The day-to-day business of running a grocery store is not a bed of roses, yet Tiffany Ong is doing so well despite the challenges that she was able to envision many more stores under the name Fresh St Grocer.
“We actually want to grow and expand into a chain of physical stores in suburban areas” she says.
Tiffany Ong left the airline industry after 8 years to become a successful entrepreneur. In 2018, she was given the convenience store space within her in-laws’ petrol station in Cheras to start her business, offering premium imported products and fresh produce to attract a different target market.
The business evolved into the first Fresh St Grocer branch, successfully providing high quality goods to residents in the area who were seeking and exploring a taste for upper and middle range products. It also provided deliveries, partnering with HappyFresh for customers’ convenience.
When the pandemic hit, she said she was not prepared, but because Fresh St Grocer was considered essential goods, they could still open for customers. During that time, she had to engage additional delivery partners like Grab and Foodpanda to cater to higher delivery demands which boosted sales during the pandemic.
Later that year in August 2020, Tiffany was able to open another branch in Kajang, which has now become the location of their headquarters, attesting to fact that the grocery business is the way forward in these difficult times.
When it comes to technology adoption, Fresh St Grocer is currently navigating through the various options available, however they have added digital payment systems such as Boost and other available e-wallet systems to cater to customers’ convenience and safety in being contactless.
Tiffany does have bigger ambitions in developing her e-commerce model. Her goal is to eventually grow big enough to start managing Fresh St Grocer’s own deliveries in future and further develop their e-commerce website to generate more sales. She notes that despite her thriving physical stores and expansion plans in the pipeline, online is a greenfield that must be explored. Currently, online sales contribute 20% to total sales and she aims to grow this number to 30% by year end.
She confides that her store-front operations have many challenges, as day to day responsibilities are bogging her down from taking the business forward faster. This is why the prospect of transforming her business with digital solutions is appealing. She is currently working on a digital solution that can remove all of the operational headache like inventory processes, customer queries and staff management. These issues would definitely be addressed should she have automated assistance such as employing chatbots to reply to online messages, conveniently managing higher sales demands and being able to really focus on her expansion plans and providing the best service for her customers.
A down-to-earth yet ambitious and passionate entrepreneur, Tiffany is single-handedly reviving the forgotten mom and pop store by taking it to the next level online. Lucky for her, despite offline operational challenges, the business is able to gain high returns and expand due to receiving a lot more online purchases with increasing deliveries, which is why she realizes that digital solutions will help her manage the high demand more efficiently and conveniently.
Her tips for business owners who want to get into the grocery business is to not only engage in additional delivery partners to cater to higher delivery demands. More importantly, she says, business owners should sooner than later consider the benefits of adapting to transform their businesses online. They would not have to juggle and manage too many issues with manpower by themselves, as operations will be automated and processes will flow beyond their expectations. She realizes that putting Fresh St Grocer on an ecommerce platform will show her returns that far outweigh the costs of investing in these digital solutions in the first place.
The grocery business is booming during the pandemic and many physical stores are opening with a strong digital presence. For Fresh St Grocer, their neighborhood customers remain loyal to the stores while new fans are growing in cyber space due to her proactive digital adoption.
Support Fresh St Grocer by visiting them at https://www.facebook.com/freshstgrocermalaysia. A homegrown business highlight by Celcom Business.
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