“I got my B.A. in economics 4 years ago and after that, I worked as a consultant in human resource management for a year. It was not a good fit for me so I wanted to do something else. When visiting my grandmother in Samut Sakhon I tried some snacks made out of fish that I had never seen in Bangkok. I have always loved snacks so I thought it would be a good idea to turn it into a business. Together with my 2 sisters, it took us 6 months to develop Fun Fish snacks and another 6 months to get 7Eleven to carry our products. That’s when I quit my job to focus on this full-time. Since then, we’ve added our own restaurant, Happy Pot Shabu, a year and a half ago and we now employ about 30 people.”

“We don’t have the capacity to distribute nation-wide so our strategy has been to rely on others to do that. We focus on lower margins but higher volumes. We have our products on 2-3,000 7Eleven and also distribute through Singha Beer, which serves about 30,000 mom-and-pop stores around the country. We have a limited marketing budget and that’s a challenge in this business. If people don’t know the product, they won’t try it. And each 7Eleven franchisee decides what products to carry so if some products don’t sell well, they won’t order them again. We wanted to diversify so a year and a half ago we opened Happy Pot Shabu in the Bang Bon district. Shabu Shabu is very popular and we didn’t have any such restaurants in our area. This also gives us another channel to promote and distribute our snacks.”

“Cash flow management has been one of the toughest challenges for Fun Fish. We have to pay our suppliers quite quickly – typically within 15 days – but 7Eleven pays us after 90 days so bridging this gap is a real issue. We have been borrowing from family and have an overdraft facility with the bank but it’s very hard to grow a company this way. Production is our strength and our factory has spare capacity so recently we have starting providing OEM services to other food companies. We are now working with 3 companies – we make the products and they brand and sell them.  There are lots of food companies that don’t want to deal with the headaches of setting up a factory and manufacturing food so we take care of that for them. Demand is growing and we are now planning to move to a larger factory to expand this business line.”

“We have a sales agent in Singapore and Korea and we are now exploring exporting to Malaysia. We meet a lot of sales agents and distributors at food exhibits but we typically rely on the Department of International Trade and Promotion (DITP) to crosscheck those people. For each country, DITP has a point person that can be contacted to request info on distributors. Then you need to do the research and find those that might be a good match for your business, depending on the channels they use and the type of products they distribute. You get in touch with those and if interested, they usually request a product sample. If you export to everyone that walks by your booth and is curious about your products, it will be a lot of one-off orders. It happened to us quite a bit, particularly to China. We exported large containers to 4 or 5 customers but never heard back from them. They don’t communicate with us; they just purchase the products and see if they sell. But to be able to market and sell a product, you need to understand the product and the company behind it.”

“We didn’t have a business plan or did a feasibility study before launching our first company. We got an idea, saw and opportunity, and ran with it. We weren’t prepared and kept running into issues, both financial and operational. We learned from it and before opening our restaurant we prepared a detailed business plan. Everything has been much smoother. I would advise anyone thinking of starting a business to do as much research as possible beforehand, to be clear about your business model and what you need to make it work.”

Company: PNP Food & Beverages & Happy Pot Shabu
Location: Bangkok
Founded: 2013
No of Employees: 30

Women-owned & led