There was a moment in time where all Wendy Wong dreamt about was a career in the healthcare industry. It was not particularly definitive which pathway she wanted to take but was convinced that it had to be within the realm of healthcare. After all, which industry better to be part of than one that heals and helps people at their most dire and vulnerable state. While most people would be inclined to opt for the more traditional route within the healthcare industry, she believed early on that food and nutrition are the first line of defense in healthcare.
Growing up, she actively observed the needs of her family and community around her. No stranger to seeing loved ones inflicted with various health related issues, Wendy went on to wonder if what we consume daily potentially impacted our health. As this curiosity grew within her, she decided to seek out programmes that could provide answers to her long-standing questions. Eventually she came across the Dietetics with Nutrition programme at IMU, and things began falling into place.
As she immersed herself in her studies, Wendy had a strong sense of direction towards a career within a clinical / hospital setting. It was the best place to serve the community or so she thought. Her decision to complete her external placement during final semester changed her perspective entirely. It was the first time she had the opportunity to observe how food service can support clinical treatments and endeavours. She also acknowledged that the local healthcare system had not yet adopted that symbiotic relationship and she began to envision a different career path for herself.
After graduation, Wendy dipped her toes in the local healthcare system briefly and eventually walked away with a stronger than ever belief that prevention is truly better than cure. With the plethora of cuisines available in Malaysia, food has been proven to be the root cause of many health problems and so she set about to providing a healthier option for Malaysians via Salad Atelier.
Salad Atelier is a delightful establishment offering a variety of healthy meals with a local twist. Wendy envisioned Salad Atelier as a space for consumers to have the option of convenient healthy food while understanding the importance of incorporating local flavors. While her outlets are rapidly sprouting all around Klang Valley and now Johor Bahru, she reflects on the struggle of her initial years through wisdom tinted lenses and shares current challenges she faces.
As with many businesses, the initial years were a blur of conforming to tight budgets, lack of manpower and encountering unexpected problems that tests not only patience but the will power to push through the hurdles and keep Salad Atelier going. The experience she gathered in the beginning were full of humbling lessons and work that enabled her to see all facets of her business. When she started out, she wore various caps namely the chef, cleaner, cashier, marketing, and salesperson on top of navigating management matters. It was daunting and overwhelming but hard work and discipline saw her through.
Her experience as an entrepreneur has taught her the importance of leading with wisdom and grace as a good business is as good as the team behind it. She recognises the value of effective management and how it affects productivity and quality of service offered to her customers. Hence Wendy endeavours to empower her team members accordingly and respects the chain in command set up which has been put in place.
In a relatively volatile industry, Wendy emphasizes on the importance of being adaptable and resilient. Especially in the face of ever-increasing price of goods and ever-changing trends, Wendy is constantly studying the market in efforts to remain relevant to her customers. She places great importance in planning for various possibilities to ensure the sustainability of her business and the welfare of her team.
Over the years she has also developed the ability to withstand criticisms both constructive and downright negative. She takes it all in stride and assures that she takes it all with a little grain of salt and focuses on what helps improve her business.
Wendy also shared amusingly that while she had little to no knowledge on starting a business and how to go about it, she credits the Entrepreneurship class she took in IMU for providing the building blocks to her business. With the right foundation at her feet, she continues to climb the treacherous terrain of entrepreneurship steadily and surely.
To date, Salad Atelier has a total of 22 outlets in Klang Valley and a newly opened branch in Johor Bahru and has plans to grow the number of its outlets. Despite the many challenges Wendy has faced Salad Atelier is still standing strong and will be celebrating 10 years in the Malaysian market. In the face of the global pandemic that took down businesses everywhere, the achievement of standing strong for 10 years is no small feat.
As Wendy forges ahead, inspiring healthier eating habits one meal at a time, we at IMU continue to stand proud behind her and wish her infinite success for the future.