Yee Hoi Coffee is a traditional coffee roastery founded in Ipoh in the early 1950s when the founder left the tin mining industry due to the Great Depression. Since then, Yee Hoi Coffee has been supplying their signature blend of coffee to over 60 kopitiams and Mamak stalls, as well as directly to customers. However, as dine-in restrictions were imposed during MCO in 2020, the sales of coffee has plummeted greatly.
Helping a traditional business go online
The pandemic gave Yee Hoi Coffee the push to sell its products online. With a background in IT services business, Aaron partnered with Yee Hoi Coffee in May 2020 to sell their conveniently-packed coffee directly to consumers through eCommerce platforms. For a coffee brand with zero online presence since it was founded, getting online sales from a wide audience who had not even heard of Yee Hoi Coffee proved to be tough. Aaron only managed to complete 10 – 20 orders a month through friends and family who supported him, gradually building up the credibility of Yee Hoi Coffee on Lazada and Shopee, which is an important criterion that influences people’s buying decision.
Besides running Facebook Ads, Aaron also joined various sales organised by several eCommerce platforms. During the recent 11.11 sales last year, he managed to get 20 orders in a single day. As the news of Yee Hoi Coffee selling online spread, many customers who had Yee Hoi Coffee prior to the pandemic lockdown were thrilled to know that they can purchase their favourite coffee online. To date, the online shop of Yee Hoi Coffee gets 100% positive seller ratings on Lazada and an average of 4.9 ratings out of 5.0 on Shopee. The sales volume has also increased to 30 – 50 orders per month. Aaron is looking forward to expanding the eCommerce business to other countries so that many homesick Malaysians get to enjoy a taste of home overseas.
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The supportive coffee-loving community
Whether it is the traditional kopitiam style coffee or the espresso-based coffee served in cafes, essentially the same coffee beans are used. With this in mind, Aaron reached out to the coffee entrepreneurs community in Malaysia. Even though the number of coffee brands available in the eCommerce landscape has tripled within 6 months during the pandemic, the competitive nature of this industry does not hinder its community from sharing knowledge with fellow entrepreneurs and supporting each other. This community shares the same passion for spreading the coffee drinking culture which is well embraced by Malaysians from all walks of life. It is this sense of belonging that motivates Aaron to keep going and promote this traditional heritage of Ipoh while trying to keep abreast of modern times.
Business is always 50/50, even when you have done your research well, things can still go wrong. Most important is to have the courage to try it, you’ll never know how far you can go. Now is the best time to prepare your business for post-pandemic.
Aaron Yap is the co-partner of Yee Hoi with 6 years of experience in the IT sector. Small-time culinarian and part-time inspirationist. An avid food hunter and a very biased eater. You can get in touch with him through email or WhatsApp.
This article is part of the 5 real stories of starting a business in the midst of the pandemic series written to tell the stories of entrepreneurs who have braved through these difficult times and successfully started a business. Check out other stories here: