Category Archives: Entrepreneur

iMiirage has closed shop or is relocating?

iMiirage, touted as the world’s first ambience dining restaurant (according to their website iMiirage.com), has closed on the 31st March 2017. Whether it is closed for good or is just merely relocating, as they claim on their website, is not clear. One would have thought that if they are relocating, they should be able to provide more details on where they are moving to. Like Marianis, they gave notice to their patrons where they were relocating to before they closed the one at De Garden. And there were rumours where they were relocating to too even before they put up the notice. Because as a business you want continuity, to keep your existing customers, and the staff who are working for you too. Otherwise you’ll essentially be starting your business from scratch, almost, all over again.

Anyway it’s not my business and the owner, apparently same owner as the “mighty” Nam Heong, might have other ideas, for example to cut the loss first whilst finding a more suitable location for the business. Or he might be more keen to just end the business, hence not really thinking much about its subsequent reincarnation. It does seem to me that the latter is more likelier the case.

It is a shame, really. The restaurant was opened with great fanfare about a year and a half ago. It does provide a fairly unique dining experience, with fancy scenery like underwater, skyline of Hong Kong etc. Perhaps Ipoh is too small a market for such fine dining experience. And it’s expensive, by Ipoh standard. Whether their food is up to standard is debatable, perhaps not consistent or good enough for people to want to pay top dollar dining there. Last but not least, the location. I’ve written a piece on Nam Heong, where iMiirage was located. The location of that SOHO area is a complete non-starter for retail business in my opinion. It’s very inconvenient to get to, much worse than De Garden. And now that there are more shop lots built there, finding parking space will be big issue. Lack of planning is so common in Malaysia. Or maybe it was deliberate for SOHO’s case, as developers are mostly only interested in maximing their profit. Building a multi-storey car park costs money. Anyway I think the location is still the killer.

Okay we shall see if iMiirage will be resurrected somewhere else. If you know any news about it I’ll be interested to know.

The  Bagel Kitchen has closed shop

The other day, probably a week ago I went to the Bagel Kitchen wanted to buy bagels for my wife. But it was closed. At the time I wasn’t sure whether it was closed for good or just for a day. It was a Sunday, so I suspected that they might have closed for good, as Sunday is a normally a good day for business.

Went past again today and saw a “To Rent” sign hanging outside their fence. It is a nice looking place, nicely renovated, and facing the main road. But I guess the Ipoh folks are not so hot on Bagels. Anyway it is going to be a tough year this year so it might not be such a bad idea to cut the loss.

When you are not on the corporate ladder anymore

It’s been over three years now since I stopped climbing the corporate ladder. To be honest I really don’t miss working in a big corporate environment. The pressure to perform just gets more and more intense as you are more and more senior in the company. And I am not one who will always try to seek opportunity to be visible infront of senior management. Hence life gets depressing during appraisal when boss then tries to play down your contribution, because visibility infront of senior management is important in order to justify a glowing review of performance.

Now that I run my business, whilst there is a whole new dimension of stress that comes with it, at least the peer pressure and expectation from bosses are off for me. I need to worry about money (cash flow) a lot more, but at least I do not need to appear like I am intentionally stepping on others to climb up the corporate ladder. That is one aspect I do not like, as I prefer relationship with my colleagues to be less competitive in nature. And I stop worrying about how much I earn (salary) compare to my peers nowadays, because I have taken a very different path. I owe the bank a lot of money (corporate debt) with a business, and income (profit) is a lot more variable when compared to a fixed salary job. But in a way I think I am happier because I don’t need to get stressed out as much going to work with some insufferable colleagues always looking to impress.

Okay I also need to throw in more time running a business, and it can be exhausting too, so I am heading for a rest now. Goodnight!

Boston De Garden has closed shop

Boston De Garden
Another F&B business bites the dust at De Garden. Boston is one of the earliest tenants there. Apparently they stopped doing business since 1st June 2016. It seems that they are a franchise business, because another opened in M-Mall Penang earlier this year. Hence this leaves Daorae as the longest surviving F&B business at De Garden.

Interestingly the furnishing in Boston remains intact. I wonder if they are left there to part settle rental with De Garden? Or maybe there is some arrangements agreed with De Garden to sell on their goodies to the next F&B business? The ground floor of that part of De Garden now has no more F&B outlet. Chatime, Aliyaa and now Boston have vacated. It is tough to keep an F&B business going in Ipoh.

