After working for an e-commerce business for a few years, Jaylee Teng decided to work for his family’s grocery store that also exports products. He began to miss his former office. “I used to work in a very fun and creative working environment. I began to realise that the culture in the majority of traditional businesses is more likely to be less personal, with less communication, especially between the employer and employees,” Teng says.
With the aim of creating a business with a more modern and communicative working environment, Teng roped in a friend from college. Jason Koay had spent four years in advertising and was excited with the opportunity to try something new. In March last year, Koay and Teng set up We Are Snackers, a one-stop shop for the snacking needs of consumers. Its snack boxes are curated according to their likes and dislikes, and are perfect for keeping a work pantry stocked up.
The partners decided to tap into the fact that the most effortless way to get along with Malaysians is through their stomach. “Let’s say I am new; the easiest way to break the ice with my colleagues is to share my snack. Or maybe HR departments can supply more snacks ... It’s not the only way to boost company morale, there are actually many ways to do that. But we think that providing titbits is the best because it’s a cost-effective way to make employees happy,” explains Koay.
Before launching their website, Koay and Teng did extensive research to determine snacking habits and favoured titbits. “First, we started exploring the snack markets. We gained more information going to bazaars and getting [feedback] from friends and people around us. Through that, we realised that imported snacks grab more attention. Now, when people can’t buy [imported] snacks in Malaysia, they just get them from us,” adds Koay.
When We Are Snackers began, its website had three main offerings: a surprise box, a customised box and a corporate box for companies. The contents of each box were curated based on a taste survey form that determined what snacks would work best for a customer’s needs. As the company’s warehouse is in Johor Baru, it has its own riders in that area to deliver the snack boxes, but for the rest of Malaysia, it uses a courier service.
Teng uses the connections and know-how from his family business to handle the operations side of the enterprise, namely sourcing merchandise, fulfilling orders and marketing. Koay uses his advertising and graphic designing background to focus on We Are Snackers’ branding, social media presence and growing the business. As the two were managing the business themselves without help, they initially faced a few customer service challenges.
“With online sales, you sometimes run out of stock but customers still want to buy the product. We would receive a lot of complaints and sometimes we tried to provide an alternative solution but some customers did not agree with our proposals. We are expanding now, and we have more experience to overcome these challenges,” says Teng.
As the venture is completely self-funded by Teng and Koay, the risk was high but they believed in the power of snacks and their ability to make the workspace a friendlier environment. When We Are Snackers began to pick up in popularity, they were able to hire more staff to help keep track of orders and provide better customer service. The company also started collaborations to push brand awareness for itself and the snack companies it worked with. “We came up with things like our Mister Potato campaign. We did office visits with the snack boxes that we created with Mister Potato for Mamee-Double Decker. We create this kind of awareness among people and help Mame brands tap a new market. In the offices, we also did fun activities such as a spiciness challenge,” says Koay. We Are Snackers has held these campaigns in co-working spaces such as Common Ground in Ara Damansara and Jaya One.
At the beginning of this year, We Are Snackers expanded its business to include groceries. “We received a lot of reviews and feedback from people in companies and realised that groceries are in more demand than snacks in the office. We want to be a one-stop solution, so people can get their snacks, food, beverages and toiletries,” explains Teng. This service has become even more popular now that people are stuck at home during the Movement Control Order period. While managing stock has been challenging, the team of 10 at We Are Snackers is determined to meet orders.
Although We Are Snackers has ventured into groceries, its focus and core values are still on building friendlier company cultures through its products. “We have a wide range of food choices to fulfil employee needs and we tend to pay more attention to nurturing company culture. For example, for Christmas last year, we launched a campaign that included greeting cards for bosses and employees. It’s actually for them to build a bridge for a better relationship. So, this is our core value, to make the culture better,” explains Koay.
We Are Snackers’ future plans include focusing on creating healthier snack boxes. It also intends to build more long-term relationships with its customers, garnering more subscriptions rather than one-off purchases. Teng and Koay also hope to build a stronger team within their own company, maintaining their values of friendlier and communicative relationships. “I’m a snack lover, and believe that food can boost employee productivity and reduce work stress. Snacks and titbits are a tool. A tool to bring everyone together, as it’s very easy to share snacks with others,” notes Teng.
This article first appeared on April 13, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.