For actuarial science graduate, Joshua, starting his first entrepreneurial venture, Coffee N Clay, wasn’t planned. In fact, he said it “just happened out of the blue”.
He was scrolling through Instagram admiring the Thai ceramic crafts from Cone Number 9 (a popular Thai ceramics brand) on his timeline when he decided to finally splurge some of his hard-earned money and purchase a few pieces for himself.
The problem? The international shipping cost itself exceeded the price of the products, but that didn’t extinguish his desire to own them.
Thinking economically, Joshua decided to place a bulk order for the pieces and allow others to join his purchase to make the shipping cheaper. It was just a coincidence that both he and his friend, Kingsley, were looking for ways to generate side income at the time.
After the bulk purchase from Cone Number 9, the pair realised the potential business opportunity at hand and created a Facebook page, officially birthing Coffee N Clay in November 2020.
Serving on a pre-order basis, the bulk purchases were then sold online to others who were equally interested in Cone Number 9’s ceramics.
These handmade premium artisanal crafts use a more traditional method of clay production, which explains the mid-level price range. Depending on their sizes, a piece can cost between RM60 to RM100.
Carving out their own business through coffee
In anticipation of the brand going far, Joshua and Kingsley flew down to Bangkok in 2022 and met the founder of Cone Number 9. A deal was struck for Coffee N Clay to retail the ceramic products in Malaysia on a wholesale basis, and the rest is history.
“Many people became interested in Cone Number 9, so it grew into something bigger,” Joshua stated. This success gave way to the birth of another complementing business in October 2022, Niju Coffee Hub, which acts as a roastery that also houses a gallery for Coffee N Clay.
He likened it to the popular One Half x ilaika cafe, which is a coffee bar with dedicated space for local craftsmen to share their art at the storefront.
In the case of Niju Coffee Hub, the cafe space makes up the main storefront while Coffee N Clay takes up a small area to display its ceramic wares.
When asked the reasoning behind opening Niju Coffee Hub, Joshua described that they wanted a space to welcome coffee lovers and also showcase the beauty of Cone Number 9’s ceramics. What better way to do that than to use them at his own roastery?
“I’m hoping people will go to these cafes, see the ceramics, and maybe ask about them,” Joshua explained.
There’s no better time than now to start
As someone not from a business or creative background, Joshua found that his entrepreneurial journey so far was “a very steep learning curve”.
He was not confident in himself but worked on sharpening up his skills as he figured it was as good a time as any to try his hand at something new.
“I was in my 20s and I thought it was a good time for me to take the risk,” Joshua confided, believing it was an opportunity not to be missed as a young adult with lesser commitments.
“I was telling myself that I’ve got to try it, I will regret more by not pursuing my dreams when I’m capable.”
Of course, he did not dive in without first researching the business and ensuring that he could financially sustain Coffee N Clay before it pushed past the breakeven point.
Though tiring, he found the experience interesting and rewarding enough that he decided to quit his job and turn this side hustle into a full-time career.
Aside from running Coffee N Clay, Joshua has been working as manager and head barista at Niju Coffee Hub since September 2022.
Becoming self-sufficient through the cafe
Despite the success and edge that Cone Number 9 has given to Coffee N Clay, Joshua and Kingsley understand the importance of being more self-sustainable and not placing a heavy reliance on the Thailand-based ceramics.
As such, their strategy is to use the ticket into the coffee industry that Cone Number 9 has given them by nurturing Niju Coffee Hub and building it up into a brand that can stand on its own.
In regard to partnering with the growing number of craft ceramic brands in Malaysia, Joshua acknowledged the possibility of that someday. “But we’re not looking to explore that yet in order to maintain our existing good relationship with Cone Number 9.”
Another idea that Joshua and his team of five at Niju Coffee Hub would like to look into is expanding its business model portfolio by opening a coffee stand express in the future.
In the meantime, Niju Coffee Hub continues to act as a roastery cafe with a large collection of green coffee beans from 20+ regions across the world, while also being a coffee chain distributing channel for B2B clients, such as hotels and commercial cafes.
- Learn more about Coffee N Clay here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Niju Coffee Hub / Coffee N Clay