I never like the word "Entrepreneur" especially when it is sound like such a glorified term..
People whom I met always say "Wow, Jayce. You're really such an entrepreneur", when they know about my multiple businesses.
The truth is, nobody likes to hustle and work so hard. Everyone is born lazy, and who will be in the right mind to hustle at the age of 12?
When I was 12, the financial crisis hit and my dad as the sole breadwinner was unfortunately also affected as well. So I was determined to help out and start earning money for the family. I remember sitting on my bed, flipping through classified ads and calling everyone up but got rejected as I was too young.
I decided to surf the net, stumbled upon eBay and Yahoo! Auctions, in those days, there was no such things as online shopping.
I signed up for a free account, which I am still using it now, and listed my first product for sale - A Star Wars toy I won in some contest. And pocketed $8 profit! It was a huge deal for me back then.
Then when I was 17, I started to ship in beauty tools and products from Japan and Taiwan. As me and my friends were addicted to a Taiwan variety show called "Nu Ren Wo Zui Da" and the products recommended were not available in SG! So I thought, hmm, with my limited Japanese, why not try and source for it. I started to sell online too.
I also started giving tuition to primary and secondary school kids while trying to strike a balance with school work.
Soon after, I dabbled in many things such as accessories and clothing where I had customers all the way from Russia, Iceland and Sweden buying from me. And I was so amazed that I managed to reach them!
I do not have wealthy parents nor inheritance from grandparents etc, so all my start-up capital are kept to a minimal of not even $500.
I have to learn everything from scratch such as website coding, photoshop, logistics, design, sourcing, online marketing, government regulations etc. This really saved a lot of my initial start-up costs.
How I wish I can put all these into words. But it was really not easy at all.
Everything have to be hands on, everything have to be sourced as cheaply as possible without compromising on quality. I also have to learn to budget the costs and my expenses.
This was an accidental business as I initially wanted to smoke for my friends and family. But everyone got sick of eating smoked meats every week so I decided to try and sell them from my backyard!
I actually came up with the name SGBrisketKitchen in less than 5 mins because I thought it rhymes pretty well with SGPolishChicken, which is my other account on keeping pet polish chickens in Singapore.
I first started off with a 2nd hand 18" Weber Kettle, which was a big upgrade from my 14" where I have to grill on the floor. And slowly upgraded to a 14" WSM (Weber Smokey Mountain), and 18" WSM. All are used equipment that I found on Carousell due to my tight budget.
The only brand new item I bought during this period was an offset smoker from Taobao which cost $90. It was terribly flimsy but a huge deal for me as it is my 1st offset smoker, and the only one which I could afford.
I've already busted my $500 start-up capital cost I gave myself when I was in my teens as the briskets are really expensive.
It was an interesting experience because I wanted to prove to myself that I don't necessary require expensive equipment to smoke good meats! This $90 offset smoker actually smoked more than 30 full packer briskets before I upgraded it.
However it does come with its cons - Can only fit 1 full-packer brisket. Temperature unstable due to its low quality metal and so I have to constantly adjust the temps, and you can imagine the panic when it starts to rain.
I basically am totally drenched when I smoke during rainy days.
I really feel this is real life computer games where you have to start off with buying cheap equipment, work, earn and use the money for upgrades.
And I always set my eyes on the next "dream" equipment or item I want, and slowly work towards it.
LAUNCH DAY - ALL SOLD IN 1 MIN!
I am glad that with my previous experience, I can easily create a website with e-commerce capabilities in less than 4 hours. However, my first launch was really terrible in a good way. Website crashed in the first 10 seconds because of traffic overload!
And soon everything were sold out, every single gram of meat, SOLD OUT IN UNDER 1 MIN!
It was really humbling and crazy for me. I kept asking myself OMG, Who am I to deserve this?!
I am not even a trained chef, or someone renowned in the F&B scene, I am just a nobody who smoke meats from her backyard!
I started to expand my capacity with the above smokers mentioned, and double it, tripled it, but yet I am selling out every Tuesday at 10pm, all within 2 or 3 mins max.
Strangers actually camped for it and set their calendar reminders at 10pm for the launch.
It was really really crazy and I am always shaking at 9.59pm every Tuesday, because I am afraid that the website may crash again or maybe, nobody want to buy these meats anymore.
MOVING TO COMMERCIAL KITCHEN
Ever since I started this business, from Day One, I am well aware that I want to move this business to a commercial kitchen. First, I do not have much space in my backyard, no full shelter and my kitchen at home is too small.
I always have to fight for freezer/chiller space with my mum! Although I bought 2 chest freezers but it is really an eye-sore to put so many equipments at home.
