Sunday, December 27, 2015

The orchid man of Miri

BIG LEAF NURSERY is a unique orchid-breeding setup in Miri as only one species — the Borneo Orchid or phalaenopsis — is grown there.

The owner Lim Shiow Hong has a soft spot for orchidaceae since the age of 12 when he started his romance with this much sought after exotic flowering plant.

Growing orchids and being close to nature has always been his way of relieving stress from his job in the sales business. For 10 years, he had been going the extra mile to achieve sales targets (which became progressively higher), and as a way to wind down after work, the passion for growing orchids proved the right panacea.

Lim received his secondary education at Marudi Government School. After that, he worked in the timber and marketing industry for 15 years, starting off as a saw doctor (in a sawmill) from 1991 to 1996. Subsequently, he joined the sales and marketing sector, first as a sales supervisor at Servay Supermarket, Miri, and then as marketing personnel with Sebor from 1995-2002.

He was sales supervisor with Harrisons Trading from 2002 to 2003, and before venturing out on his own to achieve his dream of running an orchid nursery, he was area sales executive with Harpers Trading.

His nursery started with a small shed at his home in 2000. He grew dendrobiums and some wild orchids at first but ventured further afield, slowly buying some orchid flasks from Kuala Lumpur Bird Park.

Lim was not successful at first because the survival rate of the orchids (phalaenopsis) he was growing was quite low due to his inexperience. The turning point came in 2002 when he met an orchid expert from Ulu Yam known as Mr Yap, the biggest phalaenopsis grower in the whole of Malaysia.

Lim recalled: “I learned a lot from him in the early stages and slowly gained more confidence.”

In 2003, Mr Yap formed Waltex Biotec Sdn Bhd which has become the most significant phalaenopsis orchid grower and specialist in the country. The company also teaches and promotes the growing of palalaenopsis.

Meeting the challenge

As there is an ever expanding interest in orchid growing, Lim got to thinking about his own life and aspirations. Since he has this great passion for orchids, why not turn it into an enterprise. After all, he has all the sales and marketing experience. So he took up the challenge and gave himself a trial period of five years.

Lim and his wife started with a relatively small capital — RM70,000 — their whole life savings.

“I’m very thankful to my wife. Without her, Big Leaf Nursery would never have been formed. I’m now at home taking care of the baby and she is working outside,” he beamed.

Lim readily acknowledges his wife is the person behind his career and totally agrees that behind every successful man is a great lady.

Today, he fills big orders for weddings, special occasions as well as hotel and other functions. His nursery carries the tag ‘palaenopsis’ on its van. Special weddings with large displays of orchids on the aisles around grand marquees in Miri have been striking and impressive attractions to even tourists who happen to pass by.

However, Lim continues to meet challenges such as lack of database on sales, and difficulties in forecasting sales. Orchids have a long growing period and it is also not easy to contain some diseases.

Lim’s orchids are not grown in greenhouses, as what many people would think, but in open spaces. Greenhouses in Taiwan, for example, require exorbitant investments but the upside is there is good quality control. And for this reason, Taiwan is regarded as a destination for horticulturalists and orchid lovers.

Taiwan also holds many floral festivals annually, attracting millions of tourists as well as a lot of investors.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The orchid man of Miri