Here we are, back with another episode of the MCO Zoom Series. This week, Alta, our Client Success Manager, reached out to Dino, the IT Analyst turned beekeeper and entrepreneur. As Dino’s Business-to-Business (B2B) service is affected due to the pandemic, we would like to find out how he’s adjusting his business to overcome the challenge.
Dino is the founder of Dino Kelulut Honey and an entrepreneur who aims to put Malaysian honey on the map as he believes the quality of our Kelulut Honey is as good as any imported products if not better. While running his own farm, he also runs beekeeping workshops to educate fellow beekeeping enthusiasts. Nonetheless, Dino’s ultimate goal is to bring awareness to others about the countless nutritional and health benefits from consuming Kelulut honey. The benefits, just to name a few, range from improving your digestive system and healing capability to strengthening your immune system.
In our second interview of the MCO Zoom series, we learned the following:
Now, let’s find out more about Dino and Kelulut honey.
Hey Dino, how is your day?
My day is good. Started off early as usual. In the morning, I would have a spoon of honey before I do anything else. That’s my routine.
Are you more of a morning person?
For the MCO period, normally I’m sorting out the orders in the morning and handling the delivery during the afternoon. Hence, I have more free time in the morning and could take care of my children. Helping them to finish the homework and things like that.
Tell me something about yourself and Dino Kelulut Honey.
I used to work for a multinational company (IBM) in the IT department. I was retrenched in 2016 after 13 years in the company. I felt lost after receiving the news and didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Because the usual path for most is to get a good job after studying in the
university and getting a degree. I had no idea how entrepreneurship works. I was stuck in my own track and didn’t know what to do.
I started to consider [selling] honey [before the retrenchment]. Reading the newspaper, I came across the news explaining that there’s a lot of fake honey out there. 80% of the honey in the market are either fake or synthetic. So I decided to go into the industry but only as an investor first. I invested some money in the company and let the others take care of the honey business for me. I had no idea about beekeeping at all. From an IT nerd to a beekeeper, it’s just very different. So, at the beginning, I thought I will have a 50% share in the company and let the rest do the beekeeping. But when you just pass over [the important tasks] to others without any knowledge of what you’re doing, it tends to not work.
I was scammed for the first two years and didn’t get anything in return. When I was retrenched, I had to figure out something to do, I tried being an Uber driver, which has become Grab now. It wasn’t for me. It was very tiring and I’m not used to the lifestyle. I sat down with my wife and she told me to continue the honey business and do it full time.
And you did. What did you do differently this time around?
Yes, I told myself if I want to do this, I have to visit my farm everyday. I am based in Damansara and my farm is in Kuala Pilah (Negeri Sembilan). It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes drive. So, I would need to travel that far everyday if I wanted to do this. That’s a total of 3 hours travelling to-and-fro. That was the challenge in the beginning but I got down to it.
And, for any courses on beekeeping, by the Department of Agriculture and others, I’d attend them to gain the knowledge. So, from zero knowledge, I started to know what Kelulut bees are about and how they forage their food. I faced that challenge five years ago and it totally changed me. I had no other choice as I had to provide for my family and I was unemployed then. Then, I had to start from A-Z, from accounting to marketing to everything.
Therefore, for this challenging Covid-19 pandemic period, for those who are facing uncertainty on what they could do after the pandemic, as it is affecting quite a few people and some have to put food on their table for their family. I would like to tell them to focus on something they are skilful at and build a business upon it and they have to go online with their business.
And how has this Covid-19 Pandemic affected your business?
For me, it has affected me in terms of B2B, as I have clients from the hotel and F&B industry. For example, they use my honey to make cocktails and beverages. For the MCO period, these bars, restaurants and hotels are all closed. If I were to rely solely on B2B, I would be in trouble.
However, as I do sell my products via online platforms and marketplace, I am pushing harder in B2C (Business-to-Consumer service) and that has been very important. In the beginning [of the MCO period], I was worried if it would work. Since people started to realize the benefits of strengthening their immune systems, they started taking honey as supplements. I noticed that
my B2C result improves while the B2B result goes down. So, you have to notice the ship has steered to the direction of the direct customers.
“I was just surprised by the fact she suffered from cancer even at a younger age. I started to be aware of the food we’re eating and how it contributes to these diseases. I felt like our health was deteriorating despite the advancing technology.”
We have read about the story of you losing someone who is very close to you at an early age. And that has led you into the health and wellness business. Could you walk us through your journey?
