Smart, intelligent, outspoken, independent, courageous, true to their dreams and ideals – listen to this inspiring story of how two Malaysian ladies in their thirties are preserving and introducing their Nyonya heritage to the world. We spoke to Gwyneth Lim who is based in Australia on how Ahnya Chi got started. Ahnya Chi was recently shown at the Melbourne Decor and Design Trade 2015, hear her about her struggles with ill health to the many challenges as an entrepreneur.
How did Ahnya Chi come about? A little history and background of the founder/s…:-)
Ahnya Chi was founded by Melissa Chan and I less than a year ago. Mel and I were former partners at an advertising agency called Lucideas (pronounced as Lucid Ideas). Back then; we use to spend our evenings (during and after work) bantering for hours on end about our life ambitions and the love we shared for our Peranakan heritage. Mel is now working full time as a curator for her family museum in Malacca called the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum.
How big is the team? Who does the designing and the sourcing? Is it difficult sourcing for the material and what about quality control cross the since you are operating in two different continent?
Me, myself and I plus valuable assistance of wonderful people through the different stages of conception up till sales. I have been hands on with Ahnya Chi since the start of this year. I find it important to be apart of every stage, especially during this infancy period. It is important for me to work with like-minded partners and cross-collaborators.
What was your marketing strategy when you started, and how have things changed and what are your current strategies?
I have come to learn that a plan is never really full proof but always a good guide to the journey ahead. Our first batch of cushion designs brought valuable market insight to our brand positioning and offering. I believe this will continuously be a work in progress as Ahnya Chi grows.
Please give us some back ground on yourself. How’s your daily life as an entrepreneur now?
I am a communication design and business marketing graduate from Melbourne. I have spent most of my working career in my hometown, Kuala Lumpur. Looking back, I have had the privilege of working along side some talented people both partners and clients especially during my graphic design and advertising years. There are different hats to put on at every stage of the business. I focus my time from month to month through the seasons on designing, producing and marketing. This type of business cycle suits my current lifestyle.
Could you share with us a bit about your toughest moment of being an entrepreneur, and what’s your secret key to face the tough times?
Work. Life. Balance. I may not get the measurements right each time but I have come to learn this the hard way. On the second day of the Décor & Design trade show in Melbourne this year, I woke up to find that I couldn’t move my left eyebrow and my upper right lip of my mouth. I thought I had perhaps eaten something wrong and contracted an allergy of some sort. The following day, after checking into the emergency ward, I had come to discover that was struck with Bell’s Palsy, a temporary facial paralysis from trauma to my facial nerves. I believe this was my body’s way of telling me to “please slow down and take the time to rest Gwyn!”
What is your most rewarding part as an entrepreneur?
Through the short time I have worked on Ahnya Chi, I have come to appreciate the effort that is taken to bringing good quality products to the market. My most rewarding part through the whole process is working along side the wonderful people who have come with me on this journey.
What are the future plans for ahnyachi, where can customers get a hold of Ahnya Chi products?
Ahnya Chi products are now available at DESIGNation and Kita Kita in Kuala Lumpur and Camerich in Perth. I hope to be able to see Ahnya Chi in other specialty stores in Malaysia, Australia and Singapore.
What would be your advice for our aspiring entrepreneurs?
An idea is just as meaningless when there’s no consistent execution. Give your brand the care and love it deserves.
Please state your own inspirational quote to inspire Malaysian young entrepreneurs!
Do whatever it takes to make it happen and never compromise on your health!
What books are on your bedside table currently?
Tash Aw – The Harmony Silk Factory
M. Scott Peck, M.D. The Road Less Traveled
Gary Chapman – The 5 Love Languages