He’s better known as one half of Sin Lee Foods, a coffeeshop that had been given new life as a cafe.
Known for their Fried Chicken and Waffles, Sin Lee embraced the cosy, rustic feel of the old coffeehouse with faded red brick walls and Chinese calendars.
Co-run by Sean Lim and his girlfriend Jerraldine Chen, the café was not any other new kid on the block – it was a renewal of Sin Lee Hup Kee coffeeshop, while at the same time retaining a sense of nostalgia about the place.
As of 26 Jun this year, Sin Lee Foods has closed, but the journey of F&B entrepreneurship has not come to an end for Sean and Jerraldine.
That lives on today as MOJO.
MOJO in The City
A joint venture between Sean and Jerraldine and Mediacorp artiste Shane Pow, MOJO is a dual-concept café along Telok Ayer Street.
Grain and protein meals by day and rice bowl Izakaya by night, Sean reveals that the brand has been an idea long in the making.
“Shane and I have been talking about doing something together since we first met on a Channel U variety show interviewing me and Sin Lee Foods.”
“When the Telok Ayer location surfaced, we did our feasibility study and realised there was gap in the fast and healthy food offering(s) here. So we decided on starting a grain and protein bowl concept by day.”
But the study also told them such meals don’t fare well at night, which gave rise to MOJO’s dual concept.
“The simple idea has proved to work well,” he reveals.
People get to enjoy healthy food, high traffic with low cheque size by day, before switching to indulgent, lower traffic and higher cheque size by night.
As working partners and shareholders, Sean shares that he’s in charge of the “entire concept, offerings, recipes, strategies, social media posts, marketing, investor relations, overall management as well as expansion”.
Meanwhile Shane manages media lobbying and engagement, and simultaneously assisting Sean in his roles alongside Jerraldine.
They invested almost $500,000 “but have not touched the entire sum”.
The brand didn’t take long to take off, seeing as they’ve been profitable since Month 1.
Given Shane’s reputation, the restaurant also sees plenty of celebrities coming and going.
“It does bring about a special feeling for local diners who get to say hello and take photos with them.”
Personally, Sean reveals that he maintains a neutral perspective. “Every diner is equally important so long as they are nice people.”
From Suburban To CBD
Being an experienced F&B entrepreneur with SLF definitely helped create MOJO, he shares.
“It definitely helped with the negotiation between the landlord and us. We knew what we wanted and how we had to structure the contract(s) to safeguard our interests in the long run.”
Supplies were easier to procure, he says, and they have been “very blessed to have good suppliers, namely Desmond Lee from Fresh Direct“.
But of course, there have also been new challenges running MOJO that SLF didn’t encounter, such as with MOJO’s conservation of a shophouse.
“SLF was a destination game and there weren’t any direct competitors [but] MOJO was a new kid on the block [with] experienced restaurateurs,” he muses.
But while SLF’s rental was lower, it was “more challenging to attract customers. We were very lucky that it did really well,” he says.
Meanwhile, CBD customer traffic is “strong during lunch due to the high demand and low supply but during dinners it is the opposite, and worse off during weekends”.
“Rental is definitely more challenging [for MOJO], thus active management and churning sales is imperative to our sustainability.”
It’s much more stressful, but they “stuck to their guns and rolled out game plans accordingly”.
Memories Of Sin Lee Foods
One of the best moments was when they introduced ‘The Real Salted Egg Burger’, leveraging on McDonald’s failed version – and their profit margins leaped from 20% to 40%.
“I have already been doing Salted Egg Sweet Potato Fries for 2 years, it only made sense to launch something related to a loved product at SLF.”
“It taught a simple lesson: the right product, good marketing and good delivery will bring unparalleled results,” he states in a resolute tone.
Is Sin Lee Foods dead?
No, Sean says.
“It was a tough decision to make but emotions aside, SLF did very well through its tenure and it was time to move forward. The brand is still owned by me and very much alive, we will eventually start again when the time is ripe.”
More MOJO To Come
They may be a relatively young brand, but they are already planning to open MOJO #2.
“If the stars align we will potentially [see it] early next year,” Sean comments.
“We will be streamlining its overall concept [to] ensure scalability [and] we also have franchise interests locally and in the region.”
As a chef and entrepreneur, SLF and MOJO has Sean a constant learner.
“[They] taught me a lot in terms of managing people, expectations and brand building. MOJO has opened many doors for me and I can only say it has been a great start and we are excited for what is to come.”
Rounding up the interview, Sean also kindly offered the first 5 diners 10% off when they flash this post at MOJO for dinner.
So if you’re looking to having some MOJO for dinner, here’s their address:
204 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068640
Featured Image Credit: Sean Lim