Yes, I lost someone very important to me when I was 23. I just graduated from the university and I thought there’s still a long way to go, like building my career, getting married and things like that. At that time, I had a girlfriend, who was 21, passed away due to cancer. I was shell shocked because you’d never expect people around you to die at a young age. But, you just can't predict these sort of events. It was an eye-opener to me as she was still doing her A-levels in college.
I was just surprised by the fact she suffered from cancer even at a younger age. I started to be aware of the food we’re eating and how it contributes to these diseases. I felt like our health was deteriorating despite the advancing technology. I did some research on healthy food that I could take.
I came across honey as honey is said to have healing properties. I started consuming honey on a daily basis. I used to buy honey from the stores and I thought imported honey would definitely be better than Malaysian honey. I used to buy Australian honey, [namely] Capilano but I came across an article that the company admitted that their products are not pure honey and they are synthetic.
Realizing the synthetic nature of honey products, I started wondering how to produce pure honey. That’s when I came across the company that offered Kelulut beekeeping courses. I joined the course and the idea came to me where I could produce honey for myself and could even do something to the community [with the beneficial honey].
What was your expectation after it didn’t work out for the first time?
After the first time didn’t work out, I branded my products as ‘Dino Kelulut’. I didn’t expect it to be a business at first as I thought it would only be for personal consumption. The community in the Klang Valley area started noticing the honey I produced and asked if they could taste some
of my products. That was when I started selling to neighbours and friends, then I expanded to what my business is. And, I started looking overseas as well. At the same time, my perception has changed as I realized our local honey could be as good as or even better than honey from overseas. We’re blessed to have many forests and biodiversity in Malaysia so I do think the quality of our honey is very good. We’re just lacking good marketing. I am passionate about producing premium quality honey for the community.
How does a day-to-day life as a beekeeper look like?
As a beekeeper, it’s more relaxing compared to my previous day job as I have more time to spend with my family. If I’m going to a farm, I’ll go in the morning and come home during the evening. And, being on the farm is fun as it actually relieves my stress when I observe the bees extracting nectars from the flowers.
Being the beekeeper, I got to learn that the bees bring positive impacts on the environment. As an example, the production of fruits improved due the pollination [caused by the bees]. Now, we do have to take care of them (the bees) because there are people who went to the farm and brought some bees out and this could actually affect the environment. It is dangerous if the number of bees in the natural habitat decreases. We’re currently running a movement as well to preserve the bees in their natural habitat.
That’s interesting to hear. May I know how does your team look like? How big is your team?
I have a team of three on the farm. Even during the MCO period, they work full time and keep me updated on the progress frequently. So, that’s great.
I’m the sole owner. I run the marketing. I have a farm manager and another two staff members, one is in charge of construction of the frames for the beehives and the other is in charge of harvesting. And, the farm manager oversees everything so he’s my eyes and ears on the farm. I need someone like him as I couldn’t be there all the time as it is a hassle to travel there.
Now, I’d say I have a stable team. We just have to focus on our marketing. Both in-store and online. That’d be my part.
And tell me more about Kelulut honey.
Kelulut is the Malay term of stingless bees. There are two main types of bees, the ones we’re used to seeing are the bees that sting. The main differences [of Kelulut bees] are that they don't sting and they’re smaller in size. They are also known as Trigona bees or stingless bees.
They’re usually found in tropical countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Brazil and more. There are about 500 different species of Kelulut bees in the world. In Malaysia, we have so far identified over 40 species but only two produce honey at a commercial scale. From the research, the Kelulut honey is 10 times more beneficial in medicinal properties in terms of antioxidants. As they’re smaller, they could enter the deeper part of the flower and extract more
nutrients from the plants. Contrary to the [usual means of storing honey in] hexagonal honeycombs, they store the honey in honey pots.
“These testimonials keep me going. It makes me more passionate about doing something beneficial to my clients’ health. I feel very proud and happy about these.”
We’ve read some of your informative articles about the health benefits of consuming honey. How important is it for you that you could realize your own health and wellness goals?
When I started to take honey, I questioned what could a spoonful of honey do to my body as well. It’s just a spoonful of honey after all. And people would normally think honey is just sweet and made up of sugar. Kelulut honey actually has a sour taste with a hint of sweetness. From our research done on Kelulut honey, there are many active enzymes, good bacterias, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and a lot of nutrients. Honey has a wide range of nutrients. But, the key is that the quantity of the nutrients contained inside is just perfect. Let’s say, when we take supplements, we are not sure if the amount we’re taking is excessive.
