The Brew Crew: Start small, Aim high

When Brew Crew first started, they was just a street coffee in Miri.

Starting from the five-foot-way of Miri’s Wireless Walk night market, The Brew Crew developed from a street coffee to a nationwide coffee-to-go joint. Aiming to provide quality coffee at affordable prices, co-founder Mohammad Adib shares the journey of the roadside stall that manages to penetrate the Malayan market.

Quality coffee at an affordable price

From the roadside to the mall, The Brew Crew’s significant upgrade is a cruise in development for the brand. Co-founder, Adib Abdul Ghani recalled the times when the brand was still serving coffee (among many others) under a canopy at a night market in Miri, Sarawak. 

“During our first year, I remember we needed plastic covers to shelter our canopy during the rainy season and all of us had to work under the rain!” the 29-year-old reminisced. 

The initial experience of starting from scratch and working from the basic, was how the crew learned to improve the business. “As business owners, this was an important experience as it also instilled in us a level of appreciation towards our journey. Nonetheless, I still don’t feel that we are established enough,” Adib shared.

The rise of The Brew Crew

Started by a group of four — Adib, Iskandar Arif, Amirah Zakaria, and a silent partner — the brand started their journey under a canopy by the roadside at Wireless Walk, Miri (night market) in January 2016.

Adib revealed that it started when they found the opportunity to rent a space at the night market. Coincidentally, it was his three months semester break, and he was thinking about earning some extra money.

“Initially at the time, I haven’t even thought of what I’d be selling. However, a friend of mine who was studying in Perlis (bordering Thailand) told me about the current trend of Thai teas over there. So we thought, why not?”

In 2018, they moved to Container City, Miri, their first permanent space.

As coffee lovers, the founders also introduced the beverage at their roadside stall. They also included ice blended drinks and sodas in their menu.

During their time under the canopy, Adib recalled that they had several difficulties in the early stages. “When we were at the roadside, we had to rent electricity from the opposite shop. Many had asked, how do we grind our coffee beans?” Adib explained that to offer freshly brewed coffee at the time, they had to grind the coffee manually on the spot. “We had to be creative to present quality product to our customers,” he proudly said.

Albeit being just a roadside stall back then, Brew Crew took pride in their brand and strived to bring the best to their customers. “We would often look at what is trending on the market, and introduce seasonal drinks. One time, we even served unicorn-themed drinks for a month. These trends actually helped us survive in those days,” said Adib.

The Brew Crew stayed at Wireless Walk night market for two years before they moved to a permanent space at Container City, Miri. In 2018, the coffee joint was presented with the opportunity to spread their wings, in a convenient shop at MyTOWN shopping centre, Kuala Lumpur.

Time to get serious

“When we started, we were just another street coffee joint. But now, we have evolved into coffee-to-go. I would credit our growth through the number of challenges that we managed to overcome when we first explored the West Malaysian market,” disclosed Adib. 

Having the opportunity to expand and make a name for themselves, the team knew they needed to set a niche market. “We decided to focus on coffee,” Adib said. 

He further shared their observation on the current coffee market then, “There are premium quality beans at an expensive price. And there are cheap coffee beans but the taste is mediocre.”

“The Brew Crew wanted to prove that you don’t have to have deep pockets in order to enjoy a quality cup of coffee,” he added.

Many elements had changed from their time by the roadside, to now — an established coffee joint. Among them are the coffee beans they used. “Before this, we used off the shelves coffee beans. But now, we opted for higher grade coffee beans.”

For now, Brew Crew’s two bestsellers are the Borneo Latte and the Signature White Koffee — both with elements of Sarawak in them.

“When we opened in Kuala Lumpur, we thought why not bring Sarawak with us.

With Borneo Latte, we introduced Gula Apong and crafted the three-layer coffee with an espresso base.”

Meanwhile, the Signature White Koffee with the abbreviation SWK (Sarawak) was created as a tribute to the state, “It is a coffee-based cold brew and we did it according to Sarawak’s ‘kopi peng’ style,” shared Adib.

Adib also revealed that Brew Crew’s MyTOWN outlet — their first in Kuala Lumpur — was closed down during the lockdown period. However, it does not hamper the team as Adib said they are planning for another outlet in the city.

“We are also planning to have one outlet in Kuching,” Adib shared. Apart from that, the future will see the production of bottled coffee (that is aesthetic enough for Instagram) in their menu.

“With the recent pandemic, we introduced bottled coffee in our Cold Brew series and Signature White Koffee. We aim to expand this method to include other drinks on the menu too,” said Adib.

At the moment, Brew Crew serves their coffee in four different locations — Central I-City, Shah Alam; Menara Serba Dinamik, Shah Alam; Container City, Miri and alBayt Square, Miri.

Box story:

Tips on how to expand small businesses By Brew Crew co-founder Mohammad Adib Abdul Ghani

1 . Start small, think big, aim high.
2 . When starting a business, benchmark it with a bigger guy. When you mirror the bigger guy, you will automatically follow in their footsteps.
3 . Learn to solve problems that arise.
4 . Be flexible with the current trends.
5 . Have a vision and philosophy, aim and follow through.
6 . Money management is important. Do not personalise money obtained from the business.