Coffee, cakes and big dreams

My friend Jason is earning big bucks as a sales manager, but his 5-figure salary doesn’t seem to satisfy him. He’s bored of the nonsensical sales target, constant boot-licking, entertaining customers’ wild requests and getting calls after working hour. He wanted a change for good.

“So what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” he pointed at the handsome barista over the counter, “maybe I’ll open a nice cafe and be my own boss.”

I used to dream about owning a cafe too. I’d make it airy, spacious and bright, just like the cafes in Instagram. Lots of cool people will be working at the desk, drinking cappuccino and eating chocolate cakes. It’s a beautiful dream until reality kicks in…

Do you know how much it costs to run a cafe? According to this article, you might need RM 500,000 to 600,000. 

It’s all money, baby.

Located around three-hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, Kluang is a town with many hidden gems. Just like Jason, after fighting in the corporate world, some young people came back here with visions and big dreams.

There was an Italian restaurant called De A Mano that sold handmade fresh pasta, Farm Table that serves fresh organic food, Kaki Lima the little cafe owned by the lovely Summer, and Rose/wood the romantic shop that looks exactly like a Pinterest board.

Kluang is a saturated market in the F & B business. Each endeavor is a huge commitment.

Are they earning big bucks? I don’t think so.

Is it easy? Certainly not. Nowadays everyone seems to have a good taste in coffee and interior design. Any restaurant which couldn’t meet the demanding expectations will fall in a short time.

So how do you stay AND stand out in this saturated market?

Besides profit and pricing, I think the key to stay AND stand out in a saturated market lies in the quality, consistency and service. You’ll think every business owner would know these basic things, right? Nope, not many. So it’s remarkable when someone does deliver quality and consistency in their products and services.

Kaki Lima is a small coffee shop at the famous Kluang mural street. We befriended Summer, the friendly owner and her siblings when they just started their business. After a year, the little cafe is still adorable. They serve delicious cakes and beverages. They keep reinventing their products. And they really spend time cultivating friendship with their customers.

This spirit is absolutely important in the F&B business.

In fact, these seemingly cliche things (focusing on quality, being consistent and providing good service) apply to big businesses and career development too.

How do you play the long game? How do you thrive in a job market?

Be focused, attentive, strategic and steady.

Qiu Ying and Summer told us the story of their friend Anson who’s running a successful hotel. The secret of her success? Being an attentive person who consistently does the right thing, one at a time, instead of a million easy-quick-but-wrong things.

That’s how a vision thrives and sustains.

Back to the story, Jason the sales manager is getting the MBA. He’s determined to make it. Maybe he can balance between quality and profit, who knows? Visions do come true.

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