In Malaysia, when corn in a cup is mentioned, one can think of the OG, Nelsons, who could be credited with popularizing the snack here, in malls, airports, and even zoos.
Nelsons, which has been in business since 1985, was founded by Datuk Seri Nelson Kwok Teng Toong, who initially ran a toy store before venturing into the corn business.
He was a TARC graduate who took on various jobs such as sales in the F&B industry, banking and later in the toy trade, he shared in an interview with MATRADE.
Creating healthier snacks for kids
According to an interview with The Star, Nelson was approached by a farmer in his toy store who suggested selling his corn in the toy store as snacks for children.
Nelson and his wife then tried the corn the farmer gave them and found the corn to be pleasantly sweet and soft.
Instead of selling corn on the cob, Nelson decided to tweak it by selling it freshly steamed and buttered in a small cup, according to an interview with The Edge.
When Nelson was selling corn in cups, according to iFranchise Malaysia, he was selling toys and housewares at the same time under his previous company called Nelson & # 39; s Connection.
That changed when his corn in cups became so popular that it overshadowed his other retail stores, leading him to start a franchise just for that. In 1995, the first franchise store was opened in Penang.
That decision to spin was also down to his realizing how profitable the F&B industry was in the mid-1980s.
Spread of the quality butter overseas
When an interview with The Edge took place in 2017, Nelson already had over a thousand franchise branches in Malaysia and internationally.
A Nelsons kiosk in Sungei Wang / Photo credit: Nelsons
They use a master franchise model so as brand owners they don't put pressure to raise capital to penetrate overseas markets. In addition, local partners in foreign markets have a better understanding of local regulations and customs as well as better access to capital and corporate networks.
Before accepting international applicants as Master Franchisees, it first researches average rental prices, employee salaries, labor laws, competitors, and even the prices at which they are selling.
For the applicants themselves, Nelson would ask about their organizational structure, paid-in capital, tentative investment plan, quality of their facilities and business networks.
Once they have this information, they determine the capital required to open that number of stores, review the projected profits and losses, and set a payback period by the time the franchisee becomes profitable.
Challenges in international franchising
Nelson had success in regions such as the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and its most stable market in 2017 was Saudi Arabia.
Ehab Alfi, who is her master franchisee in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, started the franchise in 1997 in Saudi Arabia and opened 500 stores in less than 20 years, as shared in this interview with Nelson & # 39; s.
Despite being one of their most stable markets, they have had their fair share of challenges in the country. Back when Saudi-US relations were strained, they struggled because their brand sounded American.
To remedy this, they changed their brand name to N&A for the market, a decision that has since paid off.
However, entering the Chinese market was an entirely different expensive lesson. There they pledged to set up an office and spent a lot of capital, but lost every month because they did not expect local regulations and requirements to change over time.
They left the market but returned 3 years later. This time around, they appointed a master franchisee who understood the market better to expand the brand instead.
Development of own maize varieties
Nelson currently has a few other products including corn ice cream, freeze dried corn, dorayaki, and more.
To further manage quality control, they have made their own hybrid sweet corn seeds called Nelson 28 in Chemor, Perak and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Their processing plants are HACCP and Halal certified.
Control their quality starting with their seeds / Image Credit: Nelsons
In addition to their own corn products, they are also supplied to restaurants and grocery chains, according to MATRADE.
In order to have more hands on deck on the farm and in the company, Datuk Seri Nelson once gave a lecture to the students in UTAR Kampar to invite their graduates to work with him.
In the lecture, he advised students never to start a business right after graduation.
Use your semester break as an opportunity to look for jobs or internships to raise awareness in the industry you are interested in. Learn how to relate to your co-workers and employers, build your networks, and apply the knowledge you've learned to later start your business.
Datuk Seri Nelson Kwok Teng Toong, Founder of Nelson.
- You can find out more about Nelson here.
- Read more about well-known domestic brands we covered here.
Selected image source: UTAR Kampar (left) and Nelson (right)