Try, Fail, Learn & Repeat

Written by
Suzanne Ling

Yesterday morning, I spoke at UKEC [i]mpact Stories and received a stack of questions on post-it notes that I didn’t have enough time to answer (it felt like insta’s ask me anything feature happening in real life lol). I promised to answer all the questions on Picha’s blog, so, here you go! 😀

p/s: there are 17 questions in total so i’ll answer in parts 🙂

Question 1: What was the first main steps you took to start Picha Project professionally as a business?

We started experimenting with this business idea since January, and decided to run this business as our full-time job in May. Here are 6 important steps that we took in the beginning to start off the business:

Step 1: Set the Mission & Vision Clear

I’m not talking about coming up with fancy mission & vision statements, but sitting down together with Kim & Swee Lin to align our plans for Picha. We put out important questions for each other that must be cleared before taking on this path, which includes money, time, commitment, our personal future plans & goals in life, the risks that we might face, and the big WHY behind starting Picha.

Step 2: Build our Visibility

We started sharing what we do on social media, and set up a Facebook page for Picha. Of course, there’s no point setting it up without getting our friends to like the page and constantly updating the page with our stories and progress.

Step 3: Get the Supply

Once we decided to run this business full time, we started approaching families who can come on board to cook with us. We were blessed to get 5 families who are super amazing chefs, and that gave us the confidence to push our products to the market. We worked out different meal sets with them, and sourced for packaging that are of corporate-standard to fit the market that we were going to approach.

Step 4: Approach Potential Clients

This is where the game begins. Let’s face the reality, it’s all about sales when you’re running a business. There’s no point having great products when there’s no sales. In May, we were part of MaGIC Accelerator Program for Social Enterprises, and one mentor told us there’s no excuse to not have sales, we gotta go out there and look for it (which leads to my next step). So that’s what we did. For one whole month, we sent out hundreds of emails to corporates, organisations and whoever we can think of. We made cold calls, we walked into different office buildings to speak to HR/CSR/CorpComm Managers, and we did whatever we could to tell people about Picha.

Things took a big turn when we received a reply from Malay Mail Online from one of the hundreds of emails that we sent. Instead of trying out our meals, they offered to write a story on us. When the story went online, that’s when things changed. We got more media exposure from The Edge, BFM, The Star and many more, which brought us amazing leads to corporate clients.

Step 5: Get Mentors & Keep Learning

Honestly, none of us know how to run a business, but one thing we know very well is to always learn. From MaGIC, we got connected to many great mentors who helped us grow when we were “start-up babies”. They believed in us and gave us their time, their ideas and their input. If you’re thinking - “but i dont have any mentors,” - all you need to do is ask. Send emails to those whom you wish to get advise from, most of the time, they’ll say yes because they’re once mentored by someone too to reach to where they are today. Even if they say no, there’s no harm asking.

Every time our mentors give us ideas & input, we discuss and look at the different ideas, filter out what might or might not work, then work on it immediately. We try out different ideas and decide to keep or scrape the idea based on the results that we get. Sometime our mentors scold us too when we make silly decisions, and we are extremely thankful for that because they’re the ones who keep us in check constantly 😉

Step 6: Fail Fast, Learn Fast & Get Up Fast

You have no idea how many times we screwed up when the orders started coming in. As new entrepreneurs, we can’t run away from making mistakes. When a business starts running, suddenly everything under the sky can turn into a problem, e.g. drivers picked up the food late, we informed the order wrongly, chef overslept and missed the order, chicken was sold out, car battery died, driver disappeared, food boxes fell out from the car when I opened the car door (no joke omg face palm max), and the list went on and on.

Operations hiccups were happening so frequently that we were constantly in a nervous/panic-state with no appetite to eat. Everyday, we were on our toes thinking… “omg what can go wrong today”, and then TADAAA something new would go wrong hahaha. (thinking back, it’s a pretty funny experience).

But no matter how many times we screw up, we always do this - apologise to the client, give a refund, get feedbacks, look into the problem, come out with new processes to minimise the chance for the issue to happen again, and learn from it.

We are seriously blessed to have clients who continuously give us chances, and stick with us through the years as we grow. Of course, we also have clients who never came back anymore because of the mistakes that we made. No matter what the client’s final decision is, we take in the failure constructively and move on with one goal in our head - to be better than this from now on.

Very un-glam photo of me and Swee Lin sitting on the floor of KLCC carpark after a tiring day

It’s a learning journey, and it still is until now - this learning journey will never end. As Picha continue to grow, we face different sets of problems at different phase of growth (so we constantly send SOS signals to our mentors lol).

It’s not an easy journey, but it’s definitely one that’s worth persevering and fighting for.