Entrepreneur

It Began At Geylang Serai 3 Yrs Ago - 169 Pop Ups Later, They Finally Have Their Own Shop

Have you ever tried Loco Loco churros before?

A friendly face at pasar malams (night markets), they’ve won the hearts of many with their savoury Chili Crab and sweet Pandan flavours.

Along with their Scotch Eggs, Loco Loco never fails to please social media feeds.

But there is a lesser-known fact about this young brand.

They now have a shop as well – and it’s officially open for business.

Churros @ Northpoint

Loco Loco’s famed churros took over Northpoint on Sunday (June 18) when they had their official soft launch. The menu will be more extensive than what you find at their bazaars, but prices will be about the same.

Their opening promotion will be 1-for-1 Churros (N/A with sets or churros platter) on 25 & 26 June 2017, from 12pm to 7pm.

Soft launch / Image Credit: Loco Loco Facebook
Soft launch / Image Credit: Loco Loco Facebook
Crystal handing out sample cups / Image Credit: Loco Loco Facebook

The Churro Story

Loco Loco was inspired by a trip to Spain, where co-founder Crystal Cheng witnessed the different ways locals enjoyed the snack. It led her to wonder, how interesting would it be in local flavours?

It was a question she decided to embark on with long-term friend Tan Zi Yao.

In 2o13, Crystal was already involved in Bakes & Craft selling pastries she learnt how to make from YouTube. Competition was stiff however, so she decided to pivot to Loco Loco instead.

“It wasn’t difficult as the Bakes & Crafts branding wasn’t strong, and people remembered our Churros by colour.”

“We began with Pandan Churros in 2015, Salted Egg Yolk Churros in 2016 and for 2017, we have Chilli Crab Churros.”

From left to right, Chilli Crab, Original, Oreo, Ondeh Ondeh / Image Credit: Loco Loco Facebook

“Zi Yao and I travel yearly to relax and get inspirationThen we’d bring the fryer home and cook.”

“The entire house would end up greasy and smelly, so I try to do it when no one is home,” she adds with a sheepish laugh.

169 And Counting

Instead of jumping into a brick-and-mortar space, they decided to set up shop at pasar malams and pop-ups.

Since then, they have participated in 169 events. 

This includes Chinese New Year and Geylang Serai bazaars, Artbox, food expos as well as private events.

Image Credit: Loco Loco

This way, they had no fixed costs or overheads, and it allowed them to shut down if they weren’t profiting.

“We absorbed [losses] as marketing costs. [This model also] increased our brand awareness and enabled collaboration opportunities at private events.”

But breaking into pasar malams was easier said than done, and their stage – the 2015 Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar – was one of their first and biggest gambles.

“I had never patronised pasar malams, but Zi Yao wanted to try as the bazaar is a huge event.”

“Discussion was intense as rental was $12,000. Also, it was a whole month of commitment and we had never sold churros before [but] in the end, we decided to try it.”

Co-founder Crystal Cheng / Image Credit: Crystal Cheng

Their novel creations received an unexpected amount of media coverage, which was good news.

However, as crowds grew, their inexperience reared its ugly head. They still made a profit, but “were frequently scolded for being slow or unprepared.”

“We’ve grew from it and now have a waiting time of under 10 mins.”

Their small team works extensively, sometimes even running concurrent events every 16 days. This ensures that their part-timers always have a job.

A Student Of Entrepreneurship 

While Zi Yao quits his accounting job in 2015, Crystal is currently a second-year Business Management student at SMU.

Despite her strong grades, juggling roles has not been easy.

“I lack family support as [they prefer I complete my education first]. There’s a bit of struggle between what I want to do, and what I have to do.”

Although her degree does provide a safety net, it is just a piece of paper at the end of the day.

“I don’t spend a lot of time mugging [but] I try to absorb as much as I can as it’s all very applicable to my business.”

Her education has also benefitted tremendously in other ways, such as with SMU Eagles Inc where she serves as PR Director.

“I enjoy participating in events as I get to learn from entrepreneur peers. It has definitely opened many doors typical academic platforms hasn’t.”

Finding A Home

With careful money management, the co-founders finally managed to secure a dedicated space.

They did underestimate the hidden costs, and this led to struggles in the past weeks.

Four factors influenced their decision, she shares.

A shop would help them scale and be taken seriously (large companies like Golden Village approached them, but their lack of a shop backfired on them). A permanent place also means secure jobs for staff, and is a means of showing gratitude to loyal and ardent customers.

Pre-opening setup / Image Credit: Crystal Cheng

“F&B is exhausting”, she muses, “but we’re glad that we started early.”

“They say 年轻就是本钱 (youth is money). That’s true, because we can afford to fail and try again. For anyone who’d like to try their own business, I say go for it.”

“We only regret the chances we didn’t take.

You can find Loco Loco at the Geylang Serai bazaar, or visit their new home at Northpoint at #B1-41.

Don’t forget to snag your 1-for-1 Churros on 25 & 26 June 2017, from 12pm to 7pm.

Featured Image Credit: Burrple, Loco Loco Facebook

 

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