PETALING JAYA, Nov 3 — Inside the Wise Crafters Oatsome Bar in Damansara Uptown, visitors are greeted by natural light and a profusion of plants. The décor is meant to evoke an ambience of health and wholesomeness.
Founded in 2017 by Samantha Ng after her father underwent heart surgery, Wise Crafters has developed a diverse line of nutritious food products including oatmeal, kefirs, smoothie bowls, quinoa salads, sandwich wraps and plant milks.
Hailing originally from Ipoh, Ng was an art director before she started Wise Crafters. It was a transition born out of necessity as her family adjusted after her father’s operation at the end of 2016.
She explains, “We wished he’d stay with us in KL but he insisted on staying in Ipoh. So I invited him to start this oatmeal business together with me, to keep him busy. Our idea was to get him to stay together with us, so that at least we can take good care of his diet, instead of letting him dabao (takeaway) outside food every day in Ipoh.”
Instead of char kway teow or nasi lemak, Ng would ply her father with healthier choices such as Wise Crafters’ heart-healthy Persimmon Aloha Oatmeal, which takes advantage of the autumnal persimmon season to offer all the goodness of the once-a-year fruit.
Passion for healthy eats has always been part of Ng’s identity. She recalls, “When I was a breastfeeding mother, I felt hungry after nursing. So I used to make my own overnight oatmeal and bring it to the office as breakfast every day. Later on my colleagues asked if I could make it for them too. From there I saw the demand.”
This also sparked Ng’s oatmeal subscription idea, which is what sets Wise Crafters apart from other healthy food purveyors. Her focus is on “making healthy meal plans and customising according to personal health needs” such as their Clean-Eating Meal Plans and Oatmeal Packages.
The Oatsome 30 Meal Plan, for example, includes 30 servings of their oatmeal of choice in six separate deliveries so customers can plan an entire month of healthy eating. Their Clean-Eating Meal Plans come in one-day, five-day and 20-day packages and covers three meals plus one snack each day.
According to Ng, part of her vision for Wise Crafters is to help every Malaysian to obtain at least one healthy clean meal per day. She says, “We know that it will not only reduce our overall medication cost but also promote a healthy nation. More than 50 per cent of our total population is obese and overweight, yet we are still surrounded by a lot of unhealthy processed foods and restaurants.”
Today, Wise Crafters has a larger team led by Ng’s friend Genie Hor who is in charge of production. In addition to the Uptown shop, Wise Crafters also has a newly completed central kitchen in Bandar Sunway.
Ng says, “We started as a home-based kitchen and later, pop-up stores in the local malls. We collected regular customers and upgraded to a permanent place at Damansara Uptown in 2018. Now we have a cosy dining area for our customers to experience our food before they do the subscriptions online — we call it #WiseHouse.”
These foods include popular items such as their Milk Kefir, Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Bowl, Mango Quinoa Bowl and Masala Chickpeas Oatbites. For fans of plant-based milks, their almond oat milk offers the best of both worlds.
Where creating new recipes is concerned, Ng is always open to opportunities to collaborate with others.
Take their Washoku Oatmeal, for instance: a special flavour designed for Shiseido’s new product launch for their WASO skincare line. To match the youthful properties of the product, Wise Crafters incorporated carrots, dried apricots, raisins, almonds, cashews, organic chia seeds, Greek yoghurt, honey, soy milk and organic oats.
That’s a lot of ingredients in one offering but typical of how Wise Crafters concoct their healthful creations. You could say the imagination is a key trait in how they do business.
Having said that, for Ng, execution is far more important than imagination. This has ultimately been shared with the rest of her team and forms the core belief in the working culture of Wise Crafters.
Ng says, “There is no failure in our business journey because every event that happens will guide us towards getting nearer to the destination. ‘Journey is for our soul while results are for the ego.’ There is no “success guarantee” in every decision making. If you never try, you will never know.”
Like every other food and beverage (F&B) business, Wise Crafters was also affected by the movement control order (MCO). Ng was determined that even faced with adversity, every decision had to be aligned with their overarching vision.
She explains, “Personally, I started to feel worried when I first knew we were entering into MCO. We wanted to serve Malaysian healthy meals especially during this pandemic. I shared my thoughts with the team: besides the precautionary steps to ensure safety and hygiene, we also provided extra hygiene training sessions for our team members to take care of their household hygiene.”
The Covid-19 pandemic is a challenge for Ng and her team, there’s no denying that. But they refuse to allow that to be a setback; instead they foresee ample room for Wise Crafters to scale up and further their reach.
Towards this goal, Ng joined the Cradle Coach & Grow program, where she learned more about business planning and implementation. She says, “We struggled a lot when we just started the business. We did not have proper business management knowledge and just kickstarted the business in a very ‘random’ style.”
After successfully validating their target market and its viability, Wise Crafters is now in the midst of preparing for expansion. Ng shares, “Wise Crafters will be focusing on ‘harvesting’ online markets within the coming six months. Meanwhile, we are also receiving requests for outlet franchising and we are very excited about this.”
Gratitude leads the way. Ng counts her blessings and views every transaction as having a positive impact on the economy.
She sums it up: “Other than the monetary part — yes, we love money too — we are lucky to be part of this industry to bring good values such as caring, love and healthy eating to the community. We really love what we are doing!”