Pitfalls in opening a cafe in Ipoh

Upmarket cafes were very hot in Ipoh for a while 2-3 years ago. Cafes mushroomed almost everywhere out of a sudden. Many were tastefully decorated, quaint looking, cosy, with everyone one of them seemingly trying to outdo one another. Some have “unique” selling points, like offering self made bread, pastry, high speed Internet connectivity etc. But the fever has died down a little lately, to me anyway. Here is an article that offered some insight into what it is like to run a cafe business in Ipoh.

Some of the business owners are fairly honest when asked about the challenges facing them when running their businesses in Ipoh. Some seemed to either just put on a brave face or they didn’t know where they failed, if I’m being honest. I’ll let you figure out who was or were talking rubbish. But I would agree on the following points for the Ipoh market:

  1. Competition from the popular white coffee, both taste and price
  2. Standalone coffee enjoyment without main meals not so popular here
  3. Appettite for western coffee is there, but market is not big enough to sustain so many cafes

I have no problem with the price points of their coffee. They are their premium offerings, and should rightly charged as they are. But I have a lot of issue with the price points of their other offerings, like desserts, light bites (sandwiches included) and even main meals! They are deluded, thinking that the Ipoh folks earn as much as those in KL and Penang. In fact if I go to KL, I get better (much better) value for money, on both coffee and food! Incredible isn’t it? But it is!

Basically, your business needs to survive and sustain in such competitive environment first, with so many cafes around, and price reasonably. Lower your cost and overhead, target the right audience and offer value to these customers. Ipoh folks always like good bargains, and they will come back to you if you offer them good value. Tourists business is good, but it is often one-off, and there are not that many tourists coming to Ipoh. Businesses in Ipoh need to first and foremost focus on the locals. Otherwise it will be the same old story. You have been warned.

Business picking up again?

Our business just managed to beat the first week of March last year in terms of revenue. Business has not been great, starting from second half of last year, if we compare revenue year-on-year. But interestingly business seems to be picking up again in March.

Just heard from a supplier that Up & Up Restaurant in Ipoh Garden East is losing money. We have dined there twice, I think, within the first two or three months after they open business. They had a good crowd on both times we were there. But apparently business has slipped since. Their overhead is high, with lots of workers (over 20 of them?). Probably inevitable in restaurant business. It is difficult to gauge when you are going to have lots of hungry customers turned up on your door steps.

Anyway it is most important for our business to stay in the black, and maintain a healthy cash flow, at least until the economy turns the corner. If we can do just that then our business is definitely here to stay.

Something’s Brewing has closed shop

Something’s Brewing opposite Festival Walk
Saw on Facebook that this cafe has packed up shop after Chinese New Year, and the owner is trying to sell off various things in the shop, if not the business itself. Was initially interested in the coffee machine and the deep freezers. But I don’t suppose these are absolute necessities for our business at the moment so I would rather keep our cash. In difficult times like this cash is king. In fact I am thinking of raising some working capital for our business. But need to get our second year financial account audited and filed first. Without at least two years financial history the banks won’t look at our application.

Back to Something’s Brewing. It is a cafe that serves various types of tea, e.g. fruit tea. I haven’t been there before, but it is similar to the one in De Garden, Tea & Tattle. In fact Tea & Tattle is a result of a business partnership break up in Something’s Brewing some time ago. I’m not sure if I enjoy drinking such tea, as I’m more the traditional black tea with milk type of drinker. It is hard to tell whether Something’s Brewing would survive if there is not a Tea & Tattle that tries to compete for the same pie. It is a niche market, which is fine. But it does look like the market is so small that it can’t sustain both cafes. We’ll see if Tea & Tattle can survive in the long run. They do have a unique offering, I think, but customer base takes a long time to build. Unlike coffee drinking which is heavily marketed around the world, fruit tea is relatively unknown here. If you haven’t a big marketing budget then you can only build your market up organically. And you need to prepare yourself for competition. And that is not just from potentially new tea drinking cafes… It is a tough business. It really baffles me why so many entrepreneurs still try to get into the cafe business.

