How a LinkedIn comment led this young M’sian slow-baked kibble biz to secure 7-figure funds

Writing about the startup ecosystem, we’ve often heard the saying, “fundraise before you need it”.

Heeding this advice is homegrown brand Notti Pet Food (Notti), who just recently bagged seven-figure funds from 500 Global and First Move.

While Notti wasn’t facing severe bottlenecks, Ke Yee shared that the investment has empowered the business to accelerate their growth and match the vision she has for the startup.

And that vision has always been to go beyond borders, bringing their pet foods to a global audience. To make this leap, they need advanced equipment, a larger and more skilled team, and a stronger marketing strategy. These are all things fresh funds can help achieve.

But it’s not just casting the net wider, it’s about delving deeper to elevate the quality of their offerings to meet international standards.

This is a great example of why you should fundraise before you need it, as it becomes less of a reactive thing, but rather an intentional one.

Putting yourself out there

500 Global and First Move are no small names. The former barely needs an introduction in the startup world, but for the uninitiated, it’s an established multistage investment firm.

First Move is a little greener, but has already made quite an impact in the scene. Focused on early-stage startups, the firm was created by Fave founder Joel Neoh and Audra Pakalnyte, the former head of FavePay Later.

Image Credit: Notti Pet Food

So, how did a new company like Notti, which was only established last April, attract their attention and secure their funds?

Ke Yee’s answer is simple: serendipity.

It started when she made a comment on a post by Amanda, the Associate Director of Investments at 500 Global, discussing the potential of the pet industry.  

On the other hand, Audra from First Move had previously sent her a simple message on LinkedIn suggesting a casual meetup to learn more about what they were doing during Notti’s early days. Just goes to show that LinkedIn truly serves as a platform that democratises networking and valuable connections.

“What began as casual interactions quickly evolved into substantial partnerships,” she said. “We secured this deal just two weeks after we started working on it, demonstrating how powerful even a small action can be.”

A deal is a two-way street, of course, which means the partnership must make sense on Notti’s end too.  

For Ke Yee, the reason to go with 500 Global and First Move is because of their global reach and strategic impact. The partnerships have opened Notti up to extensive networks, providing access to a team of relevant professionals.

Image Credit: Notti Pet Food

“With their investment in Notti, a company just nine months old at the time, was a strong vote of confidence from established players in the industry,” the founder pointed out.

“This support and affirmation from such reputable firms are incredibly motivating and validate our potential in the market.”

Improving the lives of pets

Holding a bachelor’s degree in Food Science with Nutrition, Ke Yee previously worked in other organic food companies, working passionately to improve people’s health.

Through Notti, she’s now leveraging her expertise to improve pets’ health as well.

“Personally, I am also a pet owner with both a dog and a cat, and I’ve always been focused on improving their lives, from selecting the best kibbles to finding the highest quality treats,” she explained.

Image Credit: Notti Pet Food

However, Ke Yee felt that none of the products on the market truly met her standards or the needs of her pets.

She was motivated to fill that gap in the pet food market, particularly in Southeast Asia where she said many products contain unhealthy ingredients like unnecessary grains and low-quality meats.  

What Notti is offering, instead, is high-quality, slow-baked kibbles cooked at 90 degrees Celsius to ensure better nutrient retention.

According to Ke Yee, they only use fresh, human-grade meat, which makes the kibbles exceptionally palatable and ideal for picky eaters.

Image Credit: Notti Pet Food

The product development at Notti Pet Food is led by Ke Yee and Sarah Koay, the product manager.

“Despite the crowded pet food market, we focus on creating solutions that genuinely solve problems for pet owners,” Ke Yee said.

Their approach starts by identifying specific pet concerns, such as fur quality, tear stains, or allergies. From there, they source for the best ingredients and raw materials to address the concerns.

Aside from the actual kibble, Notti aims to enhance the overall pet ownership experience through community engagement through their own “Communotti“.

This community platform will allow pet owners to connect, share experiences, and support each other on their journey toward providing the best care for their beloved pets.

