KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 — Lin Lee and Wan Chiun Low, best of friends since their school-days in Penang, returned from their university studies in Australia seeking to replicate the juice culture there. The result is Smooshie Juice, an all-natural, no-preservatives grab-and-go fruit juice, available at various cafés and juice bars in the Klang Valley.
These young entrepreneurs employ workers from an Orang Asli village, which is their way of empowering the local community. Small, sustainable and artisanal, Lee and Low believe in converting the public to healthier choices, one delicious Smooshie Juice bottle at a time.
What made the two of you decide to become entrepreneurs?
We identified what we saw as a huge problem -– the fact that the Malaysian beverage market is dominated by unhealthy products. We literally found it impossible to pick up a fast, healthy drink.
Our need to do something about that problem gave us the guts to send in our resignation letters! Something had to be done, and if we don’t try to do it ourselves, chances are nothing would change.
What’s the biggest hurdle you had to overcome before starting this business?
We had to take quite a big leap of faith into a business that both of us knew absolutely nothing about! (They don’t have Juicing Universities or books like How to Run a Juice Company for Dummies!)
The fact that we started off with zero knowledge and resources was absolutely daunting. We spent at least a good six months researching and emotionally preparing ourselves for the leap before taking it.
There are many healthy drinks out there, including freshly squeezed fruit juices. How do you stand out?
There are other companies such as Boost Juice Bars, who also provide 100 per cent pure juices, and we honestly see them as our allies rather than our competitors. We are all in the same boat, trying to push across the same message.
This was why we were so keen to collaborate with them when they approached us two years ago. We are now supplying Smooshie Juice to five Boost Juice outlets around the Klang Valley, as a grab & go alternative to their on-site freshly squeezed juices.
In terms of packaged drinks though, the market is currently dominated by beverages that contain processed sugars and preservatives. Smooshie Juice is one of the first to not treat our juices with anything artificial. We believe that in time, consumers will grow to appreciate that.
How will you continue to expand your business?
We would love to start out a mini Smooshie Factory and get more advanced equipment such as a larger pasteuriser, all within a sterile facility, so the shelf-life of the juices can be extended. Only then can we really look at bringing the goodness of Smooshie Juice to more outlets and other states around Malaysia.
One way we’ve come up with to finance this potential expansion is by entering the Alliance Bank SME Innovation Challenge. We’ve made it to the finals, and are the only F&B business in the Top 3. Currently we’re busy gathering votes for the last stage of the competition.
The prize money of RM250,000 would be such a huge help for us to get the Smooshie Factory started. We’re very grateful for continued support from our customers and fans. Those who wish to help can check out directions on how to vote for Smooshie Juice on our Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/smooshiejuice).
Tell us more about how you give back to the community.
We went in to this business with the aim of making healthier beverage options available to Malaysians, to help the country out of the unhealthy slump it is currently in. It’s important for us to generally “do good things” –- be it the end goal or throughout the whole journey -– so hiring a team of lovely makciks from the Orang Asli community came naturally.
Moving forward, we really intend to push the message across that a change needs to be made in our current lifestyles. Malaysians need to embrace the notion of eating and drinking healthy. We are currently the most obese country in South-east Asia and the number of diabetic children has doubled in the last five years. If those aren’t warning bells, I don’t know what is!
We have a few things up our sleeves and will be launching a Smooshie Movement as early as next year that involves running free campaigns, talks at schools and other exciting events to help spread this awareness.
Smooshie Juice is available at The Red Beanbag (Solaris Dutamas), Artisan Roast HQ (Section 13, PJ) Artisan Coffee Bar (Bangsar Village II), Artisan Roast Coffee (TTDI), MollyDooker’s Coffee Bar (Damansara Heights), myBurgerLab (Seapark, PJ), and Boost Juice kiosks at Mid Valley LG, Pavilion, Publika, KLIA Main Terminal and Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT).
This story was first published in Crave in the print edition of The Malay Mail on December 5, 2013.