For Kelulut honey, it’s good for diabetic patients as well despite its sweetness, it actually helps to balance the sugar level. And, for those who are suffering from high blood pressure, it helps to balance the blood pressure level too. It is also proven that consuming Kelulut honey improves your memory capacity from the research. They even did an experiment with two mice in a water maze, one was fed with Kelulut honey and one without. The mouse which was treated with the honey took just a few seconds to recall the safe spot and moved towards there while the other took over a minute. You could check out the video of this experiment on my website.
Wow, there are so many nutritional benefits. There aren’t any more [benefits], are there?
Yes there are. In terms of digestion, it helps as well. I believe you’ve heard about yogurt drinks such as Yakult and Vitagen and how it's known for helping our digestive system. That’s because they have lactobacillus, a type of good bacteria. A spoonful of honey actually contains 10 times the lactobacillus in a bottle of the yogurt drinks.
With a good digestive system, you get to sleep well and your body recovers well. What I would recommend people to do is to have a spoonful of honey in the morning if you would like to energize your body and avoid getting tired during the day. But, if you would like to heal and recover well, you should take a spoonful of honey at night before bed as it helps to repair the damaged cells in your body and multiply the healing effect.
It’s funny that most people think honey is only good when they pair it with their pancakes.
Yes, I do the same as well (Bursting into laughter).
Exactly, but most people don’t notice their medicinal properties. It’s about educating people about the benefits of consuming Kelulut honey and that’s what I’m doing.
That’s very inspiring. How important is it for you that your clients could realize their health and wellness goals?
Normally, when I sell my products to them, I’d teach them how to store the honey properly and how they could consume the honey. These are things you just can’t get in the store. The honey products you’d get in the store are mostly processed honey. The health benefits have been reduced as they aren’t raw honey. I personally am aware of its health benefits but my customers are the ones who got back to me and raved about the benefits.
There was a lady who bought some honey and called me a week after. She said,” Dino, I bought some honey from you last week. I have a teenage daughter and she has some problems with her digestion and would only go to the toilet once every two or three days.” And, she said,” When her daughter stopped taking the honey, her problem came back.”
These testimonials keep me going. It makes me more passionate about doing something beneficial to my clients’ health. I feel very proud and happy about these [feedbacks].
Have you worked with other digital marketing firms before?
I tried [looking for] a couple of freelancers and approached a few digital marketing agencies in the past. I had meetings with them but they didn’t impress me. I didn’t see the passion in them. To me, the proposal they made felt like something they’ve been doing everyday without tailoring to my goals. It sounded like just a bunch of steps without any goals. Compared to what you guys are doing, it’s completely different.
I’m not a digital marketing expert but I’ve done some courses just to understand the process and prevent myself from signing up for ineffective [digital marketing] agencies. But, I would have to leave it to the experts as I have too many things to do from my side.
“I’m very comfortable with our collaboration because I am able to do what I enjoy about my business while you guys take care of the next step.”
Have you tried doing the marketing and managing your social media channels yourself?
I tried doing a FB ad myself once the other day. I spent RM 50 on an ad and wanted to see how well the ad could perform. I did everything myself to test it out and it looked great at first. But, the cost per click for the ad was about RM 2.20. When I handed it to Carliff (again...our amazing founder and Strategy Director), the cost per click of the ad he did was a cent. One cent! The difference was great so I gave up doing it myself. (We couldn’t help but laugh with Dino on this.)
When did you approach Carliff? How was the overall experience?
I approached him a month and a half ago. The difference with him was that he actually sat down with my team and I actually lived very close to him. He came up with a strategy. He wanted to understand my business and what we’re doing. After coming up with the strategy, I was blown away. The way he strategized the funnel was impressive and it was what I intended to do but had no idea how to execute it. The first interview was really good and the second was when he broke down all the processes. He was one step ahead of everything. And, he’s very energetic so it’s very nice to talk to him. And, he has a lot of ideas. He always pushes me to do more. I still owe him some things as of now.
When he encouraged me to do FB lives, I wasn’t sure of what the result would look like. After I started doing them, he managed to explain more to me about what you guys are doing in layman terms. So, I’ll just leave the technical bits to you guys. I was looking to improve the visibility of my company. So far, I’m very happy with what you guys have achieved.
