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In the hot, humid country that is Malaysia, shaved ice has always been quite the popular icy treat. Think about the more classic ice kacang to the bingsu trend originating from Korea.

A notable player in the shaved ice scene is KAIICE, though you might not have heard of them.

This is because their prominence has been more for behind-the-scenes work, having supplied over 500 merchants nationwide with its halal-certified products. Today, though, it has expanded into offering direct-to-consumer sorbet products.

Image Credit: KAIICE

Despite its apparent success, at one point, the business almost went bankrupt. Here’s the story of how it rose, fell, and rose again.

Failure is the mother of success

Hailing from Selayang, Selangor, KAIICE founder Myon Lai Ming Yang chose to pursue business accounting in college.

He gained his first business experience in the middle of his studies, helping a friend with their vegetable business. This inspired him to further delve into the world of entrepreneurship, before making a more drastic decision.

“I decided to abandon my studies halfway and start my first (ecommerce) business with my friend,” he revealed. “But this business failed due to lack of experience and lack of cashflow.”

So, Myon got a job as a telesales person. After two years, he gained the capital to start a business again. He managed to a kick off a homestay management business while becoming the top salesman at his day job.

But he was still yearning for something more. One day, he met a friend who shared about Malaysia’s dessert industry, which inspired him to look into the market. From there, he began learning how to make desserts such as ice cream, shaved ice, and sorbet.

Seeing the industry’s potential, he decided to start a shaved ice food truck.

Image Credit: KAIICE

“With a savings fund of RM20,000, I borrowed a secondhand machine to produce ice, rented a food truck from a friend with a profit-sharing term, found three friends to start the business with no basic salary—only profit sharing,” he said.

Despite the seemingly unstable situation, Myon went all-in with the idea, even quitting his day job to focus on it. In 2015, the first iteration of KAIICE got its start.

Starting out as a food truck

Along with his three friends, Myon began selling desserts at a Sri Rampai night market.

Business was good in the first few weeks, but sales kept getting lower and lower until they were profiting only RM89 a month.

That’s when Myon realised the recipe was not suitable for their audience.

Image Credit: KAIICE

“So, we took a break to research and develop those recipes,” he shared. “We decided to use real fruits and natural ingredients to make our ice instead of using artificial flavouring. We tried and surveyed until we discovered our own recipes successfully.”

That seemed to do the trick, as Myon shared sales ended up increasing, and the team also started receiving orders for catering and events.

But the true breakthrough would come in 2017.

Myon and the shaved ice factory

Inspired by a customer’s remarks, the team saw potential in opening up a dessert factory rather than an individual dessert shop. This way, they could supply everywhere in Malaysia rather than just a small area.

But the issue was funding, or the lack thereof. The team talked to family, friends, and even pitched to the public. However, people doubted them, as they lacked experience in handling a dessert factory.

11 months into the search for funding, two of Myon’s friends left the business.

“I was disappointed at the time, and I’m used to being the most optimistic person in the team,” he expressed. “But good news always comes when you do your best.”

Image Credit: KAIICE

In 2018, KAIICE received a catering order for the first day of Chinese New Year. The team took the order, willingly sacrificing their own celebrations.

“This decision was a life-changing decision,” the founder shared. “The customer was shocked when she saw two young Chinese serving dessert at the first day of CNY back then, so she kept our contact.”

Inspired by their working attitude, the customer and her husband decided to invest in KAIICE after hearing the team’s business proposal.

Thus, in 2018, the team launched its factory, focusing on supplying their own shaved ice machines and KAIICE ice blocks to hotels, convenience stores, cafés, restaurants, stalls, food trucks, and more.

Diversifying revenue streams

The challenge doesn’t stop there. During the pandemic, KAIICE’s revenues plummeted. It was difficult to even pay employees at this time. Myon knew he needed to innovate, so leveraging his ecommerce experience, his team created a new KAIICE MINI sorbet dessert to sell online.

“Sadly, this was not enough to survive,” Myon said. “The company faced bankruptcy, which led to a critical decision between all the partners.”

Image Credit: KAIICE

During this time, the business partners ended up forking out their savings to save the business. So far, it seems to be paying off.

Flavours for the KAIICE MINI include calamansi, mango, peanut butter, passion fruit, strawberry, and peach.

KAIICE actually supplies 20 different flavours for its regular shaved ice, though, with some unique ones including durian, soursop, elderflower, hazelnut, traditional kopi, black sesame, Thai milk tea, and more.

Besides selling the mini sorbet online, KAIICE also wants to supply it to mini markets or convenience stores in the future.

Furthering the brand

With the pandemic now over, the business is still focused on B2B supply. The team aims to expand its supply chain to more than 1,000 merchants in Malaysia.

“After years of reinvestment of profits to our factory, we can now produce more than 1.5 million ice blocks per year,” Myon proudly shared.

The founder believes KAIICE stands out against competitors for a few reasons. For one, it offers flavours that are made using real and premium ingredients.

Image Credit: KAIICE

Compared to a traditional ice shaver machine that uses one block to make many bowls, the KAIICE machine is more convenient due to its one block per serving concept. This makes it easier for clients to control their stock and produce less waste.

“Most of our clients are able to earn more than 50% of their revenue from selling KAIICE which helps them to lower their burden on staff wages and shop rental,” Myon added.

There’s also the fact that KAIICE has gotten halal certification to ensure Muslim customers have ease of mind.

But the vision for KAIICE doesn’t end here. The point of opening up a factory instead of just a dessert shop was to spread KAIICE’s shaved ice everywhere.

As such, Myon wants to explore more opportunities to expand the business in other countries, with hopes to be a representative name for Malaysian desserts everywhere.

  • Learn more about KAIICE here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: KAIICE

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)