During my 4th month into this business, I decided it is time to look for a commercial space. And I managed to secure one within 2 weeks. This is my biggest expenditure of all but I am very proud to say that I did this on my own without securing any secondary funding!
This was the steepest learning curve for me too, apart from learning how to smoke meats.
The licensing and paperwork, movers etc, were really a huge headache! I had to learn what is single phase electricity, the types of sink faucets, the different grades of stainless steel!
I also took the opportunity to purchase my "dream" smoker, which was an offset Oklahoma Joe reverse smoker at $1,300. Many will say why your dream smoker? Its only $1.3k!
Ya, its only $1.3k but to me, it is a lot of money, considering the fact I bootstrapped all the way since I started.
But it made me realized how far I've came and at times, I really do envy people whose parents generously gave them $200k just to start their own businesses. I really do envy.
But friends will have to slap me awake and tell me look, you did this on your own!
With your own bare hands. Not from inheritance or parents. And yet being able to support them. Be proud of yourself and look at how far you've come!
I really do miss being able to smoke in the open air at my backyard. Sitting outside, enjoying the night breeze, looking at the stars and moons, and witnessing dew drops on the plants while the sun rises as another day begins.
Here, in my kitchen, its a tiny space, it can get unbearably hot and luckily I can pop into the walk-in freezer to cool myself down with a can of coke! lol
No quick naps or 4 showers a day as the location is quite a distance away from my house and travelling back and forth will take about 40 mins. And too risky as the fire need to be tended manually, and to add in the wood logs.
So I will have to be here, with my trusty laptop and work while I smoke the meats, clean etc.
But well, nothing is easy in life! 🙂
NOW, BACK TO THE TITLE - WHY I FIND "ENTREPRENEURSHIP" DIRTY?
There are many hardships and challenges that you do not see at all. Such as everything have to be at minimal cost, and thus, it means you got to do everything yourself!
For equipment, packaging, printing, this can get really tiring as you need to scour the internet for the cheapest suppliers and yet without compromising on quality.
My design skills are terrible tbh, I have to seek my illustrators friends for advice on the colour combinations I use, layout etc. And this again, takes time and patience. When I do not have inspiration, it can get really frustrating. This is where whisky comes in handy. LOL!
I can easily create e-commerce websites but I am not well versed in codings and server management. Thankfully, I have friends who are in the IT industry and they always help me sort out these issues that I have.
I also have to double the role as an accountant and people who know me, know I am terrible at math and Excel. Friends again, generously step in to help me out on this part as well.
This is the part I truly enjoy! But sometimes I will get mental block on content creation and have nothing to produce. And so will talk to friends and get them to give me more ideas!
Unfortunately, this is a pretty common thing I attract in most of my business ventures. People will imitate you, copy your writings, your photos, your marketing techniques or even your logo!
I even had a guy who came to my SGBrisketKitchen Instagram account to "hijack" my followers to his smoked meat account, liking all their photos and even offering to give free smoked meats. That really amuses me after I was told about this!
I am flattered that I attract these "cats" and further inspire and spur me on to go further and be on my toes with my creativity!
Never stay complacent and stagnant!
Can't avoid this part if you're in F&B. Physically wash and clean all the equipment, utensils, sinks, floor, etc.
LACK OF SLEEP
Having a full-time job means I can only do this during weekends, public holidays and after working hours. This is a huge sacrifice in this entrepreneurship journey. Especially for my smoking meats, it can easily take up more than 20 hours excluding cleaning/washing/packing hours.
With the long hours, my social life is also affected. Luckily friends and myself will always make an effort to compromise and arrange to meet up. We also chat on WhatsApp, Line and IG almost daily.
I do miss heading outdoors for my standup paddling, rollerblading sessions, going Muay Thai and BJJ. But now, I switch to quick sessions of longboarding or rollerblading in the carpark when I am smoking.
STRESS & PRESSURE
There is a growing pressure for discipline as this is a business now. No longer a weekend hobby that I can smoke anytime I want. I have bills to pay. I have salary to pay for my staffs. And I am still not drawing a salary from this business. When sales are down, you will worry if you have enough funds to pay for overheads such as rental and salary.
I am always casting tons of self-doubts on myself, like I am always never good enough, and how can I survive this journey. I still have no idea how to, but I do know that I have a solid team of friends behind me that cheer me on, kick my butt and slap me whenever I start to drown myself in such thoughts.
"Life is never fair, never easy.
I am, however grateful for what I have now, and will make full use of it!
Be proud of how far you've come along and being able to look back with a clear conscience."
Hope you enjoy reading this article.
Lots of love,