Ever since I started building businesses I have kept a list of businesses I found interesting. The list contains interesting ideas I see in news articles, read about in forums and hear about from friends. It serves as my inspiration bank when I feel like I need fresh ideas.
The list doesn’t only include businesses from my own industry (business training, retail, e-commerce), but other industries as well. I don’t limit myself to my own industry because I have often found very good ideas by looking at how people outside my own industry are doing things.
I’ve never thought of sharing this list but a few conversations with some of my friends in F&B encouraged me to do so. I discovered that a lot of people can actually benefit from studying what other people were doing in their businesses.
So today, I’ve decided to include a portion of my list here for your reference. These include some interesting ideas that most people can replicate without needing too many technical skills or funding. Of course, my goal is not for you to replicate any of these businesses, but rather to help you get your idea juices flowing without having to stop yourself because of problems like: ‘That sounds like a good idea but I don’t know how to program’ or ‘That sounds like a good idea but how can I get the capital to start?’.
Alright, if you are ready to take a look, let’s begin. I’ve arranged the businesses by category so feel free to go right to the category that interests you most:
Media sites are basically websites that cover news about what’s happening around a specific region or topic. As such, they are often updated on a daily basis and see between 3 – 5 pieces of content a day spread across their own website and their social media accounts.
They make money primarily by selling display ads and content sponsorships. Some of the sites also provide services to brands.
Depending on the popularity of the site and the type of ads and services they sell, these sites can easily make anywhere from a few thousand ringgit to a tens of thousands of ringgit a month.
Although it’s pretty easy to get a media site started (you basically need to write a lot or hire someone to write a lot), growing it can be challenging. You need to make sure that the content on your site is always updated and interesting or your readers will go to other media sites.
However, if you are successful in it, media sites can be a way to make semi-passive income. If you are interested to enter this space, here are some popular media sites to get your brain juices flowing:
Goody25.com is a Chinese-language lifestyle media site that gets around 3 – 4 million visitors a month. It covers style trends, lookbooks, and the occasional news coverage. Goody25’s target demographic is likely teenagers and young adults between 16 and 25 who are into style and fashion trends.
WorldofBuzz.com is a news site that is focused on current events and entrepreneurship stories. Its website gets around 2 – 3 million visitors a month with Facebook being its main traffic source. Other than its website, WOB also shares daily videos to its over 600,000 fans on Facebook.
VITDaily is a Malay-language website that mainly features places to eat around Selangor. Its website receives between 400,000 – 600,000 monthly visitors. Most of its website traffic comes from Facebook. Other than content on its website, VITDaily shares videos of places to eat on its Facebook page with over 400,000 fans. These videos are pretty popular, with some videos raking up over 400,000 views!
Becoming an online entertainer has become a popular choice for making money online nowadays. Popular entertainers can get paid endorsing products, becoming emcees for events, selling their own merchandise and even acting. Their income can range anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of ringgit a month.
If you have always wanted to start your own entertainment show or become an entertainment, here are some popular entertainers to help you get inspired:
Epicism is a comedy duo made up of 20-something-year-olds Chan Wei Keat and Shawn. Their comedy skits poke fun at the common problems of 20-somethings in Malaysia. Even though they only started posting videos on Facebook in March 2017, they have already amassed more than 300,000 fans on Facebook thanks to their comedy skits that have been viewed millions of times.
So I’m Jenn
So, I’m Jenn is the brand by the comedian Jenn and is the most popular English-speaking female comedian in Malaysia. Jenn’s comedy centers around cleverly scripted skits about what it’s like to be a Chinese Malaysian. Having started about six years ago, Jenn has already amassed almost 400,000 fans on Facebook.
Dr Jason Leong Comedy
Dr Jason Leong is a trained physician who has made a career transition into stand-up comedy. His shows are centered around growing up Asian, what’s it like to be Malaysian and his observations of other cultures.
Harry Kok Siew Yok
Harry Kok Siew Yok is probably the only comedy show in Malaysia featuring a puppet as the main character. Harry Kok Siew Yok’s comedy is centered around the common irritations and experiences of being Malaysian. Harry has over 35,000 Facebook fans and his videos are regularly reaches 30,000 – 50,000 views.
