AN INDOMITABLE SPIRIT, A SWEET SUCCESS

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1984

Jess Hew was determined not to let her humble beginnings set the tone for the rest of her life. She focused on creating a meaningful life and building a successful business. Today, she is the founder of a multi-million-ringgit business and a role model for aspiring entrepreneurs. In an interview with Top 10 of Malaysia, she gives an insight into her journey in establishing her company, Biotech Filtration Sdn Bhd and the challenges she faced.

Jess Hew was born into a large family with tight finances. The youngest of five children, she learnt early in life to value what she had and earn money to survive. When she was just a child, her mother only gave her RM40 a month to pay for the car fare to go to the tuition centre and for meal expenses. That was insufficient and she had to do part-time work to get some extra income to meet her needs. She recalls that even buying a bowl of noodles needed serious consideration. However, these difficulties made her realise that every sen counts and she learnt to live on a budget while growing up.

After graduating from secondary school, she went to Singapore to work in a restaurant for one and a half years to earn money to pay for her university tuition fees. She realised the importance of mastering the English language, so she enrolled in an 8-month English course to prepare herself for further studies. Unfortunately, her money ran out before she finished her studies, so she had to apply to work as a salesperson before finishing college.

“Do one thing well in ten years, and don’t do ten things in one year. This is persistence, and persistence is the cornerstone of success…”

“I worked hard in sales, but no matter how hard I tried, I still couldn’t get what I wanted, and I felt very lost because the future seemed bleak. With the encouragement of my mother, I decided to start a water filtration business in 2006,” says Jess.

“I was in charge of the promotion and sales department, which is my speciality, and my partner, Johnny, was in charge of the technical department. I managed the finances of the company. The company grew from 4 people to more than 40 people today. It expanded from a rented mini-store to our own million-ringgit semi-independent factory. What has spurred us forward is patience and persistence,” she adds.

“Success depends not on rhetoric, but down-to-earth and continuous efforts to implement your dreams.”

“My partners and I started a business to build a better life for ourselves and our families. We also hoped that with our expertise, we could help customers find long-term solutions to their problems. Once we became successful, we were determined to give back to society, to help those in need. So, part of our proceeds was channelled towards disadvantaged groups in society,” she explains.

Reflecting back on her 16-year entrepreneurial journey, she believes that the first factor for her company’s success is a solid and efficient team that works well together. Besides that, she and her colleagues also focus on values such as integrity and professionalism, and take a customer-centric approach in their business. Jess firmly believes that only with quality assurance can the company continue to grow bigger and last longer.

“At Biotech Filtration Sdn Bhd, we provide both outright purchase and rental plans of water dispensers for office and home users, water coolers for factories and schools, as well as vending machines for corporate customers. On top of that, we offer professional services including product consultancy, installation, and after-sales service and maintenance,” says Jess.

Besides that, the company has expanded to offer Office Coffee Service (OCS), providing a variety of services to offices such as coffee, tea and other beverages to enhance the customers’ work environment. Their services include regularly scheduled visitations, free inspection and clean up. This support system and top-notch service have given them an edge over ‘one-and-done’ businesses that merely sell the products.

“In 2014, we entered into the OCS business through a joint venture with a Japanese listed company. Their total sales that year reached USD200 million. So far, it has served 500,000 corporate customers globally,” shares Jess.

Jess notes that the most notable challenge in entrepreneurship is the price war. “In today’s internet age, customers can buy products at even cheaper prices online. So, why should they buy from you?” says Jess. “I believe that only good service can generate value for their products. Ultimately, good products at good prices plus outstanding service will attract and retain customers for the long term.”

Jess believes in being a democratic leader. She will listen to the opinions and suggestions of her partners. In addition, every employee with ideas has the right to speak, so that more comprehensive decisions can be made. She thinks the traditional authoritarian model is no longer suitable in this era.

“I am very concerned about the prospects of employees, and I am also willing to share profits with them. Since I started my business, I have a core team that put their trust in me and supports me all the way, which I appreciate very much. The most important thing about a company is not how many customers you have, but how many people are around to help and be with you. In addition, the more value our company brings to others, the higher its value will be. Our profit has its source in customer satisfaction,” says Jess.

“Team spirit is what drives me to lead the company forward. Working with a team that has a common ideological foundation and goals motivates me to work harder and harder. We also take our Japanese joint venture company as a benchmark and set listing as a goal,” she adds.

“Do one thing well in ten years, and don’t do ten things in one year. This is persistence, and persistence is the cornerstone of success. Success depends not on rhetoric, but down-to-earth and continuous efforts to implement your dreams,” says Jess.

“We have established our vision as ‘becoming the most reputable water purifier company in Malaysia’. Compared with rapid development, we prefer steady development, and firmly believe that quality assurance can make the enterprise continue to grow and last for a long time,” she adds.

While some may argue that a company’s main responsibility is to take care of its core stakeholders such as customers, employees and owners, Jess believes that they should give back to society as well. It is actually a win-win situation.

“An excellent CSR programme will not only help the society but also keep the company in business. CSR programmes help businesses stay in the customers’ minds, improve goodwill and often bring in more revenue!” says Jess, sharing her wisdom.

Some of the CSR activities conducted by Biotech Filtration Sdn Bhd over the years include a visit to Youshan Charity Home in 2019 during the Chinese New Year. This programme was jointly organised with Daiohs Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

“We strongly believe in giving back to the society. It will teach us to find compassion within ourselves and to adhere to values that are linked to the common good,” explains Jess.

Biotech Filtration Sdn Bhd also supplied water dispensers to 10 Pusat Pemindahan Sementara (PPS) or temporary evacuation centres in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. Portable water is essential for the survival of flood victims in flood evacuation centres. Therefore, 10 units of hot and cold water dispensers were installed in the PPS to ensure sufficient and safe water supply for flood victims.

To appreciate all the frontliners for their efforts in keeping our country safe and secure during the COVID-19 pandemic, Biotech Filtration Sdn Bhd served fresh hot coffee to all frontliners in Selangor, especially in the hospitals and at the roadblock areas.

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