Ahh .. bittersweet reminiscence.
To my dear friends of Shrove Tuesday,
Starting from today, Shrove Tuesday is no longer my entity nor my partners'. We have sold the company to a young adventurous chap whom I hope can bring it to greater heights.
Looking back unto the past 4 years, my family and I have spent pretty much of our lives revolving around this humble little cafe. We have learned and grew a lot together as a family and business partners. Like an anchor, it drew us closer to one another and I am extremely grateful to be blessed with such a precious moment in time.
What a journey it has been!
We built this cafe from scratch. And when I say from scratch, I meant that we painted our own walls, nailed the wooden floor boards together, fixed our own lighting and even crafted our own furniture.
This cafe had been the result of our sweat and blood - literally.
Shrove Tuesday have been featured on multiple publications. 8 Days gave us a 2 page cover, the Chinese News Paper Lianhe Zhao Bao wrote about us a couple of times. Even celebrities from Mediacorp popped by to film in our shop from time to time. We had our fair share of spotlight and that made us feel extremely proud.
I even had an exclusive interview with 财经追击 (Money Week) - my first appearance on TV!
Our crew was made up of young neighborhood teenagers and they are the best team I can possibly hoped for. Although rather hot-headed and temperamental at times, they are mostly also mature, reliable and extremely fun to work with.
These are the same people that filled my days with joy and laughter and I am happy many of us remain as friends up till today.
Okay .. so what happened?
Lack of experience is what happened.
Business was doing okay, we are above waters. Comparing to the scary statistics of new cafes opening and closing in a span of less than 1 year, we considered ourselves very lucky. In fact, we are racking in some decent profits during the first couple of years and is still surviving up till today! (Oh yes, the entity is sold but the brand and business lives on)
However, like most young cafe owners, we over romanticized our dream. Without a proper mentors, no one was there to give us a reality check. We pumped in so much capital that a return on investment looked like a faraway dream. We began investing in new and expensive equipment the moment we had a little excess cash, thinking that they will help us save or make more profits. We started to shift our direction and craft ideas that are more profit driven than customer driven. To name a few pitfalls is only to scratch the tip of an iceberg.
At first, we thought that everything will be okay. This is self-denial. Before we know it, we are trapped in an endless cycle of chasing numbers.
I do not sugar coat words.
We tried our best but failed in making a successful brand. I measure success through accomplishments from goal setting. We set our sights on 4 outlets in 2 years and breaking even in 1 year.
None of that happened.
But in retrospective, what we have lost, we have gained in return from friendship, knowledge, business acumen and networks far surpassed what can be bought from highly acclaimed establishments. No schools could have taught us a better lesson than real life experience.
Perhaps failure is only a justification given for an action or belief.
Indeed, time and money well spent.
A personal stepping stone
During my second year running Shrove Tuesday, I was approached by a man who ended up being my good friend and mentor.
His name is Paul Harrison (Hi Paul! I'm sure you will read this). We met in a pub and became acquaintance over a song because my friends wouldn't sing it with me. He told me he was going to be the COO of an amazing company. I didn't believe him but did the perfunctory of listening anyway.
(Don't blame me man. You were in your flowery Hawaiian Shirt and berms. That's not the right outfit for convincing someone.)
We exchanged LinkedIn contacts thinking that will be the end of it. Low and behold, this fella with his team of Caucasian bosses turned up in my little cafe eating waffles and drinking coffee.
They were looking for someone young and idealistic to set up a chain store for them. This person must have a little knowledge in all functions and I fit the bill.
Shrove Tuesday had prepped me properly for this moment.
I needed some change. And this is a golden opportunity for me to widen my horizon and acquire some essential skills.
I was offered a job to be the Country Manager of Joe & the Juice in Singapore and Hong Kong and I took it up immediately.
What occured in the next 22 months was rough but exceedingly rewarding. The company flew me to Denmark to train with the top management for 10 weeks. We returned to Singapore and opened the first outlet immediately. In the next 15 months, we opened on average one new outlet every 3 months across Singapore and Hong Kong.
I am forced to looked at numbers (something I detest) and worked even more closely with contractors, suppliers, staffs, landlords, you name it.
I have never felt so pressured in my life. It is like a mental military training camp. There are months when I have to work 70-80 hours weekly just to make sure that deadlines are met.
My aim is to "graduate" after I opened my 6th outlet. And I am very happy to say that I have accomplished what I have set out to do.
Shrove Tuesday and beyond!
Without Shrove Tuesday, Joe & the Juice would not have happened for me.
I took a long break after my rigorous stint at Joe and decided to shift my focus back onto my own business. Even though all of us hold a full time job, we continued to slog in our cafe during evenings and weekends.
Shrove Tuesday has been neglected for almost 2 years now. We are very lucky that it has survived at all. Kudos to my partners who took charge of the back-end of business while I was away. And a even greater thank you to the best employee, manager and friend.
Her name was Jacqueline and she stood by us for 3 solid years. Seldom do I come across anyone more reliable, hardworking and cheerful than her. This is a special shout-out to you.
Another shout-out to Reese, who is always so selfless and hardworking. This man is truly a gem in our Shrove family and diamonds like him is hard to come by.
And finally, to my mom who is ever supportive in whatever we do. Thank you for all the love and hard work you have selflessly given to us.
It was also during this time of rest that I have decided to start King's Cart Coffee.
With the skills I have learned, network I have acquired and knowledge of numbers in my hands, I have decided that it might have been a better choice for me to start afresh than to revamp the business altogether.
Letting go was never easy. But as such with life, change remain, and will always be the only constant.
And I hope that those who had supported me at Shrove Tuesday, will continue to shower support to the guy who is set to make my brand a better one.
Meanwhile, I'm off to my next adventure!