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Good business practices at Mr Bean
Sunny disposition, shrewd business sense and management knowledge make up Mr Loh’s recipe for success
SINGAPORE’S very own Mr Bean has spent long years minding his own business, yet he felt the need to go back to school to brush up his business knowledge.
Loh Jwee Poh, 54, who runs the popular Mr Bean soya drink and snacks outlets, received his first tertiary education in 1990 when he enrolled in SIM’s Mandarin Diploma in Business Management, the only tertiary programme then available in Chinese for working adults.
The diploma course was one of the best alternatives for many Mandarin-speaking working adults who were not academically qualified to enter the local universities, says Mr Loh.
“The SIM diploma gave me a good foundation in business practice,” says the shrewd business owner. “I learnt about Human Resource, business law, managing production and marketing. The lessons from these subjects could be applied in real-life work, unlike what we studied in school such as history and geography.”
Mr Loh says he was then working as a manager in a supermarket when he enrolled in the diploma programme. “I paid for my studies at SIM which gave me the confidence to come out to start my own business,” he adds. As entrepreneurs who have been successful know, luck, good fortune or opportunity favours only the prepared mind, in the words of Louis Pasteur. So, with the mental preparation through the SIM course, Mr Loh was in a position to recognise business opportunities that came his way.
Soya drinks on demand
The opportunity came in 1995 when he saw a special machine that could make soya drinks directly from beans. Seeing the potential in such a machine that produced soya milk on demand, Mr Loh bought it and set up a drink stall in People’s Park Complex to operate it. Calling it Mr Bean, the stall thrived and business expanded.
Today there are 57 Mr Bean outlets in places such as malls, MRT stations, schools and even hospitals. And if you’re visiting Manila, Guangzhou, Tokyo or Osaka, you can also find Mr Bean outlets in each of these cities to satisfy your soya craving.
What are the secrets of running a successful drinks stall in Singapore where there are already so many existing food and drinks stalls? “It’s all boiled down to the location of the stall and knowing the kind of traffic passing by,” Mr Loh says. “You need to do a site survey to find out about your customers. And you should also ask for a second opinion on the business viability of the place.”
Improving on success
By following the right steps, you increase your chances of success. But even if, say, the location does not seem to be attractive, you can still improve on it, he notes.
Today of course Mr Bean stalls sell more than just plain white soya drink. You can order chendol soya milk, fruity soya milk, almond soya milk and even spicy soya milk. And there are side snacks like pancake and pudding to go with the drink.
Recently, Mr Loh diversified his beverage business when he opened the Nomu Nomu Café at Westgate mall in Jurong. The outlet offers a Japanese-inspired menu of coffee drinks, snacks and sweet treats.
Meanwhile, not satisfied with what he knows, Mr Loh went on to enrol in an Executive MBA course in a local university last year. His Masters dissertation was on the soya drink market penetration in China.
Today, the Mandarin-based diploma course is no longer offered by SIM Global Education. Instead, budding entrepreneurs could sign up for the English-based Diploma in Management Studies and other related study programmes to acquire all the essential skills in starting and minding their own business.
– Interviewed, posted online, June 30, 2014