Name: Lee Hwai Bin
Company Name: Binchi Creamery Pte Ltd
How did you go about creating our own unique brand?
This is an easy question for me to tackle. My sister is the free-spirited of us both, with a penchant for cooking and experimenting. I was initially shocked with her decision to break away from the conventional and enroll herself in Caripigiani Gelato University. When I realized she was serious about the course, I quickly embraced the idea and even got excited at the prospect of visiting Italy with my sister, prior to her embarking on the gelato course.
The venture would not have taken off, had it not been for my sister. She returned, refreshed, excited and full of ideas. Going into business is not new for her, and she was already seasoned, having been the person behind the recipes for the special sauces used in Chong Qing Grilled Fish and Fat Bird.
Upon her return, she scouted the local frozen yogurt scene, namely cafes and frozen yogurt shops offering gelato, and felt that there was a demand for frozen yoghurt. She also considered if premix should be used, but decided that she wanted to maintain her originality, integrity and instincts for the offerings – hence, our investment in a Telme TermoCrema (cream cooker) housed in the store.
For me, Yoghart’s uniqueness lies in the blend and ability to constantly reinvent our offerings. My sister personifies Yoğart, she is humble, personable and original, with a different point of view. My role is really to support her in her passion and the business.
Tell us about your biggest business challenge & how you overcame it?
Business is hard work – more so, in the F&B industry. The current economic climate is particularly challenging, with many shops suffering a closure even before the 1 year mark. The important take away from this, is to go in with your eyes open, understand the risks and the hard work and time involved. Perseverance, resilience and the ability to keep afloat is, I believe, the biggest challenge facing any young start-up. Anyone going into business must understand that it is not a walk in the park – long and hard hours must be dedicated so the business can bear fruits. It helps if one is passionate about the products/offerings, so much so that the work becomes less of a chore.
My advice for overcoming this challenge is to know and understand your business and each partner’s key roles, so that expectations can be managed. My sister and I had our roles clearly defined from the start: my sister would be the visionary, and head chef – she is basically Yogart Singapore’ heart and soul. She mastered the machines, developed the frozen yogurt recipe, sourced for ingredients and basically called the shots on the shop’s look and branding. In between my busy schedule as a lawyer, I would help out by managing the brand’s story, getting our voice heard and helping out in the administrative matters. I also jump in to help with events, and proudly hold a basic food hygiene certificate.
We have managed to stay strong, due in part to our close relationship, and unstinting support from family and friends.
What are the challenges that you faced as a woman in the F&B business?
I do not believe the F&B industry is defined or dominated by any one gender. There are certainly equal opportunities out there for a man or woman. That also means that challenges faced by us as women, would equally be experienced by our male counterparts.
But if I were to put my finger on one challenge (as a woman), it would be I’d say, managing emotions. As women, we tend to be more emotional than men, just because we are built that way. That may not necessarily be a bad thing – women tend to be intuitive because of these emotions, we tend to hear and adjust; we try to exemplify perfection. That may also mean, we are easily distracted and swayed.
I believe my training as a lawyer has helped, in that I am able to compartmentalise, take a step back and apply objective reasoning when tackling issues. I also recognise that my outlook is perhaps tempered, as a result of my being a female lawyer in a male dominated industry (construction). Perhaps that is why I don’t see being female as an obstacle in the F&B business.
What have you got to say about balancing life and work?
One would have thought a business, in addition to holding down a full-time job would spell the end of life!
Quite the reverse, Yoğart has injected new life into my otherwise stable and steady lifestyle as a lawyer. I basically treat Yoğart as our playground. It is my time away from work, and my time to be with my twin sister. We are having to constantly push beyond our comforts – meet new people, learn new things like photography or editing photographs and dabble with social media and public relations. Because we are in the F&B business, we also have to learn to be fluid and relevant, which means we need to be aware of new trends. Embarking on this venture with my sister as my partner- in-crime, is a huge bonus.
What is your best advice for budding female entrepreneurs?
Stay true to yourself, and find a good, understanding and supportive partner in business!