Having interviewed a number of startups, a pattern I’ve noticed is that a majority of founders tend to deviate from their fields of studies.
But some eventually find their way back. Kur Win is one such example.
He studied the culinary side of hospitality and worked at Western restaurants under the guidance of foreign chefs. That is, until he decided the lifestyle was not something he wanted anymore.
So he learnt digital marketing online and started building websites, which is how his freelancing career began.
But around the middle of last year, Kur Win felt a drive to get back into the F&B industry. This is the story of Smooth Ice Cream’s birth.
It’s called the circle of life
In his career as a digital marketer, Kur Win had worked with clients who were mostly in ecommerce. He had also previously run two ecommerce sites in the fashion department.
So, the ideal business he thought of would be a good mix of both his strengths.
From the start, he was looking to do an ecommerce food delivery business. The reason being that he could bootstrap it and take fewer financial risks.
Kur Win initially thought of cooking up artisanal pasta to be delivered. But in his opinion, the quality of each batch was harder to control as they’re best served fresh.
“If I wanted to do raw pasta and sauces, consumers won’t be able to get the same outcome as when a very good [and] experienced pasta chef cooked it.”
So he landed on his second idea—ice cream.
A strategic secon-dairy plan
Quality control for ice cream is much easier in comparison because it only needs to be kept frozen and transported in the right manner.
Although, competition is quite tight, with many well-established creameries and gelato shops in Malaysia. Some even create more specialised and healthier treats to fit certain diets.
“Many are keto-friendly, vegan, sugar-free, or some kind of diet ice cream. That’s not a niche I want to be in,” Kur Win told Vulcan Post.
His goal is to make “full-bodied ice cream”, meaning he uses egg yolks, cream, milk, and sugar as its foundation. While referring to traditional ice cream recipes, it took him up to six months of R&D to find a winning formula that he was happy with.
“Ice cream really is a science and getting every step right will result in the creamiest, smoothest ice cream,” Kur Win explained. And he’s not kidding either.
In fact, he made a spreadsheet with formulas to ensure each flavour contains the right amount of fats, sugar, and milk solids in the final product.
But don’t worry about waiting that long for each new flavour. The founder assured us that it usually takes about three batches to come up with a satisfactory recipe for new flavours.
Sharing his wisdom, he explained that good gelato is considered a premium dessert and has very low overrun, which is why gelato is generally more dense and flavourful than commercialised ice cream.
Dictionary time: Overrun in the percentage of air that is held within a frozen product such as ice cream, gelato or sorbet.Machinery World
The first customers of Smooth Ice Cream when it launched in December 2022 were those closest to him. It was only a few weeks ago that Kur Win began promoting the brand online.
The reason is one that most people who use Instagram would understand. “I didn’t realise how hard photography was,” he said. But it’s been visibly improving, as his Instagram page can testify.
Churning out premium tastes
Smooth Ice Cream uses both locally and internationally sourced ingredients.
Fresh products like eggs and milk are purchased from local brands, whereas more enduring ingredients are shipped over by local suppliers. This includes cream from Ireland, Bourbon vanilla pods from Madagascar, and premium French butter.
“Ice cream is harder to get right,” Kur Win mused. “My plan is to keep using premium ingredients and not compromise on them. I want to bring the quality of ice cream in a fine dining restaurant, to an everyday pint.”
This also explains why all 13 flavours available at Smooth Ice Cream are simple. He wants them to shine through and for customers to taste the difference in his use of high quality whole ingredients.
They include flavours like extra virgin olive oil, black truffle, dulce de leche, and the classic vanilla bean. Prices range from RM40 to RM45 for 475ml, excluding delivery charges.
It’s an un-cone-ditional love affair
Speaking candidly, Kur Win shared that Smooth Ice Cream is still in its infancy as it’s only the first real month of sales. “I’m selling about 10 to 15 pints a week. It’s not much and I have lots more work to do, but things are looking positive.”
His startup capital is below RM10,000, so not much ice cream can be produced. The bulk of the funds goes into the packaging, ice cream machine, storage facilities, and ingredients. This excludes the running costs involved as well.
Kur Win plans to bootstrap it until he has a proof of concept. He hopes to move the business into a centralised kitchen with a larger ice cream machine.
To our surprise, despite Smooth Ice Cream’s youth, he’s working on pivoting to it full-time. His reason is simple: “I wouldn’t want to start a business to keep it as a side hustle.”
“It may not work out but from the start, there’s a roadmap and what I plan to do. It’s always changing, but there’s a plan. I’m not all in on Smooth Ice Cream yet, but I will be ready if it were to move fast,” he added.
That said, he’s not completely letting go of his freelancing gig either. There are still ongoing client projects and he doesn’t plan on leaving his clients hanging.
Eventually, the 35-year-old founder is looking to open a dessert shop or kiosk. You might even find him at trade shows or farmers markets.
But for now, he’ll be giving his brand a shoutout the best way he knows how—digital marketing.
- Learn more about Smooth Ice Cream here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Smooth Ice Cream