Grooming the future

By the end of the year, Notti aims to establish 200 touchpoints in Malaysia while deepening their market penetration in other countries. The young company is already present in Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

Ke Yee also revealed that they will be launching a new product line, aligning with their vision of catering to a variety of dietary needs and preferences.

Going forward, Notti plans to invest in research and development to create cutting-edge formulas that optimise pet health and well-being.

“From advanced nutritional formulations tailored to specific dietary needs to innovative feeding solutions designed for convenience and efficiency, we aim to stay at the forefront of pet nutrition and care,” she said.

Image Credit: Notti Pet Food

As for the long-term goals, Notti hopes to foster a global community of pet owners who share their values and commitment to provide the best care for their pets.

“We envision a future where every pet has access to nutritious and sustainable food and services contributing to their longevity and overall quality of life,” Ke Yee said.

With that core mission, as well as the invaluable support of 500 Global and First Move, Notti appears primed for global expansion, and perhaps even domination.

Editor’s Update: Parts of this article have been edited to reflect greater accuracy.

  • Learn more about Notti Pet Food here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about funding here.

Also Read: Net zero explained: Why Amazon, Microsoft, & M’sia itself are pledging to be carbon neutral

Featured Image Credit: Notti Pet Food

This S’porean couple is putting their own spin on tandoori food through burgers & fries

“I think to be totally honest, it was desperation.”

Those were the words of Siraj, who is one-half of the couple behind Mahmud’s Tandoor. Together with his wife Syirah, the duo’s tandoori burger brand first took root during the pandemic, born out of “desperation”, as Siraj put it.

At the time, Syirah had been working as a special needs teacher. But after five years in the industry, she needed a break, especially since the couple was expecting their first baby at the time.

Meanwhile, Siraj was working as a writer with SGAG. He told Vulcan Post that he really loved the job, but unfortunately after four years with the company, he felt like he wasn’t seen as a necessity and thus decided it would be best to resign.

“It was painful and shocking, but I guess if it did not happen then neither would this,” he opened up.

Image Credit: Mahmud’s Tandoor

“This” refers to Mahmud’s Tandoor, of course, which the couple initially intended to run as just one person’s full-time, while the other worked a day job. But as they found themselves in a situation where both were unemployed, they decided to go all in on the business.

“Courage, I guess, is necessary in every business, but fear too can be equally powerful if harnessed the right way,” Siraj said. “Our thought was, ‘If we don’t give this a try today, we’re going to regret it later. Besides we’re young enough to fail.’”  

With that YOLO mentality, Mahmud’s Tandoor was open for business.

A family recipe

The inspiration behind Mahmud’s Tandoor is actually Syirah’s dad, who had a tandoori recipe that the couple was fond of.

“It had a common heritage between both our races and it was something achievable, thus Mahmud’s Tandoor was born,” Siraj explained.

Image Credit: Mahmud’s Tandoor

Starting out as an online business, they offered tandoori wings and teh tarik, which received warm reception, but was in no way an instant success.

But slowly and steadily, with support from friends and family, Mahmud’s Tandoor began to gain traction. What really got them the extra boost, though, was social media.

One day, they posted a photo of their tandoori chicken, marinated with a boneless thigh, and put it in between two buns. Turns out, people loved the idea of a tandoori burger.

In the beginning, they fully kept to Syirah’s dad’s recipe. However, the feedback showed that the flavour profile was too strong for some.

Image Credit: Mahmud’s Tandoor

“So we had to go back and R&D and ask ourselves, ‘How do we keep the essence of the recipe yet cater towards a wider palate?’”

Their fried tandoori burger (dubbed Crispydoori), was one result of said R&D, helping make tandoori chicken more accessible and enjoyable for all.

“Some have called it a blasphemy of tandoori as it’s not cooked in a tandoor, but taste it once and you’ll understand the goodness of tandoori is still there in all its fried glory,” Siraj said.

And he must be right, since Mahmud’s Tandoor went on to be Winner of Halal Awards in 2020, and later opened up a brick-and-mortar location.

