Part-time teacher Serena Leong, 53, of Petaling Jaya, Selangor, likes selling her honey at pop-up markets because it gives her the opportunity to talk to people about going back to basic nutrition.
Leong believes in natural remedies, namely honey.
“Eating pure, mature rainforest honey can help to build the immune system, the basics of optimal health,” said Leong who was first introduced to honey’s medicinal benefits when she became hoarse from overusing her voice.
A Geography teacher at a learning centre in Puchong, Selangor, Leong works two days a week. Sometimes, she would take students on outings to caves and forests to learn about nature.
As one who loves the forest, Leong thought about rainforest honey with its nutritious and medicinal benefits.
She decided to start sourcing and selling local honey, one of the best hidden treasures of our forest.
“It’d be good to boost the income of the wild honey harvester. They can’t speak of the goodness of honey themselves and could do with a little help,” said Leong who started Dorsata Honey in November 2014.
Her company’s name is inspired by giant honey bees (Apis dorsata) which build their hives on branches of tall Tualang trees in the deep rainforests of the north-western region of Peninsular Malaysia.
She started with three variants of honey; now, she sells seven variants including the signature Tualang Rock Honey, which she sources from Pahang.
Within her circles, many friends encouraged and supported her business because they are also convinced of honey’s benefits, having been educated by Leong.
They helped her source for the right bottles and labels, test the purity of her honey and even set up her business’ Facebook page.
So, she sold her honey among family and friends, and via Facebook, but soon realised that she needed to expand her reach.
So, in mid 2017, she started setting up stall in pop-up markets but infrequently.
But as she got to know more bazaar organisers, she started selling more regularly – as much as thrice a month – in pop-up markets last year.
“At pop-up markets, I got connected to more customers and got to know their needs and concerns. I also found out what’s hindering most people from buying honey. Some of them think it’s only a sweetener, not knowing its medicinal value.
“Many want to know how to differentiate between genuine and fake honey. So, it gave me an opportunity to educate them,” shares Leong who welcomes the chance to build a community of honey users.
She enjoys educating customers about how honey can help them, and she also wants to listen to their experiences of using honey.
Leong also used to place her honey in cafes, pharmacies and organic food outlets, but the products were moving slowly.
With the visibility and exposure that selling at pop-up markets gave her, she was able to expand her clientele.
It also opens up business avenues as people have approached her to sell them in bulk, or be her distributors.
Since she started selling in pop-up markets, her business has increased threefold. Her family now helps her with her honey business.
Her husband, Loh Kok Chuen, 56. an electrical engineer, at first was against her selling honey as he had doubts about the quality of wild honey. However, he later became convinced after seeing its benefits, and now helps with quality control.
“He is responsible for testing honey samples – he froze, burnt and tested them with iodine for the presence of starch. He also sent samples to laboratories for tests,” said Leong, a mother of three boys and three girls.
Once or twice a year, samples are sent for lab tests for quality, safety and microbes.
Leong’s eldest son, Pishon, 25, a marketing and finance graduate, has also joined her, taking charge of daily operations.
“My mother is the event organiser on activities to promote honey. My dad liaises with the suppliers and harvesters of honey.”
Apart from selling their honey in pop-up markets in the Klang Valley, they also sell at organic wellness shops, cafes, independent pharmacies and hotels as well as through distributors.