Lee Thiam Wah

99 Speed Mart Sdn Bhd

Wheelchair-bound and with only six years of primary education, Lee Thiam Wah started out in business selling snacks by the roadside. Eventually, by the age of 23, he saved RM17,000 to start a sundry shop, which kick-started his career in the retail industry. In 1992, Lee sold the business off for RM38,000 and opened a 99 mini-market, representing the very first step Lee took to realize his vision of building an integrated chain of mini-marts. In 2000, Lee rebranded the name of his store to 99 Speedmart. Over the span of 22 years, Lee has since established 738 outlets (as of 7 June 2015), with an annual revenue of RM2.62 billion.

Lee places emphasis on conducting business in the most ethical manner, being consumer-centric and supplying daily-use products at reasonable prices. In recognition of his efforts in this area, Lee was awarded the Outstanding Entrepreneur award in 2014 by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (KLSCCCI) and the Outstanding Entrepreneurship award 2014 by Asia Pacific Enterprise Asia (APEA). 99 Speedmart was also awarded the Consumer Choice Award from 2006 to 2009 and in 2012; as well as the “Kedai Harga Patut” award in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Undeterred by his physical disability, lack of higher education and inability to speak English, Lee worked harder than anyone else and used whatever resources he had to build something for himself, his family and his community. His constant advice to employees and friends is to “Strive for perfection (99 marks), knowing there is always room for improvement.”

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Malaysia

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Anne Tham