Balancing creativity and entrepreneurship

Aside from being a co-founder for Mahmud’s, Siraj also juggles being a stand-up comedian and writer, and of course, a father.

“I think as a creative, you don’t silo yourself into one thing ever,” he said. “Our lives are just one big ball of experiences and more often than not it all feeds into one another.”

He elaborated, “What I experience in fatherhood, often comes in my comedy, and my comedy then benefits my business as people recognise me, and that again feeds into my income to help have a better, balanced life as a working dad, thus having a bit more time to experience fatherhood and having more material for comedy.”

For those, especially from the creative field, who want to pivot into entrepreneurship, Siraj has some words of wisdom to share. First of all, money.

“The finance had to make sense no matter how passionate we were, and that was a bitter pill we had to swallow at the very start,” he said. “It was painful for us to have to raise prices for our customers, but we had to do it, so we could pay people properly and ensure the quality of our food and service.”

Image Credit: Mahmud’s Tandoor

Although Siraj recognises that having positive cash flow and earning a liveable income is important, he also emphasised that making “mad money” must not be the primary motivator.

“It’s a tough road with many challenges, but if your purpose and mission is strong, that will keep you going and if at the end of the day, it doesn’t work out, you’ll know that at least you fulfilled your purpose and mission,” he said.

Weathering the storm together

When asked to give some advice for those who are thinking to venture into entrepreneurship with their significant other, Siraj’s answer was: “Don’t.”

He’s joking, of course.

“We’ve had lots of time where the lines between husband and wife and business partners are blurred and arguments are brought over and get very heated,” he admitted. “We do our best to keep it separate but hey, work life integration right?”

Now parents of two, their kids serve as a good reminder to make sure they leave work behind and be with family.

Being partners in life and in business has its pros as well. For one, a business is like a relationship—both require trust.

Image Credit: Mahmud’s Tandoor

“Trust that the other person is looking out for the best of you,” Siraj said. “And if ever, that trust begins to fade or waver, then it’s time to talk it out and renew that trust and build on it. That trust and strong bond is the backbone of the business and your marriage, so always work on it and make time for it.”

There are plenty more challenges that Siraj and Syirah face as entrepreneurs. For one, having been employed previously, they remember the joy of having paid vacation, where you can just leave for holiday and not think about the company.

“Oof, nikmat oi,” Siraj reminisced.

Now even when the couple goes on holiday, they’re still on call and help settle and remedy situations since Mahmud’s is still so young.

“It’s just the way it is,” he said. “With time, we and the company will mature and have more systems and processes but till then we still have to be hands on.”

True to that sentiment, Siraj said that they have been slowly implementing more systems to make sure the staff is more self-reliant. He credits Syirah as the mastermind behind these efforts.

Image Credit: Mahmud’s Tandoor

Despite all the challenges, he has no plans of going back to a 9-to-5.

“I think that’s one of the things about entrepreneurship, it is a bug, I guess,” he mused. “Once you’ve got a feel of being a business ‘owner’, it owns you really, it’s hard to be on the other end as an employee.”

Going forward, the couple hopes to grow Mahmud’s Tandoor into a cult fast food brand. It doesn’t have to be the biggest player in the market, but they’d like to have a strong loyal following that swears by their food and return over and over again.  

“Are we going to be a multi-million-dollar brand with franchises around the world one day?” Siraj wondered. “Maybe, if that’s right for the brand. But for now, we’re happy in our small little booth, doing our best providing good food and good service to people.”

  • Learn more about Mahmud’s Tandoor here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about F&B businesses here.

Also Read: Airbot’s new self-cleaning robot vacuum boasts 3 promising features, we test each one out

Featured Image Credit: Mahmud’s Tandoor

S’poreans can now list their flats on the HBD Flat Portal

HDB singapore

The Housing Development Board (HDB) will launch a new Resale Flat Listing (RFL) service, allowing HDB flat owners or their property agents to list and market their flats on the HDB Flat Portal, the Straits Times reports

The service will soft launch today (May 13), with the official launch to follow later this month.

However, transactions can only be made after the official launch. Eligible flat sellers and their appointed property agents will be provided early access to familiarise themselves with the service.

