Hi, my name is Keong Chun Chieh. Everyone calls me Keong. I am the founder of IGL Coatings a coating company. We formulate and produce eco friendly nanotech coatings that protects the surface from environmental wear and tear and at the same time making it easy to clean.
I started the company with 1 product, an extremely durable coating for the windscreen that repels rain for up to 1 year. I have always thought that this will be a side income stint for me, but my customer base increased and from there, we expanded our product offering to include coatings for the paint, plastic, metal, fabric, and leather on the car.
Initially, our customers were 100% B2C, but by the end of 2nd year, it became 99% B2B. Our B2B customers loved our focus on providing eco-friendly chemicals for their business. Especially when this industry lacks Occupational, Safety, and Health regulations.
From there, we create our flagship product, Eco coat Kenzo. It is a paint-protective ceramic coating that was named after my firstborn son. It was the first paint protective ceramic coating system in the market to achieve the pencil hardness value of 10H, 100% high solid content, with very durable smoothness on the coated surface. Vehicles coated with Eco coat Kenzo look more impressive and glossy than when it's new and stays that way for up to 4 years. It is also much easier to clean and maintain. Kenzo (the product) was meant to be a flagship product with low volume, but high value. Today, Eco coat Kenzo is still our flagship product and high value, but it is the highest volume as well.
At this time of the pandemic, we are working on a revolutionary self disinfecting coating for all surfaces. The pandemic has changed our lives forever. Masks and sanitizers are a necessity, a daily item even. Vaccines are being rolled out, but proper disinfection is still very important to prevent the spread of deadly diseases. It costs both money and time for business owners and public service providers to be disinfecting the public spaces 24/7. This is why our Eco coat Titan, the first photocatalytic coating that is capable of withstanding 10,000 abrasive scrubs will be able to help with the current pandemic.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
I am originally an electrical electronic engineer. Never would I expect to start chemical research and manufacturing company. This entire journey started because I wanted to solve my visibility problem when driving under the rain. Visibility is poor and dangerous. There were off-the-shelf water repellent solutions but they all have one major weakness. It can only last for 1 week. It was too time-consuming to apply the product.
Starting a business is very easy. But to scale and grow it is extremely challenging.
So I set out to develop my own formulation to solve my pain point. I myself was the validator of my product. And eventually friends and family became my product validator.
At that time, I was on track to becoming an assistant manager in my firm, but I wanted more financially. Because I was thinking of marriage and buying a property for my new family. Marriage in Asia is expensive. Hence I started selling my product online as a side hustle to boost my income.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
When I started selling online as a side hustle, I gained quite a number of loyal customers. They started recommending it to their friends and family. It was when my product was introduced to a couple of Car Detailing Workshops that my volume started increasing substantially. When my side hustle income matched my monthly salary from my main job, I took a huge leap of faith to quit my job and turn my side hustle into a full-time business. I went all in. With my savings of USD 5,000, I built a mini production facility in my house and I started the brand IGL Coatings.
By serving the domestic market, I was only able to sustain the revenue, it didn't grow further, and it wasn't as successful as I imagined. I had several sleepless nights because there are several bills that I had to pay. There are times where I thought of quitting this and going back to being an employee. But the thought of doing that frightened me more. Because it will be extremely embarrassing. So instead of focusing on the domestic market, I started thinking global. From there onward, IGL Coatings grew rapidly via word of mouth and the rest is history.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
During the initial stage, we were barely breaking even because our volume was small and we have to make sure that our product is priced competitively in the global market. But today, we have grown 23 times, exporting to over 50 countries with over 5000 business owners promoting and using our products, and all this is through organic growth. And in January 2021, we reached the milestone of selling our 1 millionth bottle of the product.
We are very happy to claim that we are profitable and are reinvesting our profits into growing the business further.
Right now our production team is producing at max capacity trying our best to meet demand. Moving forward we are fine-tuning our processes in preparation for IOT and Automation.
We also doubled down on our investment in our R&D department to formulate new innovative solutions to further strengthen our position and expand into new industry such as construction and industrial use.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of the hardest things I did was holding back on aggressive investment. We are profitable at an early stage, but I did not want to take on too much risk, so I did not grow as fast as we could have. I kept thinking of what if the business fails, I need to have some reserve for myself and my family.
This created a situation where I am unable to produce enough to meet demand and I wasn't able to capture enough market share at a faster rate.
Eventually, I realized that I am facing a good problem. Where I do not have enough products to sell versus the problem of not having enough sales. And that was when I finally decided to be more aggressive in our growth plans and took on some angel investment.
As an entrepreneur, every day is about solving problems. There is not one day where you will start the day peacefully. It's just a matter of solving small or larger problems. It's extremely stressful and lonely because not everything can be discussed with another colleague. There are some decisions that when I looked back, I know I made the wrong choice, but it is what it is. I learn and I move on. It is forgivable to make mistakes. But it is not forgivable to not learn from the mistake.
In the end, everything happens for a reason, and it is the journey that shaped me to make me what I am today. I have no complaints and am happy with how far the company and I have grown.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Email marketing: Mailchimp
Sales Platform: Shopify
Customer Service: Chatra
Accounting : Quickbooks
Social Media Management: Hubspot
Task Management : Trello
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I try to read as much as I can, some of the books that influence me the most are:
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Starting a business is very easy. But to scale and grow it is extremely challenging. If your goal of starting a business is to have a better work-life balance, you will not get it from running a business. In fact, you will end up sacrificing more time for work.
Once you are in the right mindset, the most important skill you will need is Project Management. You will be juggling several tasks and projects at the same time. It is very crucial that you are always at the top of your mind and ensuring that each task are being worked on in order to meet your scheduled timeline.
Where can we go to learn more?
Discover the best strategies of successful business owners
Join our newsletter and receive our handcrafted recap with the best insights shared by founders in Starter Story each week.
Useful, convenient, and free:
Did you know that brands using Klaviyo average a 95x ROI?
Email, SMS, and more — Klaviyo brings your marketing all together, fueling growth without burning through time and resources.
Deliver more relevant email and text messages — powered by your data. Klaviyo helps you turn one-time buyers into repeat customers with all the power of an enterprise solution and none of the complexity.