The space for online cheese board businesses has become competitive, likely due to the low barrier to entry in sourcing ingredients and delivering products.
Just recently we wrote about a business in KL started by a serial businesswoman to help her housewife friends earn an income. On the other hand, for this Kota Kinabalu company, Dolfin Platters, the tipping point of its founders to enter this market came after the closure of their café 2 months after the first MCO.
“At the second MCO in September 2020, we had very little income and our bank accounts were really ending up with less than 3 digits,” said Dolly, who added that she had just given birth to her second child at the time. .
With a growing family to support, the husband and wife duo sold their cafe’s cooking supplies. They managed to raise around 2,500 RM, which was then used to launch Dolfin platters, as well as an additional 1,000 RM by selling their home cooking to their peers.
Sell food to put food on the table
Cafe Dolly and Hanson worked together before the pandemic was primarily a children’s cafe supplemented with an indoor play area.
Dolly was 2 months pregnant when the MCO first struck, and to give their coffee a chance, they offered take-out, deliveries and food kits, to no avail.
Unable to maintain operations, they decided to close the cafe. But with a family of 5 to feed (including Dolly’s mother and grandmother), Hanson began cooking at home to deliver food, hoping to earn some form of income.
However, business never really picked up, so they decided to take a different approach by selling a completely different product.
From a cafe to a cheese company
Dolfin Platters was named after Dolly and Hanson, who received the nickname “Fintu” (Hakka dialect) from his school basketball team. By combining their names, they created “Dolfin”, using a dolphin illustration in their logo.
Stumbling across pictures of cheese platters on Instagram was a light bulb moment for Dolly. She showed them to Hanson and they attempted to prepare cheese platters for dinner with family and friends.
Cheese platters were relatively new to Sabah at the time, according to Dolly, which was an opportune time for them to enter the market.
While the couple enjoyed consuming cheese, they weren’t too familiar with its pairings, textures, and types.
“We sold our first box to a friend’s sister for RM88, but the returns weren’t good because we didn’t choose the right packaging and decor,” Dolly recalls. It was their push to start looking for more aesthetic packaging and to learn more about cheese.
“We have also learned to have the best combination of soft, semi-hard and hard cheeses, so our customers can try different types of cheese on one platter,” she said.
After they started selling to family and friends, they slowly found more customers ordering the products for the holidays. Customers also asked for more variety, so the brand expanded to also offer pastries, made by the café’s former pastry supplier.
Start thriving while in lockdown
As the MCO expanded again for the 3rd and 4th time, at least in Sabah, Dolfin Platters began to see higher demands from private customers for less accessible delicacies at home.
Having already expanded to offer pastries, Dolfin Platters quickly launched a premium tea set, which Dolly says is now a hot-selling item.
However, the cheese platters remain their bestsellers due to their affordability of RM68 (1 person serving) to RM298 (which includes wine). Dolfin Platters also offers premium platters with caviar and truffle cheeses that cost over RM500.
These prices are in fact aligned with the expected market range for cheese platters produced and sold by the KL companies. But in terms of Sabahan’s offerings, there seem to be limited options for online cheese platters. namesgrazer was one of the only other names I could find prices for (after contacting), and cost them between RM65 and RM550, which is also in the market range.
Therefore, Dolfin Platters would have a large market share to gain to make a name for itself in the Sabahan cheese platters market. But Dolly doesn’t want to limit Dolfin Platters to that; she looks at the donation industry in general.
There is a bigger market to tackle
“As we are not only competing with the tray businesses but also the bakery businesses as a whole, we have a lot of competition in the gift industry within Sabah, ”Dolly explained, adding that most bakers in Sabah also provide delivery services, especially during the MCO. .
With malls and stores able to accommodate foot traffic again, she also pointed out that other gift companies like perfumes, cosmetics, chocolates, etc. are also considered competitors.
“Meanwhile, for tea sets, we have to compete with restaurants and cafes that also offer the same,” Dolly pointed out.
In order for Dolfin Platters to stand and stand out, the team will focus its efforts on the quality of its products and services. This would hopefully encourage customers to come back.
In addition, Dolfin Platters devotes 70% of its marketing efforts to the satisfaction of its existing customers, while the remaining 30% is used to acquire new customers.
This likely worked in Dolfin Platters’ favor, as Dolly said the brand currently has a 45% customer return rate.
Catering at VVIP
Since its launch in October 2020, the founders’ proudest achievement has been the sale of 500 trays in December 2020 for Christmas. At the time, their trays were even stocked by Lintas Supermarket, a notable grocery brand from KK, to be sold as an instant gift.
Over the past year, they have sold around 2,000 cheese platters. Dolfin Platters has also been hired by development companies Sabahan Jesselton Group to create a pasture table for their office event, and VTS Group to respond to their VVIPs.
“That’s when we got the chance to rise up in the premium food and gift business,” Dolly said.
In the future, the founders hope to open a physical store to fulfill their dream of bringing their online business to brick and mortar. The store would allow customers to browse various freebies and sample available cheeses before making a purchase.
We already have a brand partner in Tawau, Sabah, but would definitely also like to expand to more cities in Sabah and also Sarawak as there are so many people from other cities and states asking for our products. We just had to refuse them because we are not able to deliver them.
Dolly, co-founder of Dolfin Platters
- You can find out more about Dolfin trays here.
- You can read more about the Malaysian F&B brands we have covered. here.
Featured Image Credit: The Dolfin Platters Team
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