It hasn’t been an easy road for Kim May Chee ever since she started her salon business in 2019. She revealed it’s hard to understand everything about dry bar salons ahead of time and the only way is to embrace them as a learning process and as a tool for improvement—all while keeping to her core values of women empowerment and community building. Reflecting on the BMW 3 Series belief of ‘’Improvement Inspires Improvement’’, Chee is determined to push through hurdles to overcome challenges.
What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve always wanted to start a business that resonates with the values that I believe in: women empowerment, community building and sustainability. However the specific idea of starting a blow dry bar was by chance. I stumbled upon the Drybar brand while listening to the Girl Boss podcast on Spotify. So I spent the next year researching the industry and potential opportunities.
I realised that there was a gap in the market in Malaysia, where customers faced various issues while visiting regular salons. This realisation, along with the potential for a blow dry bar to work in Malaysia, led to the birth of COCOdry.
What are some of the things you wish you’d known before you started out your business?
I wish I have the answers to all problems so I don’t need to bang walls to figure it out all the time. But the reality is, it is impossible to know everything beforehand and you just need to know that it’s a learning process, learn how to accept challenges with open hands and believe in your own ability to get through tough times.
What is the best decision you’ve made in regards to your career so far?
Taking the leap of faith to start COCOdry and not quitting when things get tough. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life and has opened doors I never imagined possible. At every different phase of business, entrepreneurship presents new tests. I have learnt that there’s no “right” or “wrong” decision, but a series of choices that can lead you in different directions.
There were tears and many setbacks, but I never thought I had the strength to keep getting back up, until I started COCOdry. And here I am, still standing, trying to live up to my fullest potential.
What are the biggest challenges facing your industry?
Advocating for eco-friendly products & services due to the high demand for chemical-based options that offer immediate results. Despite the long-term benefits of eco-friendly options, such as reducing damage to both hair and the environment, clients often prioritise instant results and convenience. This often makes it difficult to persuade clients to switch to more sustainable alternatives which requires more investment in terms of money and time.
What is the best career advice you’ve received?
Quoting my mentor Raymond; FOCUS. You only have 24 hours a day and if you try to do everything at the same time in your company, time and resources go to waste. As Bill Gates once shared, many people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year, but underestimate their potential over a decade. You can have it all, just not at the same time.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learnt from being an entrepreneur that you’d like to share with others?
- Trust the process. There will be times when things don’t go as planned and you may encounter obstacles and setbacks that can be discouraging. But it will be rewarding at the end of the day.
- Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires determination, persistence, and a willingness to push through challenges and setbacks.
- Get a partner who is as committed as you in the business. If you can’t, don’t be afraid to start alone.
- It is okay to make mistakes. Not every idea or decision will lead to success, but failure can be a valuable learning experience if approached with a growth mindset.
- Your company is only as good as your team. Look for people who share your core values and are passionate about the work you’re doing.
In terms of the call to #BeMoreWoman, a platform that aims to change the perception of strength through the values and characteristics of a woman, what do you think are some of the qualities that you bring to the table as an entrepreneur?
The qualities which I believe have helped me in business are optimism, determination and a stomach for risk. But, I don’t think that they are exclusively tied to a particular gender. While women may have personal perspectives and experiences that can contribute to their success as entrepreneurs, I personally believe that it’s the individual’s qualities, skills and mindset that will determine their success.
To learn more about the BMW 3 Series, click here.