Ngek Sai Army
Ngek Sai Army is a comedian from Sarawak. What makes Ngek Sai unique from other entertainers is that instead of using commonly understood languages like English, Malay or Chinese, Ngek Sai chose to use the Sarawak Language (Bahasa Sarawak) for his skits. With over 160,000 fans on Facebook, Ngek Sai Army is one of the most popular entertainers in Sarawak.
Big Frost Game Studios
Big Frost Games makes mobile games for iOS and Android. The company consists of one programmer and one designer. Their first game Smashy Duo has gotten hundreds of thousands of downloads so far. Like most games, Big Frost Games makes the game free for download and then makes money from in-app purchases.
F&B remains one of the most popular business to start in Malaysia. Because of that, the competition in F&B industry can be high and you will need to have a strong unique selling proposition to stand out. This can be challenging for newcomers who may need to spend money failing in their first few years to learn the ropes.
Though, if you are successful, F&B can be very lucrative in the long run because, well, people need to eat everyday right?
If you are up for the challenge, here are some interesting F&B brands that have popped up in recent years:
Dahmakan is a food subscription service that rides on the rising trend towards healthy living in Malaysia. Though Dahmakan’s meals are rather pricey at RM21 – 24 for what can be considered as basic meals in Malaysia, the price does include delivery.
Little Fat Duck
Little Fat Duck is an eatery that specialises in affordable pasta. Although its normal pasta dishes are already cheap at RM6, Little Fat Duck also chooses one pasta a day that people can buy for just RM5. I wouldn’t be surprised if people can remember them as ‘that RM5 pasta place’.
Inside Scoop is a specialty ice cream brand that has grown from Malaysia. Boasting handmade creations with no artificial flavors, Inside Scoop’s fresh flavors have made it a popular pit stop for Malaysians with a sweet tooth. The biggest differentiating factor between Inside Scoop and non-local ice cream brands is their use of local favorites like durian, cempedak, teh tarik, cendol, kopi peng, salted gula melaka as their ice cream flavors.
FITGO is a company that sells proyo (protein + yogurt) vending machines. FITGO’s machines are packed with cups of different kinds of fresh fruit combinations. Once a customer orders a proyo, the cup of fresh fruits will be dispensed. All the customer will need to do after that is place the cup in another compartment where the machine will drop a glob of yogurt and mix the fruits with the yogurt to produce the cup of proyo.
Go Noodle House
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Go Noodle House has become a popular Chinese noodle chain in Malaysia. Unlike most F&B franchises in Malaysia that serve western fast food, Go Noodle House serves Chinese noodles in hearty broth. This broth is supposedly a family recipe which was perfected by the three founders of Go Noodle House. The fun of eating at Go Noodle House is that you also get to add additional ingredients to your noodles soup such as fish balls and fish cakes.
Go Noodle House also has plans to expand overseas, with the first city being Melbourne, Australia.
Jobbie Nut Butter
Jobbie Nut Butter is a homegrown, all-natural peanut butter brand that was started by two SPM graduates.
Chaiwalla & Co Street Coffee
Chaiwalla & Co is Malaysia’s first container cafe. Chaiwalla started off by repurposing used containers as cafe space. The founder got the idea for the container cafe after seeing them in Christchurch, New Zealand. Although there are now many container cafes in Malaysia, this innovation has put Chaiwalla on the mark as the pioneer.
E-commerce businesses have been popping up all over the place in Malaysia these days. Since the barriers to entry are pretty low, the e-commerce industry can sometimes be even more competitive compared to offline businesses.
Nonetheless, for those who manage to beat out the competition, there are lots of reward to be gained. Let’s take a look at some interesting e-commerce sites to get your brain juices flowing:
Foodconnection.com.my is one of the few websites that allow people all over Malaysia to order local snacks from specific towns. They cater mainly to Malaysians who have moved from their own hometown to bigger cities like Kuala Lumpur to work and miss the hometown snacks that they grew up eating.
Storming Gravity supplies high-quality products like anti-theft bags, travel packs, RFID wallets and so on.
Bash is a boutique store online selling clothes for college and adolescent women who keep up with the latest fashion trends.
Daun is one of the few online websites in Malaysia that offer delivery of fresh plants.
Fashion brands have been growing in number in the last five years in Malaysia. More and more Malaysians are coming up with their own unique brands.
