Producing premium homemade ice-cream in Thailand since 1999, Iberry Homemade is a local institution and savvy founder K. Pla one of Bangkok’s most well-known women entrepreneurs. From a small, home-made operation, she has built a food empire that includes popular restaurants Rosniyom and Kub Kao Kub Pla, with branches scattered throughout the city and a 400 employee-strong workforce.
“You need to give yourself a good look and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.”
“At the beginning it was only us – 2 co-founders – and 2 staff. Now we have almost 400 employees. We started producing at home and sold to restaurants but the demand was limited and margins were very small. So we decided to create our own brand and I approached all department stores at that time to get a space on their premises. People liked the iberry concept but didn’t want to give us a space because we weren’t known. We didn’t have a brand. ‘If you don’t give me a space, how can people get to know my products?’, I thought. So then we decided to open our own store and we found a small location on Sukhumvit soi 24.”
“What was the most difficult part of setting up your own business?” “Getting people to know our brand and the fact that we didn’t have any business experience. When we launched iberry, 16 years ago, there was no social media and we didn’t have much money for marketing and promotion. So my strategy was to make our store look outstanding – very bright and colorful so passer-bys would be intrigued. And then one day a journalist walked in and it turned out to be someone from the Bangkok Post. He wrote an article on iberry and following that I got a lot of customers, both locals and expats. It took me several months to be known.”
“What is your biggest fear?” “That one day my brand might fade and not appeal to customers anymore. Trends in desserts come and go and there are a lot more options available now so it’s not easy to ensure your brand always stays fresh and relevant. You need to create new menus and update your stores’ look every so often. And of course you need to have a very strong product to start with.”
“If you could go back, would you change anything?” “I would expand faster. I used to be very conservative in adding new stores and lines of business. I also didn’t want to borrow from banks initially.”
“A word of advice for new entrepreneurs?” “Being an entrepreneur is not easy. Even if you are a very good chef there is no guarantee your restaurant is going to be successful. You need many different skills to run a business, but it’s not possible for one person to have them all. If you really want to be an entrepreneur, you need to give yourself a good look and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Once you know that, you need to work on your weaknesses or find partners that bring the skills you don’t have.”