What is the main difference in the experience with us compared to the previous experience? How does that make you feel?
I feel that my business is being taken care of. As the FB algorithms change frequently, I noticed from some of the firms I’ve approached before, they are using some old techniques. They didn’t mention the new techniques. When I talked to Carliff, he immediately brought up new ideas or processes I haven’t heard before. That’s when I knew this what I was looking for as Carliff was able to incorporate these new processes to my business. Without too many involvements from my side as well.
When I first heard of Chatbot Malaysia, I thought that most probably you guys are only running chatbots on Facebook. However, after I started working with him, I was impressed as it’s more than just setting up chatbots.
I’m very comfortable with our collaboration because I am able to do what I enjoy about my business while you guys take care of the next step. He makes an effort to keep in touch with me. Every week, he would check up on me about my business. That actually pushes me subconsciously, for example, to post more videos.
Have you been able to successfully achieve some of your business goals after collaborating with us?
Definitely. Previously when I was talking to Carliff, I told him my business was so-so. But actually, before the MCO period, I already had a stable customer and source of income. All of a sudden, this (MCO period) came so unexpectedly.
However, I think it’s the right time as I intend to improve the visibility of my brand because I have no social media presence. I have an Instagram account but I wasn’t posting content consistently. I used to post whenever I wanted to. Just syok sendiri. Every time I did a live, I had about 2 viewers so I didn’t have the motivation to do more. But, Carliff told me to just do it then
he’ll handle the promoting bit. Therefore, I continued and with you guys, my last campaign managed to reach over a thousand views.
Then, there are more people who are aware of Kelulut honey now. So, I already achieved very good visibility and awareness. When I was told about how little was the amount I had spent for the campaign, I was just blown away with the result.
“My long term plan is to start a tourist attraction in the rainforest.”
Why is success in your business important to you?
At the beginning, my business was only about putting some money into my own pocket so I could support my family. That’s good enough. When I used to work for IBM, I had that mindset of “study hard, then get a good job and that’s it”. When I became an entrepreneur, all these things came into play. When I first started, it was only me. Then, I built a team, I adopted the mindset that I’m actually doing something meaningful for others too. I’m actually providing them job security while helping them to support their family.
At the same time, I think it’s important to promote my product as a Malaysian product. Many of our customers are from outside of Malaysia but that market is affected now amid the MCO. So, I’m targeting the local crowd. It’s very important that I’m offering jobs to the local community. And, it’s also important to help in taking care of the environment.
All these things which I didn’t expect [would influence my mentality]. That’s why I think maintaining the success of my business is important so I could increase my reach. Now I only have a few employees but hopefully I would be able to have more and expand the team.
On that note, what’s your prediction for 2020 after the challenging period we’re going through? Both for Dino Kelulut Honey and other local businesses.
I personally think the MCO will be extended for another 2 to 3 months. Maybe after Raya. The extension every two weeks is getting us to be used to it. I think people would be scared to go out after this period as well. Thus, my prediction is, since people are staying home most of the time now, everyone’s either doing take away or Grab delivery. For most businesses, all the meetings will be conducted via Zoom like what we’re doing now. Everything has to be online. You’re in trouble if you’re not going online.
Of course, it’s important to not take advantage of the people during this challenging period. Some people have been telling me to hike up the price of my honey but that’s not my intention. So we maintain the way we run our business but we’ll have to find other platforms to expand the
business and focus on online marketing. Since I’ve found you guys, I will probably need you guys to blast my ads even more (with “ill-intentioned” giggles).
No problem, we will do it for you. Any plans from your side? Like what you’ve mentioned about expanding your team, building the brand and making it more reputable as a Malaysian brand.
It’s still business as usual despite the MCO as my team is working on the farm. Agriculture is an essential sector. I’ll probably have to re-strategize as we do conduct beekeeping courses as well. So, maybe I’ll conduct a digital workshop and produce videos to educate people on the basics of beekeeping. For those who still want to tie a beehive in their backyard, we still deliver and set up the hives for them.
My long term plan is to start a tourist attraction in the rainforest where tourists are allowed to visit and have a look at the different types of bees on the farm. That could actually allow them to connect more with nature. I’m still working on that plan and I might have to push it back for a while as there will be less people travelling around for the rest of the year. For now, I’m focused on online marketing. That’s the best I can do.
Hopefully, our collaboration will continue. Thank you for your time. And the passion and positive energy you’ve brought to this interview!
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