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When Anna Ng and Isabel Lee first met on the Singapore Administration College (SMU) six years in the past, they instantly hit it off. Past simply being good associates, they’re now additionally enterprise companions with one another.

“We each share the identical ardour and curiosity in wholesome consuming and wholesome meals, and we had been at all times looking out for brand spanking new well being traits. We frequently paired with açaí bowls, however in 2016 there weren’t many choices and so they had been usually costly and never of the very best quality,” mentioned Isabel, co-founder of An Açaí Affair.

“We felt it was an awesome product that Singaporeans may get pleasure from, and it was a waste that not many individuals knew about it. Subsequently, we began An Açaí Affair with the purpose of constructing açaí bowls extra inexpensive and accessible to the lots.”

They began An Açaí Affair, which is now Singapore’s largest specialty açaí cafe, after they had been each nonetheless of their second yr of college. They ran it as a aspect hustle for the subsequent two years till they graduated in 2019.

Apart from internships, that they had no different company jobs, so working this firm is virtually their first full-time job.

Açaí was fairly unknown again then

Picture Credit score: An Açaí Affair

The truth that açaí wasn’t precisely common or trending after they began was a double-edged sword.

They needed to intensify schooling efforts about açaí and its well being advantages as a result of most Singaporeans weren’t conscious of it. In addition they needed to interrupt the stereotype that wholesome meals is boring or bland, as a result of açaí bowls are literally scrumptious superfoods.

Throughout our first yr or two, the principle battle was an absence of product information. There was lots to clarify and educate, however we had been very pleased that almost all Singaporeans had been open-minded and keen to do that new product.

I feel in the long run the product speaks for itself. Individuals hold coming again as a result of it is so scrumptious and refreshing and has so many well being advantages. We primarily use social media to extend model and product consciousness, however [also] he usually needed to stand exterior our shops and provides out free samples, discuss to potential prospects, reply their questions, and so forth.

– Isabel Lee, co-founder of An Açaí Affair

Sharing extra about açaí berries, Isabel defined that they originate from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. It’s a dense darkish purple berry that resembles a blueberry.

They’re wealthy in antioxidants and neutralize the damaging results of free radicals all through the physique and promote swish ageing. They’re additionally wealthy in nutritional vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium and beta-carotene, which promote wholesome hair, pores and skin, and nails.

To make sure freshness and high quality, they work straight with the native communities that harvest the açaí wild. In actual fact, their single-origin açaí berries are handpicked within the Cametá area of Pará, Brazil.

“We serve natural açaí within the purest and least diluted kind, freed from liquids/synthetic sweeteners. Which means our açaí bowls have one of many lowest ranges of energy and sugars per serving, making it even higher to your physique,” added Isabel.

Innovation is of their DNA

Elizabeth Lee Anna Ng A Romance With Acai Singapore
Isabel Lee (left) and Anna Ng (proper), co-founders of An Açaí Affair / Picture Credit score: An Açaí Affair

After they began in 2016, they solely had 4 variations of açaí bowls on the menu, however have since expanded their choices to 10.

Each co-founders work intently collectively within the analysis and improvement (R&D) means of their merchandise. They might conduct a number of style assessments and frequently modify it, earlier than finalizing their açaí mix.

The method is plenty of enjoyable as a result of we get to do plenty of style testing and experimentation with [different] flavors

We additionally always create new seasonal açaí bowls/menu gadgets primarily based on new meals traits and inspirations we get from totally different sources. Some examples are blue pea lychee sorbet and pear sorbet.

– Isabel Lee, co-founder of An Açaí Affair

He harassed that it was necessary for them to always innovate their menu in order that An Açai Affair can keep a robust worth proposition, which is to supply distinctive variations of açaí bowls that aren’t supplied anyplace else.

As such, they make a acutely aware effort to remain on high of meals traits to remain related, in addition to protected collaborations that excite shoppers.

These are simply a few of their enterprise methods that they adhere to with a view to stand out from the extremely saturated and aggressive meals and beverage trade in Singapore.

They broke even in simply eight months

However at age 20, how did the younger duo handle to get funding to get began?

We begin initially and spend round S$60,000 to S$70,000 on preliminary renovations, R&D and start-up prices. We each take a mortgage from our members of the family for the primary [investment]and fortuitously, we managed to interrupt even and pay them off after the primary eight months or so.

– Isabel Lee, co-founder of An Açaí Affair

Nevertheless, finance stays an enormous enterprise problem at the moment, particularly with prices on the rise. They should hold their costs inexpensive, cope with rising overhead prices and overcome labor shortages.

Regardless, enterprise development has at all times been good. In 2019, the co-founders, now 26, had been nominated for the Spirit of Enterprise Award within the Begin-up class, which honors younger entrepreneurs within the native enterprise scene, which gave them nice encouragement.

In the identical yr, it was additionally reported that their flagship retailer in Katong offered a mean of 150 bowls per day.

an acai affair singapore
Picture Credit score: An Açaí Affair

They opened their first outlet in Katong within the fourth quarter of 2016 and have persistently opened two to 4 new retailers from 2018 to 2022 (besides 2019). Its most up-to-date outlet openings are at Punggol and Robertson Quay, opening within the second half of this yr.

“Every new level of sale that we open is a superb milestone for us. After we began, we undoubtedly by no means anticipated it to develop to the place it’s at the moment: 12 retailers and counting!” Elizabeth mentioned.

When establishing new retailers, they make an effort to decide on an accessible and precedence location, equivalent to common malls and stretches of shops.

As they increase and open extra retailers, in addition they be certain to keep up their requirements, when it comes to meals, customer support, and enterprise operations.

In actual fact, An Açaí Affair has had some retailer closures on account of poor efficiency, such because the retailers at DUO and Telok Ayer. “[We] I’ve to take this in stride and transfer on,” Isabel mentioned, reflecting her ‘fail quick and transfer on’ mentality.

Sturdy development in supply orders throughout COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected most companies, notably these within the meals and beverage sector.

Happily, they weren’t too affected by the dine-in restrictions, as their enterprise is “very quick,” principally primarily based on takeout and supply orders.

“The one time we had been affected was in the course of the government-mandated closure of dessert retailers. [during the circuit breaker period]however fortunately most of our landlords had been fairly useful with lease reduction and refunds.

Throughout this lockdown interval, in addition they started to introduce island-wide supply and employed passengers and drivers whose jobs had been affected to ship their merchandise. On the identical time, in addition they quickly opened two cloud kitchens in Tampines and Clementi to raised handle their rising supply orders.

an acai affair singapore
Picture Credit score: An Açaí Affair

Over time, we now have steadily expanded together with the expansion of the açaí trade in Singapore. I’d say that increasingly Singaporeans are consuming açaí frequently and it has turn out to be a staple of their diets.

And people who do not eat it frequently have a minimum of heard of it, or tried it a minimum of as soon as. It is a very totally different scene in comparison with 5 years in the past, when in all probability just one or two in 10 Singaporeans have even heard of it.

– Isabel Lee, co-founder of An Açaí Affair

As An Açaí Affair continues to develop, the founders undoubtedly have abroad growth on their enterprise map. That is one thing they’ve been interested by even earlier than the pandemic hit.

“Now we have set our sights on international locations like Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, the place we undoubtedly have the potential to develop,” mentioned Isabel. “Anna and I are additionally always in search of different enterprise alternatives, [even beyond the F&B space].”

Featured Picture Credit score: An Açaí Affair


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These SMU grads invested S$70K to build An Açaí Affair at age 20

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