Chatime De Garden moving to AEON Big Falim

image
Chatime De Garden

Saw the above notice when on my way to change my wife’s and my mobile phone plans at DiGi De Garden. Not going to miss it since I seldom drink their expensive milk tea anyway. Heard that their first Chatime in Ipoh, located at Greentown, opposite Subway, has closed too. So all the Chatime outlets in Ipoh can now only be found in shopping malls. Milk tea or drinks business is more profitable in shopping malls then I guess?

Ben’s Burger has closed shop in Ipoh Parade

Haven’t eaten at Ben’s Burger before. It was very visible from the road and located next to one of the main entrances to Ipoh Parade (opposite of Sam Tet secondary school).

image

Drove past it about a week ago, and it looked rather dim from the outside. Suspected that it is no longer in business. Happened to be in Ipoh Parade yesterday. Took the effort to walk over there just to confirm (there is actually no entrance to Ben’s Burger from Ipoh Parade). Saw a few Snow Mountain workers outside. They were there to take an extractor fan away.

So Ben’s Burger is indeed closed. Tables, chairs and other bits and pieces are still there. From what I heard, it was closed about a month ago. Ben and Lynette however is still in business, located on ground floor, inside Ipoh Parade. BTW both of them belong to the same company, The Secret Garden (TSG) group. The take up of vacated lot in Ipoh Parade seems rather quick, as there is already a banner outside Ben’s Burger indicating an ice cream shop, it seems, is going to take up the space. Better than any of the AEON it seems.

Public Bank SecureSign device how-to

Finally got our SecureSign device from Public Bank for online business e-banking. Looks similar to HSBC’s security token:
SecureSign PBB
However the way it is used is very different from HSBC’s. There are two stages in carrying out an online transaction. The logic behind is there may be more than one person who can access the business bank account (logging into the account does not require the SecureSign device). But not all of them have the authority to carry out online transactions. So the first stage involves creating transactions, e.g. to pay for utility bills. Subsequently, the person with SecureSign device will approve these transactions, presumably one by one (haven’t tried this out yet).

In the first stage, I made payment in a similar way to how I was accustomed to. But when I was expecting to key in a secure code from the SecureSign device before I confirm a transaction, I managed to confirm without one. But the transaction was then put under “Pending” status.

In the second stage, I needed to click on the “Transaction Approval” tab to proceed:
Transaction_Approval_PBB
On the left hand column, there were “Maker Transaction Status” and “Authorizer Transaction Status”. I could view pending transaction under “Maker Transaction Status” or “Authorizer Transaction Status”. To authorise transactions, I needed to click on “Authorizer Transaction Status”, followed by “Approve/Reject Transaction”. There I was required to search for the transaction to approve, which in my case was just one pending. Here came the unintuitive bit, after clicking on the transaction that I wanted to approve. I was required to key in the secure code. The secure code was to be generated from the SecureSign device. However it wasn’t entirely clear from the Quick Guide that came with the SecureSign device how it could be generated:
SecureSign Quick Guide

First, I keyed in the PIN number into the SecureSign device when prompted. Then I pressed the “1” or “Sign” button on the device, before keying in the first set of data. This first set of data was actually the first line of numbers on-screen in red. After keying in the numbers followed by “OK” on the device, I keyed in the second line of numbers in red (it was the amount figure, but remember to omit the decimal dot) followed by “OK”. Then only the secure code appeared, which I entered on-screen to approve the transaction.

Now do you understand how the SecureSign device facilitates online business transactions for Public Bank?

Updated on 4/12/2015:
Just found out today that if your pending transaction is not authorised within 7 days, the transaction will vanish by itself. Yes, vanish, because it will not show up anywhere, even if you try to search for it. It is not rejected nor deleted. It will disappear from you, or even the Public Bank staff. Initially I thought I can just keep creating transactions, let them stay pending, until I authorise them at a later date closer to actual payment due date for my bills. The reason I did that because Public Bank do not allow transactions to executed on a future date. Absolutely rubbish. Maybank can do that. And how difficult can it be to keep a record of expired (pending) transactions, so that I don’t have to dig out transaction details again to make the payment. Basically their commercial online payment system is just not very well thought out to me. It is appropriate to describe it as rubbish.

Updated on 1/2/2016:
If you damage the device, it will cost you RM50 (plus GST) to replace. Don’t put it in your pocket, especially if your jeans is tight, like mine, with lots of things inside too, as mine cracked. Replacement does not take long, I got mine replaced in 2-3 days time.