Kent Chua : Chasing Challenges
Kent Chua is a name to be reckoned with in the F&B world with such great milestones achieved in a short amount of time. That however, does not mean he is ready to stop anytime soon. This Kuching born and raised co-founder and executive director of the Rhombus Group started out with a degree in accounting, having the experience of working with one of the Big Four firms in Malaysia for 3 years, Deloitte Malaysia certainly has prepared him for the ventures he has chosen.
If you have yet to hear about The Beer Factory, you should head over right after reading this article. Chua left his well-established job at Deloitte Malaysia at 24 years old and started The Beer Factory in May of 2010, which managed to make back capital in only 6 months. More impressively, by the second branch, the franchise was sold at RM1 million. Under Chua, the group grew from an annual sales growth of RM2 million in 2010 to an impressive RM48 million in 2015.
Chua tells Property Insight he believes in being positive and resilient. “I truly live by the saying ‘Carpe Diem’, seize the day now because if not now, when?” Chua exclaims. As impressive as his portfolio is, he says he cannot achieve all this without the team he has, which is an integral part of his success. “We have a ‘Happiness Lab Department’ which acts as a check and balance for the soul of the company, its team members,” Chua shares.
Starting a business at the age of 24 is never easy, Chua says he had to go through many hardships and more so because of the age factor. “I resorted to buying ‘Running a Bar for Dummies’ and many other books for research. But the most difficult part was trying to convince landlords to sign for venues as we were fresh faces,” he says.
So how does one become so successful at entrepreneurship before even turning 35? Chua says he focuses heavily on the development of his team. The heart of the company is with the team that helps build it. “During the expansion we made sure to include the fun element so that the team was happy in what they were doing. A happy team is a happy company. It’s a simple strategy,” Chua exclaims. “From where we started to where we are today, the ‘Happiness Lab’ has helped us see change on such a huge scale. The thing about it is that it is also for our customers, so we can gauge how they feel about us as well,” Chua shares, excitedly. Once they receive information on the customers’ sentiment, it is easier for them to make shifts in strategies and approaches to improve how the company works.
Personally, Chua advises those whom want to start up to make sure they are willing to sacrifice and persevere through hardship. “It will be difficult, no doubt, but how bad can it be? It can’t rain every day, can it? All you have to do is believe in yourself, and never back down,” he says, positively.
Chua went through what most entrepreneurs have to go through, in fact, some have to go through it perpetually, the sleepless nights, the time away from family. But for Chua all this has made him a better person, and has reaped what he sowed. At present, Rhombus Group owns 12 brands and operates over 28 outlets across South East Asia. Notable brands include Rama V, Wondermama, Dancing Fish, The Beer Factory and The Rabbit Hole. Now, Rhombus Group has 6 Full Serviced Restaurant brands, 1 Café brand and 7 Restaurant & Bar brands all through a strategic growth strategy of empowering and grooming entrepreneurs in the industry through mergers and acquisition of local, independent F&B brands.
They say if you have tasted success, do not stop and be content with what you have. That is Chua’s plan in the near future, to expand the business in South East Asia, namely Yangon, Myanmar and Vietnam. So far, Chua has accumulated many titles as a young entrepreneur such as the Top 10 Malaysia: Young & Dynamic Entrepreneur, he was named as Malaysia’s 100 Most Influential Young Entrepreneur 2016 and a proud receiver of Prestige Top 40 Under 40 2013 Young Achiever Award.
In terms of property and the venues of his business, Chua says it is just as important to study the area of interest, as it is to personally go to the areas and see how it is for the lay person whom will eventually be your future customers. “Your location is important, but it is also dependent on the type of business you have. Just because it’s a popular venue doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good location for you!” he shares with a smile. When attaining good outlets as the ones Rhombus Group has already done, Chua says he makes sure to look for locations with basement carparks for easy access and parking, alfresco areas and a primary anchor such as a supermarket or an office building nearby. Chua has a team of researchers whom do the homework for him as well as customer evaluations for the demographic at stake.
The accolades of success have not made Chua forget his roots. Chua is a firm believer of intrinsically giving back to society and pursues a number of small philanthropic endeavours through various non-profit organisations and charitable programmes. Chua also spends his time grooming other entrepreneurs through talks and mentoring programmes in colleges, workshops and seminars.
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