone through, Mr. Chen nonchalantly shared that he doesn’t consider any of these moves out of the ordinary. 

“The products are the same, therefore, it was not something too drastic. The challenge for each switch is the investment of time and money into it,” the 37-year-old stated. “We believe where there is an opportunity, there will also be new challenges but we faced it head on.”

Checking the water’s oxygen levels / Image Credit: CLC Fishery

Considering themselves lucky that there’s always a demand for fish, they’re constantly on the lookout for ways to innovate and expand, or even shift their business model again if the situation calls for it. 

Even so, when asked about their future plans, Mr. Chen only shared that he hopes to continue concentrating on the export market for his products. 

Bottom line: I’m sure entrepreneurs have heard this before, that when businesses are faced with a problem, they must either adapt or die. I think Mr. Chen and Regina have truly embodied the saying, as they’ve proven to embrace the changes to expand their business to survive when things don’t go their way.

  • You can learn more about CLC Fishery here.
  • You can read more articles about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Mr. Chen Ling Choy, founder and Managing Director and Mrs. Chen, Executive Director of CLC Fishery

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