Malaysian-run pharmacy wins Australian award by bringing health to homes

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Country Wellness Pharmacy went on to win the national-level 2014 Telstra Australian Start-Up Business of the Year.Country Wellness Pharmacy went on to win the national-level 2014 Telstra Australian Start-Up Business of the Year.

By Wen Lim

When Klang-born pharmacist Lim Boon Wai and his wife Yong Hwei Yuin relocated to Darwin, Australia, with a dream to set up their own pharmacy, they realised there is a lot more they could do to help the local community.

At the time, pharmacies in the sleepy capital of Australia’s scarcely populated Northern Territory were mainly small retail outlets where locals travel long distances just to fill their prescriptions.

In larger healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics and aged-care facilities, medicine dispensing is still mostly done manually.

These had presented opportunities for Lim to set his pharmacy apart with unique products and services, which include personalised counselling for walk-in customers, home medicine services, and education seminars on health and wellness.

“We have also introduced an electronic medication management system in an aged-care facility, which improves nurses’ efficiency and patient safety when medication is administered to elderly patients,” says Lim.

Small beginnings, huge impact

Lim’s Country Wellness Pharmacy group, which started out with a retail pharmacy called Save Mart Pharmacy in Darwin’s Winnellie Shopping centre in 2012, is now headquartered in Sydney and runs two pharmacies – its first one in Darwin and another, called Selina Street Pharmacy, in Brisbane.

“We are also going to open another four pharmacies – two in Adelaide and two in Darwin by the end of this year,” says Lim, who started the pharmacy when he was 28 years old.

Together with his two partners, Lim provides round the clock on-call consultation services to healthcare facilities and customers; and visits patients from remote areas to counsel them on their medications.

These services are particularly important to the indigenous people in Darwin’s more remote areas, as they often have limited access to healthcare services and medication.

“In our training to become pharmacists, we go through culture-awareness programmes and are involved with the care of the community,” says Lim, who graduated from the University of South Australia in Adelaide.

Making Malaysia proud

Lim and his partners Tan Tee Han and Marcus Leong’s contributions to improve pharmacy services in Darwin has recently won over judges at the 2014 Telstra Northern Territory Business Awards in the Start-Up category.

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Lim was thrilled when Country Wellness Pharmacy went on to win the national-level 2014 Telstra Australian Start-Up Business of the Year in August (pic), as it was a remarkable and meaningful achievement for him, who came from humble beginnings and dreamed of becoming a pharmacist since he was 13.

His parents, who run a fish stall at a nearby market, would always remind him of the importance of studying and working hard.

“The first time I said ‘thank you’ to my father was on my graduation day,” he says.

“Because if my parents hadn’t been so strict with me when I was young, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Entrepreneurial advice

As a Malaysian who speaks English, Mandarin and Bahasa Malaysia, Lim felt the mastery of three languages has helped him in many occasions – especially when it comes to communicating with potential partners from markets that speak those languages.

“I am confident that all Malaysians have the business capabilities they need to succeed in foreign markets.

“They just have to be confident in their abilities, and be willing to work hard,” says Lim, who admits that many Malaysians may lack confidence when it comes to entrepreneurial pursuits.

Lim’s ambitions for the Country Wellness Pharmacy group include entering into the medical centre and healthcare facility segment in the near future.

While some may think that it is a tall order for a relatively small start-up, Lim is not fazed.

His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is simple: “Be confident, do not give up, and just do it. If you don’t try, obviously you would fail,” he says.

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