Custom Made Malaysian Wooden Furniture Made in Penang
When Khoo V-Ho was 22, he was preparing to graduate from law school. But two months before her CLP exam, her dad passed away.
His family had been in the furniture business for 35 years, and instead of letting it end with the passing of his father, V-Ho decided to pick up the slack.
Two years later, V-Ho’s sister, Giselle Khoo, decides to stop her studies. Around the same time, an opportunity to start a business together in a prime location in Georgetown presented itself, so the duo decided to go for it.
To honor their late father, the Khoos decided to name the business Dad’s Woods, simultaneously shifting to focus specifically on wood products.
Their father’s business, called Eng Wha Home Centre, sold a variety of products ranging from mattresses and sofas to tables and cabinets. While V-Ho had obviously frequented the store, he was never really involved with it.
“In high school, I went to furniture shows with my dad, but in terms of business and operation, I had no experience,” V-Ho said.
But the furniture store wasn’t technically V-Ho’s first brush with entrepreneurship, as he had attempted to launch a solid clothing line and fragrance line in his youth.
Yet, as V-Ho says, “It’s one thing to know how to work and sell something, it’s another to run a business and manage people.”
Being only 22 at the time, he faced doubts, but he admitted that most of the time the pressure came from within. He said it involved a lot of insecurity and unnecessary defensiveness.
Fortunately, former staff members were helping and supporting V-Ho as he followed the operations. At the same time, he saw the potential in his father’s business and felt it could benefit from an upgrade as well.
“I’ve always wanted to build a brand that comes from Malaysia and, more specifically, from Penang,” he explained.
When the opportunity presented itself, V-Ho jumped on it. It started when his friend went out of business and asked him if he wanted to take over the lot.
Since it was set in a high-end store, V-Ho felt it was an enticing offer that he couldn’t pass up. By then he had already been selling wood slabs for about eight months, so he decided to go all-in with that.
And so, with his sister on board, Dad’s Woods was truly born.
Malaysian timber supporters
V-Ho got his start with wood when he was looking for parts to improve his offerings in the family business.
“I just thought if I was going to start something in Malaysia, wood seems like the most natural route, because Malaysia has amazing wood,” V-Ho explained.
V-Ho believes that Malaysians tend to sit on many premium resources without appreciating or using them properly. Instead, he sees people taking timber as a raw material to export and making a quick buck.
“When I started the business, the idea was to start something with the best Malaysian materials, with good designs, good branding in mind, and do something really original and Malaysian” , did he declare.
The high-end, bespoke nature of Dad’s Woods pieces is a reflection of its mentality, as V-Ho believes that exclusive designs maintain the integrity of the product itself. After all, the nature of wood, and solid wood in particular, is already premium and the starting cost is already high.
All of the wood used in Dads Woods pieces is sourced locally, mostly from Peninsular Malaysia, although V-Ho is keen to explore different regions where possible.
The wood is made in Penang and some of the upholstery work is done in Semenyih, so even local craftsmanship is used to create Dad’s Woods pieces.
When asked if he’s ever doubted his decision to go into a furniture business, V-Ho admitted he’s had his moments.
“When times are tough, like during the pandemic, you constantly ask yourself, ‘Why, why are you doing this? “”, he expressed. “You see your peers are still working, they are still getting their salaries. At the start of the pandemic, it was zero [income for us].”
At the time, Dad’s Woods hadn’t ventured into the e-commerce space, and V-Ho was confident that no one would buy his furniture online, what more during the pandemic.
“It is impossible for people to buy a sofa or a table at this price without having to see the product,” he recalled.
But still, cash flow was dwindling and they had to try something. The first thing the brand did was try to clear out their inventory. The products were sold at a reduced price.
On top of that, V-Ho also started designing new pieces and offering smaller trinkets.
Today, Dad’s Woods has over 8,000 subscribers, and V-Ho has realized that it’s actually possible to sell furniture even if physical stores are closed.
No longer a necessity
For the remainder of 2022, Dad’s Woods will focus on achieving short-term goals. In fact, V-Ho has already planned the whole year with new launches, shows and projects.
“I would definitely like a studio in KL to meet my clients,” he added. “Right now, most of my clients travel to Penang to see me.”
During our interview, I asked him what he had said in a Home Journal article. He had mentioned that he got into the furniture business out of necessity. I wondered how that had changed over the years.
“I did this interview about two years ago,” V-Ho said. “The business is in a very different place now, so, I’m glad I made the decision, and…yes,” he finished with a smile, leaving behind his and Giselle’s accomplishments thus far. speak for themselves.
- Learn more about Dad’s Woods here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured image credit: daddy’s wood