Singaporean

Turning COVID-19 Into An Opportunity: Here Are 6 S’pore Bizs Started By Grounded Airline Crew

Air travel came to a standstill and many airline crew members who were once soaring above the clouds found themselves grounded.

On top of that, their salaries were cut by up to 70 per cent and many of them went on no-pay leave.

While some have been deployed to work as safe-distancing ambassadors or healthcare workers at hospitals, what is interesting to note is that some of them have started their own businesses.

Turning crises into opportunities, here are 6 airline cabin crew turned entrepreneurs and their businesses.

Baker’s Lab By Joanne Tan

Kueh Salat and scones
Kueh Salat and scones / Image Credit: Baker’s Lab

After 20 years in the service industry, 40-year-old air stewardess and single mum Joanne Tan found herself grounded from flying.

She also finalised her divorce in March and has two sons — a 10 and 8-year-old.

She often finds respite from baking and sharing her baked goods with family members and friends.

Upon encouragement from them, she decided to open her own home business.

On September 18, she established Baker’s Lab, offering an unexpected pair of teatime confections — Kueh Salat and scones — baked freshly from her Pasir Ris HDB flat.

According to their Facebook post, they have a current waiting list of 100 customers — proving that they are in high demand.

Butteria By Amy Syireen Marican

Amy Syireen Marican
Image Credit: Amy Syireen Marican

22-year-old Amy Syireen Marican used to fly to “different countries every four or five days”. When Covid-19 struck, she had, at most, two flights a month.

The pandemic forced her to pursue her newfound passion for baking.

Prior to that, she shared that she only baked once and it was a “major fail”.

Her experience as an air stewardess influenced the first thing she attempted to bake during the circuit breaker period: Cookies.

Butteria
Image Credit: Butteria

She wanted to recreate the chocolatey stuffed cookies she had from one of her previous work trips to the United States.

In the midst of the circuit breaker period in May 2020, she started Butteria, her own home-based business selling baked goods. She received “more orders than she expected” at her first bake sale.

Subsequently, she has sold out her bake sales and sees repeat customers.

She has since ventured into other bakes such as donut bombs, Choux au craquelin and eclairs.

Auto Xthetics – Kenny Tay

For pilot Kenny Tay, his career has been in limbo after he left SilkAir in January to join a budget airline in January.

He then started his own mobile car-grooming business, Auto Xthetics. He had also signed up with Lalamove to provide transport services.

Auto Xthetics
Image Credit: Auto Xthetics

“I have always been interested in car grooming so I bought a 10-year-old van for $30,000 and started my business,” said Kenny, in an interview with The Straits Times.

His car-grooming packages start from S$338 for a standard package and the services range from car waxing to car detailing.

Kevin Khoo Bistro

Co-founder of Kevin Khoo Bistro, Ruben, previously worked as a cabin crew with SIA for over 10 years, before leaving a few years back to pursue entrepreneurship.

During the circuit breaker, 38-year-old Ruben started the Facebook group Cabin Crew United with six other current/former cabin crew and business owners.

He built a community of more than 2,100 aviation related members who used the group to “come together to find support, share memories, and have a good laugh.”

Elliot Chia, a business owner and a long-time friend of Ruben had the idea to open a bistro to help cabin crew who were displaced, providing them with employment as they transitioned into new careers.

If you were wondering whether “Kevin Khoo” is one of the founders of the restaurant, he in fact does not exist. The name is actually a wordplay on “cabin crew”.

The two decided to collaborate and open Kevin Khoo Bistro, after just a month of planning, the restaurant had its soft launch in September.

The duo invested approximately S$150,000 into the venture. Currently, 80 per cent of its staff are current or former cabin crew.

The menu mainly consists of a collection of food items the crew enjoyed when visiting various destinations while flying with the airlines.

4896.store – Darius Lai

Just like his counterparts in other airlines, cabin crew of a regional airline, Darius Lai found himself with a lot of free time as there were “little to no flights” for them.

He started doing food deliveries for foodpanda to sustain his livelihood.

In August, he decided to start an online business on online marketplace Carousell with a co-partner, reselling electronics for some passive income.

Carousell
Screengrab from Carousell

Initially, they would buy bundles and individual items from online auctions at a low cost and resell them on their Carousell store.

After a month or so, they started to invest in “Amazon return electronic pallets” with which they would purchase from a third-party supplier. The items in the pallets would be random and “like some sort of a mystery bundle”.

Darius said that they would then unload the items into their homes and do quality checks on them to ensure they are in working condition before listing them on Carousell for sale.

Darius shared that since August, the business has been raking in an average monthly revenue of S$3,000.

Thai Tea Singapore – Medina

Prior to April this year, air stewardess Medina was jetting around the world.

Born and raised in Thailand, she came to Singapore just four years ago to work for a major international airline.

Medina
Image Credit: Medina

However, at the height of Covid-19, she found herself flying lesser and lesser as air travel came to a standstill.

With the free time she had, she started her own business Thait.sg, from her kitchen.

Being Thai, selling Thai milk tea came naturally to her as she grew up drinking the beverage and she reckoned Singaporeans who miss travelling to Thailand would appreciate it as well.

Thai milk tea and thai tea crepe cake
Image Credit: Thait.sg

A friend had posted an image of the Thai tea crepe cake she made and this sparked Medina that the cake could be a good complementary product to her Thai tea drink.

As a result, she began learning how to make it herself by trying out numerous online recipes.

Today, the Thai tea crepe cake has surpassed the Thai milk tea, becoming Thait.sg’s best-selling item.

Turning Crises Into Business Opportunities

Airline crew are among the hardest hit by the virus outbreak and have been forced to turn to gig and part-time work as they see their salaries slashed by up to 70 per cent.

These individuals are examples of how we can look for other streams of income despite facing a slump.

Some airlines have relaxed their rules to allow cabin crew to seek part-time or temporary jobs during this period, making it possible for these grounded staff to find other means of survival.

Some of these businesses are very well-received and these airline-crew-turned-entrepreneurs are even planning to continue operating their businesses on a smaller scale alongside their jobs when travel reopens.

Featured Image Credit: Butteria / Baker’s Lab / Thait.sg

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