Hey Frank Ee,
First off thank you for taking the time to get involved in this interview for my readers.
I have been a big fan of Frank Laurent coffee roasters for some time and often visited your stores especially when you used to be in my co-working space.
We have met a few times but never had time to talk in-depth about your business. So, I thought it would be super interesting to hear your full story in developing your Frank Laurent brand and running a successful coffee roaster in Penang.
So, thanks again Frank Ee for spending time with me today, and let’s jump straight into this with our first question.
1. It would be great to get some background on where you’re from, your early life, where you studied.
I graduated from local high school and completed A-Level Studies in Disted College. Join INTI college for American Degree Transfer Program – Major in Business.
At the same time, I worked at Starbucks coffee as a part-time barista.
Not long after, I’ve personally lost interest in my study therefore, I dropped out of Inti College during my degree program.
2. From an early age were you very entrepreneurial? What got you interested in starting Frank Laurent, was it sensing a business opportunity or a love of coffee?
Yes, I considered myself entrepreneurial. So after I dropped out of college, I decided to give myself a break to think of what I can do. Since young, I have had a great interest in trading and business activities. Therefore, I actively get myself involved in Business Classes.
During college, I took part in a college pop-up event as a barista. I carry out my duties with my personal knowledge and experience as a barista. After I dropped out of college, I decided to pursue what I’m currently good at.
Hence, I decided to take a break from my academic-related survey to learn more about my current interest – coffee. I went to Taiwan’s Coffee Farm for 2 months. I stayed with the local farmers and learned from scratch. Since then, I’ve been eager to learn more so I have been attending exhibitions and coffee events.
3. Can you give us a brief outline of your business for anyone who hasn’t heard of Frank Laurent? What makes you stand out from the crowd?
Frank Laurent specialize in coffee roasting, we serve every cup of coffee with guaranteed quality and aroma.
We provide both wholesale and retail services, such as coffee bean supply, coffee equipment, and catering services. Other than coffee beans, we do sell the main course and sweet course to satisfy our customer’s cravings.
Not to mention, my backend job is run by a group of youngsters as they are more driven and creative.
I have heard a few “rebellious” proposals from them which amaze me. They tend to think out of the box and explore lots of possibilities.
4. I am a big fan of branding, especially the less is more approach. Can you give us a run-down of the process you used to develop the Frank Laurent brand?
Throwback to 3 years’ time, Frank Laurent is still a “new café” to most of the audience.
In order to gain more exposure for Frank Laurent Coffee Roasters, we take part in most of the coffee events and food festivals to learn from others and also experience something new. Besides, Frank Laurent also accepts collaborations, for example, we collaborated with the TLM event company as main participants for Penang Coffee and Dessert Festival 2016.
Nevertheless, we often organize coffee workshops for customers to gain coffee knowledge and latte art skills.
5. F&B is tough and the coffee business even more so with the competition from the likes of Starbucks to local Kopi businesses. And yet you have positioned well and are clearly serving a market. What was your vision for Frank Laurent?
No doubt that in the F & B industry there will be competitors. In fact, there are more newly open cafés with more and more creative designs in terms of products. Frank Laurent has diversified our product and service.
We target both coffee and non-coffee drinkers with our sub-brand – Morley Cold Pressed Juice. Morley juices come with 4 flavors and each of the flavors have different combinations of fruits with no preservatives or artificial flavors added.
Besides, most of our Frank Laurent outlets provide a chilling ambiance that suits families with children. Therefore, our team invented Frosley Gelato.
6. It always seems that your staff is friendly and motivated to be working at Frank Laurent. Is this something you look for when hiring or part of the working culture you develop?
Well, actually there are a few criteria that should be fulfilled during an interview before hiring.
These are simply good attitudes, outgoing, and driven.
Personally, I believe that when an individual is possessed with these criteria, they are able to get along with colleagues and hence create a friendly and harmonic working environment. Also, each and every employee is assigned to different types of tasks with adventurous job scope.
7. We all know that 2020 has been a truly shocking year for our personal and business lives. How did you cope with the experience and what lessons did you learn?
Indeed, 2020 has been a tough year for everyone, the majority are facing an economic crisis due to the pandemic waves. At first, I was panicking with the announcement of MCO earlier in March. There’s a lot going through my head, my team, my business, and myself.
During MCO, most of the physical stores are forced to stop the operation so many have started to adopt ‘click and mortar’ as their new norm. We started our own ‘Frank Delivery’ to better serve our customers during that critical moment.
My team has executed great cooperation whereby we take turns to deliver to customer’s doorsteps. Moreover, we make some price changes for our sub-brand, Frosley Gelato. Our homemade Italian Gelato and Sorbet to cheer our customers.
8. Has this year changed your game plan going forward? If so, how? What’s in the pipeline for 2021?
Definitely, there are hiccups along this year. A few upcoming events that we have prepared are canceled, and there are a few changes in our schedules but we take it as a challenge.
We prioritize customer’s satisfaction.
In 2021, we are looking forward to increasing productivity and consistency in order to enhance our product’s quality.