Eating Tuna On Toast 7 Days A Week

Gavin Lau & Greg_2
Gavin Lau & Greg

Situated on the south-western coast of Malaysia, Muar was voted one of the cleanest cities in South East Asia in 2017. This is where Gavin Lau, current owner/partner of Guardian Pharmacy Wellers Hill Tarrigindi, a suburb of Brisbane, was born. Being the youngest of a family with five siblings, including one brother and three sisters, he did his schooling in Muar then moved to Klang, two and a half hours from home, and just 50 minutes from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, where he enrolled in the pharmacy degree at SIT International College.

The College offers a cost-efficient training program. Upon achieving a certain level of proficiency, students were permitted to finish their education at participating universities abroad. Halfway through his studies in Klang, Gavin applied to Adelaide Uni to complete the rest of his degree. He was accepted and, in 2007, at the age of 22, he flew to Australia to continue his studies.

He lived on campus at both universities, surviving on tuna and toast he says. His drive and goal from a very young age was to save money to become totally independent. He had a dream of becoming a professional in a field where he could help others and eventually own his own business. None of his family members had similar aspirations or goals. But he did. And he was determined to succeed. Even if it meant eating tuna on toast 7 days a week.

A pharmacist friend of his from Malaysia had also relocated to Australia where he lived and worked in Darwin. He encouraged Gavin to do his internship there. It was closer to Malaysia with an easy 4 hour flight for family visits. So, he applied to Chemist Warehouse in Darwin and got the job. He mistakenly thought the climate would be similar, but he was in for a bit of a shock. During the rainy season you can cut the humidity up there with a knife! Way more humid than Malaysia.

At Chemist Warehouse he was required to do all sorts of tasks. The trucks would arrive with supplies and offload the pallets outside in the loading area.  He was required to mark the stock off on the pallets before it was taken in-store. It was hot, tough work that left him dripping with perspiration. We had a good old chuckle when he recalled his glasses fogging up with humidity when unloading the pallets. THAT never happened in Malaysia.

But, it was an extremely valuable experience. He was acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to start his own business. He was on a steep learning curve. Doing all sorts of stuff at the pharmacy in Darwin helped him immensely and gave him a thorough understanding of the workings of running a pharmacy. After 4 years in Darwin he returned to Adelaide, to the state of temperature extremes. As we all know, one day can be hot as hell and the next day bloody freezing! There, he joined the Country Wellness Group, which was owned backed then by one of my clients, Boon Wei Lim. There, his knowledge of running a pharmacy grew exponentially.

In 2016, Gavin realised his dream and bought his first pharmacy. A Direct Chemist Outlet franchise near Brisbane Airport. In 2022 I sold Gavin his next pharmacy, Guardian Pharmacy Wellers Hill in Tarragindi, a suburb of Brisbane. He has since taken on a partner but plans to increase his pharmacy portfolio as the opportunities arise.

Gavin is married to his high school sweetheart, who is from the same town he was born in. They have two young daughters. Gavin is one of the nicest people I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with. Not only from a business perspective, but as a person. Which is no surprise. He lives by the teachings of his faith. He is an astute businessman who knows what he wants, but is always willing to work around an issue to find a solution. Which, let me tell you, invariably happens in this line of work! He is also an avid reader. When I asked him what he read, surprise, surprise, the answer was “motivational books”. There is no doubt whatsoever that the goals and dreams he set as a young man are well and truly being realised. And I also have no doubt he has made his family in Malaysia very proud!