A “one-stop platform” for buyers

As of now, only real estate agents can put up listings on major property portals such as PropertyGuru and 99.co, which will incur a fee. 

While other platforms, such as Ohmyhome and Carousell, allow homeowners to do so themselves for free, the listing process remains largely manual.

Image credit: HDB

The HDB Flat Portal’s RFL service, on the other hand, is not only free of charge, but also automatically fills listings with details such as the address, flat type, floor area and floor plan from HDB’s data.

Additionally, sellers will be prompted if their listing price is at least 10 per cent above the highest transacted price of similar units nearby in the past six months, or if they have set an “abnormally low” price.

This is so they can make an informed decision on their listed price, which promotes a more sustainable property market in the long run, HDB added.

Buyers can compare flats on the HDB Flat Portal. PHOTO: HDB

To make the HDB Flat Portal a “one-stop platform” for buyers, the new resale flat listing service will be integrated with existing services on the online portal.

This includes financial calculators, loan listing services and information on the buyer’s HDB flat eligibility (HFE) letter.

Buyers can also compare resale flat listings with new Build-To-Order (BTO) flats on aspects such as price and remaining lease, allowing them to consider their options “holistically and make more informed decisions on their flat purchase”, HDB said.

Meanwhile, sellers or their property agents can list their homes and carry out resale transactions on a single platform.

Becoming “a trusted listing marketplace for genuine buyers and sellers”

To improve user experience and ensure transparency, the RFL service and all its features will only be available to buyers with a valid HFE letter.

Although any prospective buyer can browse through the service, only those with a valid HFE letter can obtain contact details of the sellers and schedule viewing appointments.

Similarly, sellers will require a valid Intent to Sell to create a listing for their flats. Each seller can only post once to prevent duplicative listings of the same flat, HDB said, adding that listings are verified.

“These measures will improve user experience and ensure transparency as the resale flat listing service aims to become a trusted listing marketplace for genuine buyers and sellers,” HDB said.

Buyers with a valid HFE letter will be able to book viewing appointments for the flats they are keen on directly through the HDB Flat Portal/ Image Credit: HDB

Through the RFL service, HDB aims to create “a transparent, reliable and trusted marketplace for the listing and transactions of HDB resale flats”. 

In response to the Straits Times’ queries, HDB said it “reserves the right to remove listings which have unrealistic pricing or contain misleading information from our portal”, and may seek clarifications from the sellers or their property agents.

“The Government will not condone behaviour, whether by sellers or their property agents, that seeks to disrupt the market or fan consumer sentiment,” it added. If properly agents are suspected of professional misconduct, HDB will work with the Council for Estate Agencies to investigate and take the necessary enforcement actions.

Previously on May 8, the Ministry of National Development, HDB and CEA flagged the listings of two HDB flats that were put up for sale for S$2 million. The authorities deemed one listing, featuring two adjacent five-room flats in Sengkang marketed as a jumbo flat, as “misleading”, while the other listing, for a five-room flat in Toa Payoh, was flagged for having an “unrealistic asking price”.

Featured Image Credit:  Ministry of Communications and Information

Also Read: 5 reasons why the new ERP 2.0 OBU is needed in S’pore, and how it can benefit motorists

Meet the M’sian couple paving their own path to sweet success in the saturated dessert market

Sugirl Desserts is a delightful venture that’s not just about satisfying cravings but also about weaving stories through every bite.

Founded by Carmen Yong and Edmund, two dynamic entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds, Sugirl Desserts has quickly carved a niche for itself in the competitive landscape of local desserts.

Carmen, armed with over a decade of experience in the banking sector across Malaysia and Singapore, made a bold leap into entrepreneurship, leveraging her expertise in events management to establish CY Events Management Company.

Meanwhile, Edmund brought his entrepreneurial acumen from co-founding ChubbeeCloud, a snack gifting company that was known for its gourmet marshmallows.

Together, they embarked on a journey fueled by passion, resilience, and a shared vision to redefine Malaysian desserts.