Although Malaysia is far from becoming a global fashion hub as of now, some local brands have received a positive response from locals and seen fast growth in the last few years. A portion of these brands has even started delivering to customers outside Malaysia.
If you are keen to set up your own fashion brand, you might find some inspiration in these:
The Ink Book
The Ink Book sells temporary tattoos designed by founder and in-house designer CF. Not only are the tattoo designs trendy and interesting, they are also pretty affordable, going for just RM5 per piece.
97Bros is a fashion accessories brand that specialises in offering trendy bracelets.
Fitgear is a sportswear brand that sells high-quality active wear for a portion of the prices of brands like Nike or Adidas. It does this by cutting out the middleman and selling the clothes directly from the manufacturer to customers.
Pantun is a site specialised in selling enamel pins with unique designs. While there is a lot of streetwear culture inspired enamel pins, some of the more unique enamel pin designs are inspired by local Malaysian culture. These include the durian pin, the Malaysian passport pin, and the plastic bag drink takeaway pin.
Shout is a fashion label selling handmade leather products like minimalistic wallets and notebooks.
Jeoel is the newly established sister brand of the much more established jewelry chain Diamond & Platinum. Jeoel sells affordable custom jewelry priced on average between RM200 – 300 a piece. Their goal is to appeal to young adults who like well-made jewelry but are not yet ready to spend the thousands of dollars to buy them.
Personal Care & Cosmetics
So.Lek is a local cosmetics brand which offers good quality make up products at affordable prices. The brand got its inspiration when on a trip to New York City, one of the founders of So.Lek dropped in at their pharmacy and discovered that there were many good quality drugstore cosmetic brand products that were available at affordable prices.
She saw the gap in the market in Malaysia where most makeup was either high quality but pricey or affordable but of questionable quality. So.Lek fits right in between these two spectrums, occupying a space in the local makeup market that has been rather vacant so far.
Norah Wax sells hair removal wax. The wax comes in two varieties: hot wax and the cold wax. The biggest selling point for Norah Wax is that it is a cheap and convenient alternative to getting a wax at a salon. While a normal waxing job can cost more than RM150 a session, a bottle of Norah Wax is only RM35 and can be used more than once.
Norah Wax distributes its products using its website and via its agents and distributors who each take on a small order to sell within their network.
Art of Tree
Art of Tree supplies artisan furniture made from salvaged wood. It combines the idea of sustainability with aesthetics. Although the furniture from Art of Tree is more expensive than normal furniture, people who can appreciate the artisan feel, natural lines of wood and the idea of not wasting good wood will be more than keen to buy.
TinyPinc is a business selling miniatures handcrafted and baked from clay. Some of its most unique designs include the nasi lemak and bak kwa miniatures. These miniatures are so well made that TinyPinc has even named Malaysia Airlines one of its clients.
Lavieflo (French style preserved flowers)
LavieFlo sells preserved flowers that last about 6 months in Malaysian weather. Although they had a slow start educating Malaysians about what buying preserved flowers meant, LavieFlo is now able to sustain and grow itself.
Jetspree is a website that allows people to request help to buy specific things from people who are traveling. Jetspree acts as the middleman, ensuring that this transaction happens smoothly – i.e. the buyers don’t get scammed and the sellers get paid. For providing this service, Jetspree charges the buyers who request for the items 5%.
HappyBunch is a flower delivery service. A different bunch of flowers is selected and prepared. If you order the bunch of the day, you can get it for just RM42 including shipping (to a select area, of course). They can even do same day delivery. If you enjoy getting flowers on a daily basis, you can even subscribe to get flowers delivered to you every day.
PakarPrinting is a packaging printer for small businesses that can’t afford large minimum order quantities. With the growth of small businesses in Malaysia, PakarPrinting’s services come at just the right time.
That it’s! 30+ Businesses You Can Get Inspiration From
Although many people want to start a business or want to grow their existing business in a different way, most of them remain ignorant to what is possible outside of their own industry. By taking a look at many different kinds of businesses you will begin to see the opportunities that are really available for you to take action on.
So that’s it. This is just a small selection of my list of businesses I find interesting. Nonetheless, I hope you’ve found this list inspiring. If you have anything to add to what I have shared, do leave your comments below!
Disclaimer: all the information below are based on my personal analysis. If you the owner of any of these businesses and want to be removed or want the description edited please send me a message here.