Tan young girl with big ambitions
MSC Times.com, July 24, 2000
Fione Tan likes to go shopping, catch the latest blockbuster movie
and watch cartoons on TV, just like most girls her age. It's hard
to imagine that this a 22- year-old lass is actually the CEO of
a profitable dotcom. In fact, it's something that some of her
prospective customers, both young and old, have difficulty accepting
"When they see that you're so young, they sometimes find it hard
to take you seriously," Fione said. "But, i think action speaks
louder than words and we have proven to them that our service
works." That service she's referring to is Web Creator 2000, an
easy way for SMI's and SME's to have a web presence. She offers
two basic services e-Business Pro, which costs RM1280 per year
and e-Business Gold, which costs RM1880 per year. The former gives
customers a choice of six web themes to choose from while the
latter offers 12 themes. There are additional services which cost
extra but the basic package is extremely affordable by any standards.
The web pages are pretty basic - just informational with no transactional
or e-commerce capabilities. But, Fione figures it's a great way
for small businesses to get their feet wet in the vast and constantly
-expanding dotcom ocean. Many of these companies seem to agree
with her rationale. Some 50 companies have already signed up.
By carving a niche for herself - catering to small businesses
who do not want to spend a lot of money to have a web presence
- Fione has done something that few dotcoms in Malaysia has managed
to do: actually make a profit. In fact, eOneNet,
as she calls her company, has been profitable from day one. Soft-launched
in April, eOneNet raked in some RM30, 000 in profits in the first
month alone. Since then, monthly profits have been steady at around
RM20, 000. She expects to keep up this monthly average until September
when the company goes for a full-scale official launch. Cash flow
is so good that she's not even considering looking for venture
capital at this juncture. "I'll only consider that when it comes
time to expand in a big way."
She already has a branch in Singapore (of which she is a minority
shareholder) and has set her eyes on the China, Hong Kong and
Taiwan market. But, that's further down the road. She's still
got plenty of ground to cover in Malaysia, which is dotted (pun
intended) with SMI's and SME's - all potential customers of eOneNet.
So, what's her secret? In a word: seminars. She holds three of
them per month. Both Fione and her business partner, Harrace Lau,
deliver their messages in plain speak rather than the hyper- technical
jargon that many dotcom netrepreneurs tend to use when describing
their products or services. "Speaking in layman's terms is an
effective way to inform and educate potential customers about
the benefits of going online," she says.
"Actually, I have no choice but to speak in simple terms because
I, myself, am not a very technical person," Fione said. This was
pretty evident when I asked her whether eOneNet's business model
is that of an ASP (application service provider). "ASP?" she replied.
It doesn't matter. The important thing is that she has found a
formula that is obviously working, and making her money. Whether
this business is scalable is uncertain but for the moment, she's
fulfilling a niche: helping SMI's and SME's who are taking baby
steps into the dotcom arena.
Fione holds a Bachelors degree in marketing and it shows. Her
spunkiness and natural confidence is almost infectious. An average
day for her is 9.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. and she spends much of it
meeting up with existing and potential customers. "Customer service
is a top priority," she emphasizes. Despite achieving some early
success at such a tender age, Fione does not display any of the
cockiness or arrogance that some young entrepreneurs tend to exhibit.
And, despite the fact that she is obviously a risk taker, Fione
is incredibly conservative in her estimates.
For example, I asked her how many companies she expects to have
signed up by September. She says 70, which is only 20 more than
what she has right now. With her existing customer base of 50
and the word-of-mouth that would naturally ensue, one would've
thought she'd aim for a bigger target. "70 is achievable and I'd
rather shoot for something I know I can achieve," she said.
And, how long will it take her to make her first million? "Five
years." But, that's an eternity in dotcom years, I remarked. "I
know but I'd rather be conservative now and surprise myself by
over-achieving," she replied. Now, that's spunk!