Over the MCO, Basil realised that people did in fact enjoy cooking at home.
The most tedious part, however, was making the sauce to complement a dish. That was the inspiration to launch Saucelabmy.
But that wasn’t his only reason for pursuing this side venture.
Saucing Up The Biz
During the lockdown, Basil’s cafe, Mighty Monster, was badly affected. He even had to shut down an outlet.
He noticed that other cafes and restaurants were coming up with interesting menus and packages to adapt and cater to those stuck at home.
Already having some existing sauces from the cafe, Basil decided to sell them as another revenue stream to sustain his business and employees.
“We launched Saucelabmy in May using some of our existing sauces in our cafe’s menu and also created some new flavours to give a variety of sauces for our customers,” he said.
Though salted egg yolk and sambal belacan are some familiar flavours to Malaysians, the brand also sells sauces that are unheard of in the local market.
Some of them are beetroot hummus and salted miso caramel.
Most Malaysians prefer sticking to tried and tested flavour profiles and may not be the most adventurous to try new outrageous flavours like these, to which Basil agrees.
“We always give out free samples to our customers when they order from us, and some do request for it as well,” he said.
Customers would also be given the chance to try the products during bazaars, where they started selling at once the MCO was lifted.
It’s somewhat like testing out flavours at an ice cream bar.
“In our product range, we have sauces for pasta, or for marinade, stir fry, steaming and also dipping,” Basil said.
Some of the more odd flavours made us wonder what one would use it for, like the salted miso caramel sauce, for example.
Basil explained, “People use it to drizzle on their ice creams, pancakes, waffles, or butter croissants. Some even use it in their 2-1 instant coffee!”
Meanwhile, another one of their more unique sauces, sambal mayo, can be used as a spread on bread, wraps, or as a dip for cooked seafood.
When Cafe Doors Close
Orders for their sauces are compiled weekly and produced in the cafe’s in-house kitchen.
“We start our production after our cafe closes at 10PM, and sometimes we end work at 4AM,” Basil said.
The team’s sleepless nights paid off. Within 5 months, Saucelabmy has sold around 4,000 jars, earning revenue of RM50,000.
This was all achieved without any form of marketing apart from word-of-mouth on Facebook groups.
“The moment we thought that this business was actually worth continuing was when customers started repeating their orders almost every week or two,” Basil said.
They’ve also received plenty of positive feedback from customers, particularly for their top seller, Basil Pesto (we’re not sure if simply a coincidence, or pun intended).
“One even commented that it’s better than any of the pesto she had in New York where she used to own a restaurant,” he added.
Saucing Up The Biz
Other local brands have also approached Saucelabmy for collaboration.
One of them was Malaysia’s Queen of Comedy, Joanne Kam, who pivoted to selling roast pork under the name Poh Poh’s Crack when the MCO affected her income as a performer.
“She uses our sauces to pair with her roast pork buns,” said Basil.
One of the main selling points the brand leverages on is the fact that they don’t use preservatives in the products.
Though Basil plans to keep it that way, this brings up a different issue they’re working to fix: shelf life.
Maintaining the quality of their sauces is one of his short term goals.
“We also want to hopefully reach out for more collaborations with local and new startups that started during the MCO too, so that we can go through these tough times together,” he added.
Their long term goal is to supply their products to cafes and restaurants, and eventually be displayed on supermarket shelves.
Featured Image Credit: Basil Tan, founder of Saucelabmy