Making ‘pau’ (filled bun) and dim sum for a living was a decision undertaken by Ong Mee Sian during her formative years. Soon after, she was joined by her sister, Ong Mee Lee and they turned it into a thriving family business. A stint in making ‘pau’ turns out to be a life-long passion in the food industry as the Ong sisters, founders of Pau Sedap Sdn Bhd, started the brand specialising in halal frozen ‘pau’. Recently, the Ong sisters speak to Top10 of Malaysia on how they built Pau Sedap into the well-known brand it is today and the challenges they have faced in the food industry.
Ong Mee Sian who hails from Sitiawan had planned on continuing her studies but was coaxed by her then boyfriend, and now husband, to help him out in the pau business. Having picked up the ropes of the trade, she moved into the halal pau market. “Malaysia is culturally diverse and we wanted to enter the mainstream market. As the majority of the population are Muslims it only made sense to enter the halal market,” explains Mee Sian.
The company, Pau Sedap Sdn Bhd commenced operations in 2014 at Batu Caves. “We initially started off with six people running a small operation from home before moving into our current premises,” shares Mee Sian. “The success of the business within a short time has been beyond our expectations,” she adds.
Mee Sian narrates on the company’s early beginnings where they would make pau by hand. “My team of six staff and I used to work hard consistently especially with huge last minute orders. We used to make the pau by hand although it was not easy especially when you need to work all night to meet deadlines. But we did it, with everyone pitching in,” recalls Mee Sian. Having expanded to a current staff force of 36, the same tempo is evident. In 2015, the operations were mechanised allowing for mass production and distribution of their pau.
There is a wide range of both savoury and sweet pau offered by Pau Sedap. As quality is a high priority, the batches are made to order under stringent conditions and the pau is large, with fillings worth the price. “Our priority is quality as we believe customers who consume our products will come back for more. First impressions count and once a customer likes a product they will habitually return,” says Mee Lee.
Both women lead a balanced life although work gets the upper hand sometimes. However, as their children are all grown up now, there is more time to devote to the business, sans the guilt-trip. Pau Sedap has gained quite a market share with a hypermarket on its account but Mee Sian thinks the best is yet to come. “There are lots of potentials in this industry. We have achieved a measure of success but we have not stopped there. We are talking to people in the industry within the region and there are plans to expand overseas in the near future,” says Mee Sian.
The business’ success is attributed to their team. “Never give up and focus. We also have a very good team, some of whom have been with us from the start. The team selection is important and our selection has proven to be a key factor for our success,” she adds.
As for their milestones, they achieved the halal certification in 2014. “In 2016 we secured the account of a leading retail chain and we are currently looking at certifications that will enable us to export overseas,” Mee Lee adds.
As for their advice for budding entrepreneurs, Mee Sian advises building on a passion and Mee Lee emphasises perseverance. “Nobody will give you success. Dream and discover your passion, as a dream with vision will drive you towards your goals. Create your own future by being a part of something bigger than yourself,” Mee Sian advises.
“Be ruthlessly persistent and focus!” adds Mee Lee.