As the events industry ground to a halt during the COVID-19 movement control order (MCO) years ago, they turned to their passion for desserts, sparking the sweet beginnings of Sugirl Desserts.

From pantry to outlets

Their journey began modestly, in the confines of their company pantry, where they dabbled in crafting desserts that would soon win over hearts.

It wasn’t long before their creations, delivered with love and a sprinkle of innovation, garnered an enthusiastic response from dessert enthusiasts across the Klang Valley.

Image Credit: Sugirl Desserts

Driven by a desire to offer something beyond the ordinary, Carmen and Edmund identified a gap in the market.

Traditional desserts were aplenty, but there was a thirst for modern interpretations that stayed true to local flavours. Thus, Sugirl Desserts was born—a fusion of tradition and innovation, with each bite telling a story of Malaysia’s rich culinary heritage.

From humble beginnings, Sugirl Desserts has blossomed into a sensation, with four outlets in Midvalley, 1Utama, IOI City Mall, and Setia City Mall.

1 Utama and IOI City Mall outlets / Image Credit: Sugirl Desserts

Sweet offerings with a local twist

Their menu is a tantalising tapestry of flavours, drawing inspiration from diverse culinary traditions while staying rooted in Malaysian tastes.

One of their most beloved creations, the ‘Jalur Gemilang’ pays homage to Malaysia’s vibrant spirit of unity. With seasonal cempedak, red sago, and blue heart jelly, the brand positions it as more than a dessert; it’s a celebration of diversity, served with a side of patriotism.

Image Credit: Sugirl Desserts

They also have a knack for turning local fruits into decadent delights such as Caramelised Banana Sago with Biscoff. Their signature Durian Galaxy dessert is a nod to the iconic roadside cendol, complementing the bold flavours of the king of fruits.

“These unique offerings showcase our commitment to preserving local heritage and our ability to cater to evolving consumer preferences with inventive and delectable treats.”

“By infusing modern twists and premium ingredients, we transform familiar flavours into luxurious experiences that appeal to contemporary tastes,” Carmen told Vulcan Post.

Image Credit: Sugirl Desserts

Sugirl Desserts doesn’t stop at just desserts. They recently ventured into pre-packaged marshmallows featuring flavours that resonates with Malaysians.

Although it feels like a throwback to ChubbeeCloud, the founder told us that it’s merely a small project for now, with their primary focus being Sugirl Desserts as a whole.

“We decided to introduce pre-packed marshmallows instead of other snacks due to the perceived gap in the marshmallow market and the versatility of this dessert snack,” she said.

For now, they offer four flavours that evoke nostalgic narratives unique to Malaysian culture—Pak Onde (pandan coconut), Aunty Hainan (chicken floss rice pop), Ms Rosie (lychee rose) and Kopi Boy (coffee chocolate chip).

Sugirl Desserts’ new venture, pre-packaged marshmallows / Image Credit: Sugirl Desserts

Despite being exclusive to their outlets only, plans are underway to make their flavoured marshmallows accessible to a wider audience, spreading sweetness far and wide.

Sweet challenges & aspirations 

Their journey hasn’t been without challenges, but Carmen and Edmund have faced them head-on, buoyed by the support of mentors and the warmth of their loyal customers. 

Image Credit: Sugirl Desserts

“Our relative newness in the field meant that we lacked the established networks, brand recognition, and industry experience that many of our competitors possessed.”

“This made it challenging to gain traction, attract customers, and differentiate ourselves effectively,” Carmen shared.

However, their collaborations with brands like BYD and Love Bonito have only fueled their ambition to become the foremost destination for modern local desserts in Malaysia.

As they look to the future, Carmen and Edmund envision Sugirl Desserts not just as a culinary hotspot but as a cultural ambassador, showcasing the rich tapestry of Malaysian flavours to the world.

With their sights set on the expansion of more outlets and innovation, they’re ready to take on whatever challenges lie ahead, one sweet treat at a time.

  • You can learn more about their business here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Also Read: 3 GenAI use cases with the potential to take off in M’sia, based on global examples

Featured Image Credit: Sugirl Desserts

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

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