Business at her core
By Gerald Goh
THE most important aspect of running a business is not how much money is invested.
According to Apple Hong, being a good manager is the key to success.
The Malaysian actress recently invested a five-figure sum in an outlet of Xiao Bar Wang (XBW) in her native country.
The eatery, which features Taiwanese street snacks such as braised pork rice and crispy chicken, is her first venture with artistes Jeff Wang and Ong Ai Leng.
Both Wang and Ong also chipped in a five-figure sum.
The other four XBW outlets are in Singapore.
Opened on Nov 1 last year, the new XBW is located in 1 Utama Shopping Centre in the north of Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur.
Hong, who is at the outlet often, likened managing the staff at the XBW outlet in Malaysia to flying a kite.
She explained that a good manager must know when to “pull” and when to “release”.
In other words, striking a good balance between being strict and being lenient is essential.
She said: “Good, reliable Malaysian service staff are also hard to come by, so it’s very important to retain such staff.
“Time management is also essential, especially in the food and beverage business.
“If you do not allocate your time wisely, money becomes somewhat of a moot point.”
The 34-year-old, who appeared in the Channel 8 dramas Be Happy and The In-Laws, is now working with MediaCorp on a freelance basis.
This arrangement provides flexibility in her schedule. She’s also in talks to appear in future shows, although nothing has been confirmed yet.
Her income from entertainment varies wildly, which is part of the reason why she is devoting more time and effort to setting up and running businesses.
XBW is her first business venture and she has plans for further expansion, subject to the availability of locations.
She said: “The rental is quite costly, more than a five-digit sum (in Malaysian ringgit) each month.
“It’s quite worth it, though, because the outlet gets a lot of customers. We’ve been seeing some regular customers after about two months of business.”
She added: “I have plans to invest in other potential XBW outlets, possibly in Johor Baru or Penang. “The location is very important. Even if it costs a bomb, it’ll be worth paying for, because your costs will easily be recouped by the good flow of customers.”
Hong said that although the new outlet has yet to turn a profit, the money spent is counted as part of the cost of building up XBW’s presence in Malaysia.
She said: “The money will come.”
The actress supplements her income with a four-figure sum monthly for being a spokesman for ChartNexus, a technical analysis company.
On average, she sets aside about 20 per cent of her income, which she describes as very “volatile”, either saving it or investing it in insurance.
Anything else is fair game for spending.
She said: “I’m a die-hard shopper.
“In the past, I would not think much of blowing a few thousand dollars on a shopping spree.”
Hong also went on a holiday through Europe in September last year, a jaunt that set her back by more than $10,000.
She said: “I love to travel and it’s one of the ways I like to pamper myself. It really depends on my savings, but if I can afford to travel, I will.
“Now that I’m older, I’ve learnt from others how to be wiser with money.
“I now try to save my money for my business because that’s where it can be best put to use.”
Hong also revealed that she has been dating a businessman for the past two years.
She said half-jokingly: “He’s a totally different kind of business-person from me.”
She said they both love good food and he makes it a point to take her to nice restaurants when they are able to make time in their busy schedules to meet.
“We don’t have any firm plans for marriage or children yet. I try to let a lot of things in my life just fall into place naturally.
“I don’t try too hard to fight fate.”