Gone are the days when younger Singaporeans opening up cafes in hipster areas were the flavour of the month – there’s now a new breed that opts, instead, to set up shop in the less glamourous hawker centres and coffee shops.
Cue the rise of the term ‘hawkerpreneur’ – a combination of the 2 words we’re familiar with – ‘hawker’ and ‘entrepreneur’.
Of course, it can be argued that hawkers were, all the while, ‘entrepreneurs’, but this new generation brings them with fresh ideas to rekindle our hawker culture – from novel flavours, to novel ways of running an F&B business.
Today’s story is about the duo behind Woon Woon Pek Beehoon at Changi Village Food Centre.
Garnering rave reviews from food bloggers and foodies alike, their popularity is evident from the long queues of customers waiting eagerly for their bowls of seafood and beehoon in hearty soup.
Not bad, for a store that’s barely a year old.
And another fun fact?
It was actually started up by a pair of business partners, Javien (34) and Reece (36), who ditched their corporate careers for F&B.
“A Calculated Risk Worth Taking”
Having been business partners for the past 10 years which saw them managing various marketing companies and beauty/spa services, their decision to venture into F&B stemmed from both logical and emotional reasons.
Logically, they foresaw a downturn in the economy, and thus chose to go into a more recession-proof industry.
For the latter reason, it was their longtime passion for F&B that led them to make the leap.
Shared Javien in an interview with us, “We’ve always wanted to venture into F&B business as it is our passion. With a good mentor, a close-knit team and a positive mindset, we would like to think of it as a calculated risk worth taking.”
With that, they sold all their companies and dove straight into setting up Woon Woon Pek Beehoon – their first F&B venture.
Recruiting An A-Team
Not culinary-trained themselves, the duo then moved swiftly into the recruitment of the chefs that would helm the woks – with Reece’s father, a chef with 52 years of experience under his belt, as their mentor.
“All our chefs has been carefully selected. They used to be working in reputable Chinese restaurants and have a wealth of experience. [It was] through Reece’s father’s network that we managed to hire more of such chefs.”
But why a hawker centre, as compared to an air-conditioned location?
Javien explains, “The capex (capital expenditure) is lower, and the vast shared seating area in a hawker centre does not limit the amount of customers we serve at any one time.”
“Also, we felt that it’s right to start off on a smaller scale and expand when the business is more viable.”
“Suppliers Were Unwilling To Deliver The Stocks”
Opening their shutters on July 2016, Javien admitted that business was slow at first as they were still getting used to the flow of the daily operations.
Getting a trustworthy supplier for the fresh seafood was also a challenge, especially because they were newcomers in the market and demand for their beehoon was still low.
“We were unable to meet the MOQ (minimum order quantity) and the suppliers were unwilling to deliver the stocks, so we had to do our own daily marketing early in the morning at 5am.”
But given that Singaporeans are a nation of foodies, their value for money (a common mention in reviews) and delicious offerings quickly caught the attention of food blogs and publications, giving the shop a huge boost in business.
Javien cites their quick rise in popularity to the fact that their seafood aren’t just “good quality and fresh”, there’s also a high regard for ensuring that each place is consistent.
Opening Their Second Store – Fresh Generation
Riding on the success of their first-ever F&B venture, the duo opened their second store, Fresh Generation seafood soup in Bukit Timah in March this year.
Similar in the way to Woon Woon given that both use copious amounts of seafood, it has also been receiving positive reviews online for its fresh ingredients, hearty soup stock, and generous quantity.
And the team doesn’t plan on stopping there, Javien revealing that they “are always on the lookout for good sites to expand our business.”
They are currently looking to explore another site in the northern part of Singapore, and are also planning to improve and expand their menu.
Just The Beginning
Relatively new to the F&B scene, the duo has more than succeeded in establishing their brand within a short span of time.
I asked Javien what piece of advice he’d give aspiring entrepreneurs (regardless of whether they’re doing F&B or not), given that he already has over a decade of business experience.
“Be ready to work…really hard! Be involved and hands-on in the daily operations to fully understand the business inside out.”
And their most fulfilling moment to date?
“When a happy customer gives us two thumbs up!”
Woon Woon Pek Beehoon
2 Changi Village Road
#01-52 Changi Village Hawker Centre
51 Upper Bukit Timah Road
#02-164 Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre