4 Lessons That Sum up Entrepreneur Life Perfectly (Number 3 is compulsory!)
Updated: Sep 19, 2018
Based On an Honest Interview with GetMalaysia Founder Gary Yeo
Written by: Felicia Soon
I will always remember the day I first met Gary Yeo. A dashing young man hailing from Malacca, Gary is a determined go-getter in the e-commerce industry with an enterprising attitude, who complimented me on my work and acknowledged my contribution as a media associate. The memory of this simple act of kindness constantly serves to remind me to take note of the efforts of others and acknowledge their input whenever possible, because sometimes a word of encouragement is all that is needed to keep a person going.
Let’s delve further into Gary’s world and explore some of the important lessons he has learned in his journey of starting up as an entrepreneur.
Gary actually got his start in business 20 years ago. Being the adventurous type since his youth, he was exposed to the business world early by helping out with his family’s business from the age of 13. One of his earliest recollections was going out with his father in pickup vans and doing door to door sales, selling spices.
“From there, I started to have a taste of working in a business and I continued to build that interest in materialising my ideas,” he says.
About 10 years ago, Gary was approached by a friend with the idea of buying domains. At that time, the whole concept of the Internet was still relatively new, which made him sceptical about it. It was not until recently, about three years ago, when he teamed up with former business partners in wholesaling hair pomades that made him realise the importance of e-commerce and how it played a significant role in the modern world of shopping.
“It is certain that in 10 years to come, shopping will be revolutionised and the Internet will play a major role, not only in Malaysia, but also worldwide. As a matter of fact, it has already taken a big role in America, where major stores are struggling in surviving,” says Gary.
This revelation prompted him to start his journey in the e-commerce industry, as more and more start-ups began to explore new business opportunities online. However, many of these new entrepreneurs started online businesses with the assumption that customers would automatically find them and sales would be generated quickly and easily because they had a footprint on the Internet. Unfortunately, this is where they are wrong, as it takes more than just a few blog postings and some Facebook posts to snowball an online business into a living income.
Starting any business is not easy, whether it is a brick-and-mortar enterprise or online, but an online business has its own advantages. For instance, a brick-and-mortar retail store has a defined audience, typically a radius from the business location. However, an online business is not restricted by this and can reach a wider audience. Once a successful marketing and advertising strategy is identified, an online business can capture its target audience and increase its budget growth.
In addition, an online business will often allow you to eliminate some of the huge costs associated with an offline business. GetMalaysia is an online community platform which, unlike other companies, does away with exorbitant charges.
“We work in a way where we encourage and help Malaysian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and brand owners to grow together via e-commerce. We are not a marketplace, eg Shopee Malaysia, neither are we looking at building one. Instead, our business model complements existing marketplaces. Our concept is always from the community, to the world, where we work as a family and share all the resources that we have,” shares Gary.
Lesson 1: Think Outside the Box
Gary vividly remembers starting his own skincare and personal care brand, Naté Natural, and pitching his idea to marketplaces.
“Malaysian products are actually comparable in quality and maybe even better than those manufactured by bigger brands. When I was trying to grow Naté Natural, I had been neglected by marketplaces. Quoting from one of the major marketplaces, ’You only have two SKUs. We know your product works, but with only two SKUs, don’t bother going into marketplaces; you will never make it,’” he says.
An SKU, or stock keeping unit, is a term that is typically used when talking about inventory management. Managing inventory with SKUs is important for any business that sells products.
This feedback changed Gary’s initial assumption that he could easily obtain support from marketplaces. “I was really upset. Then I realised that there are a lot of brand owners out there who are also facing the same problem that I had. Therefore, I decided to group the ones that I knew together under GetMalaysia.”
GetMalaysia acts as a negotiator and merchant aggregator for Malaysian brands, assisting them with vendors, marketplaces and acquiring new sales channels.
Lesson 2: Work Together to Provide Value-Added Services
According to Gary, GetMalaysia comprises a team of passionate Malaysians, collaborating by combining their knowledge and expertise in the e-commerce industry with the guidance of a three-pillar concept, namely:
iii. Resource Sharing
Other challenges also arose during Gary’s journey as an entrepreneur. When he finally wanted to go into business full time, he faced issues of manpower, funding and support. The silver lining here was that the GetMalaysia team and members, who are also brand owners themselves, were cooperative and allocated their funds on a sharing basis.
“We are also very fortunate that our community has support from the marketplaces and most importantly from government agencies, namely the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), and not forgetting our fellow business partners,” he says.
Lesson 3: Discover and Develop Your Entrepreneur Opportunity
Gary believes that GetMalaysia will continue to grow into a leading online community platform by bringing Malaysian products into the international market over the next five years.
“We would also work closely with the government and would like to see ourselves being the first option in the mind of international traders when it comes to Malaysian brands and products,” he says.
In the end, Gary notes that starting GetMalaysia remains one of the best decisions he has made in his life.
Lesson 4: Nothing is Easy, But Everything Can Become Possible
“It is definitely not easy being an entrepreneur and to be honest, I am not blessed with the best financial standing since young, but I am definitely blessed with great friends and great family members,” he says.
Gary would like to thank the GetMalaysia team partners: Evonne Lee, Alex Yong and Yurii Lee and fellow GetMalaysia members, his family, his friends; Ezra, Jeff, Edvin, Hon Mao, Ricky, the whole group of friends from university, Cojack; his hometown friends and the Melaka Baru Gang among others.
He also conveys a special attribution to a noble man who he has never met before: Edmund Ng, who was very kind-hearted to him. Last but not least, he would also like to thank the MDEC team and LW Media for giving him this opportunity to be interviewed.
Before ending, Gary threw in a word of advice for the younger generation who would like to take the journey of entrepreneurship: “Do not give up. Take the first step and take risks. I will never forget, once upon a time, a friend told me, business is 30% certainty and 70% corrections.”