Trev Ng, Chief Executive Optimist Of The Optimist Coffee Chain, On Spreading Positivity
It's such a simple concept but a sound one, namely spreading positivity when KL-ites most need it: during one's dreary daily commute to work.
No Rainbow Sans A Storm
Teeming with energy, Trev Ng moves and speaks like he's on the verge of a caffeine overdose. You wouldn't think it looking at him, what with his bright outlook and K-Pop-esque good looks, but darker days lurk in his past. After years of stagnating at a desk job he found unfulfilling, peer pressure, a poison if there ever was one, began seeping into his veins.
"I was contrasting myself with friends who appeared to be doing better, which left my confidence shattered," recalls Trev, shedding light on the dangers of social comparison. "My depression worsened over the course of 4 years. I even remember Googling 'the meaning of life'!"
Shaking himself out of his stupor, Trev decided to pursue several part-time positions, including being a barista at Podgy. It was here that he experienced a revelation: face-to-face interactions brought him more joy than anything. "The satisfaction I experience from making someone's day... I knew I wanted that for the rest of my life.
Optimist Coffee is an outcome from one of the darkest moments in my life. Without the lows, I would never have realised the power of positivity.
Ringgits & The Right Attitude
Life has a funny way of working: it was through one of Trev's part-time stints, a translation job, that he got to know of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's Young Entrepreneurs' Empowerment Fund (now defunct).
At the risk of sounding reductive, Optimist Coffee owes its existence to 1) the RM150,000 grant, which helped Trev cover the cost of his coffee machinery and accessories plus 2) a go-getter attitude. While most would have thought, “It’s never going to be me,” Trev decided to dive into the deep end. His advice to pessimists?
"Depression is like 'homework' that we all need to do; it's abnormal to stay positive 24/7. In my case, I allow the negative thoughts to come; they can sometimes be good for business as they present any number of worse case scenarios. If you still want to pursue a course of action despite the potential circumstances, that's how you know that you should. My advice to others is to always end your train of thoughts with a positive one. Remember to focus on what you can instead of what you cannot do."
The Power Of A Good Motivational Quote
Appearing as Instagram captions and in popular memes, inspirational quotes might feel a bit hackneyed today, but "have really helped me through tough times," tells Trev. "I now use it to help lift others." A big part of Optimist Coffee’s identity lies in its chalkboard, which bears a different quote every day. Trev, a wordsmith in his own right, comes up with his own messages and hasn't recycled a single line in his chain's 5 year of operations.
On Being A Good Boss
Besides spreading cheeriness to his customers, Trev encourages good vibes among his staff. "Most of us see our colleagues more than we see our mums," he points out. "Hence the importance of healthy relations in the workplace."
Having his staff on rotation (moving them from outlet to outlet) helps beat boredom, but how else does he lead by example?
"I treat everyone the way I want to be treated," states Trev. "At the end of the day, it all comes down to value exchange — we must have mutual interests. I tell my staff to stay only if Optimist Coffee can offer them the experience they seek, and if they possess the right attitude for our business. At the end of the day, it is my simple hope that everyone becomes a better or a happier person when they leave."
- December 2014: 1st Optimist Coffee @ Ampang LRT Station
- June 2017: Bright Side Sandwich Bar @ Ampang LRT Station
- November 2017: 2nd Optimist Coffee @ Kerinchi LRT Station
- August 2019: 3rd Optimist Coffee @ Location TBA — Coming soon!
- Photography Khairul Imran