2 SMU Grads Invested $50K To Start A Mushroom Snack Biz

Crystal Cheng, 26, and Joshua Chan, 29, both studied at Singapore Management University (SMU).

They were classmates, but became very good friends due to the common interest in startups.

Before starting Edens Chips together, both were themselves founders of startups.

Crystal is the founder of churros start-up Loco Loco (but she has since sold the company’s stock), while Joshua is currently the co-founder of standing desk firm ErgoEdge.

After graduating from college, Crystal wanted to go into another business venture but cut it out due to family commitments and “pressure from typical Asian parents.”

She felt she needed a “good job” and ended up working as a Strategic Operations Specialist at GrabFood Singapore.

She loved her job, but also took on another activity focused on corporate food gifts, where she makes healthy snacks in sample packaging for business.

“When the lockdown started working from home gave me a lot more flexibility and when the government announced (support measures during) the budget I felt the (grants) were a very good opportunity to start working on my side full time, ”Crystal says.

She donned Joshua, and the two of them wereted no time in bringing the company to the mass market with their most popular food product – shiitake chips.

Sold over 100 packs in an hour

edens chips founders crystal cheng and joshua chan
Crystal Cheng (left) and Joshua Chan (right), co-founders of Eden Chips / Image credit: Edens Chips

Crystal and Joshua are both self-proclaimed mushroom lovers.

The duo felt that the mushroom is still commonly found in Asian dishes like braised mushroom and steamer. They wanted to make it more accessible by turning it into a snack so that consumers could snack on it anytime, anywhere.

In particular, a healthy, guilt-free snack.

“I’m not someone who has the discipline to go to the gym to exercise, or who has that determination to (eat) salad every day. I want to stay healthy with minimal effort, and the right snack choice helps me a lot, ”Crystal said with a laugh.

She explained that with the right choice of snacks, it can help avoid overeating during meals (which also means you won’t go into an eating coma later), and it keeps you productive during labor. (because snacks keep you awake).

According to Crystal, their Shiitake chips are “at least 30 percent lower in calories” compared to Mala or salted egg fish skin.

Plus, their chips are vacuum fried (fried over low heat), which helps preserve essential nutrients, she added.

At the launch, many former Crystal colleagues at GrabFood lent their support and they quickly sold over 100 packs in the first hour alone.

A company born during COVID-19

Despite the huge support, many also questioned whether it was the right decision to start a new business in these uncertain economic conditions.

Crystal acknowledged that COVID-19 presented them with business challenges.

With the COVID-19 restriction, the lack of an offline presence is the biggest challenge for us. After all, the best way to promote or sell food products is to provide free samples.

With COVID-19, there are no atrium events or exhibition halls, and the personal touch between us and the consumer is lacking at this time. Supply chain logistics prices have also increased, (hence) local and cross-border logistics is one of our main cost drivers.

– Crystal Cheng, co-founder of Eden Chips

However, she also felt that the pandemic offered them opportunities.

On the one hand, the government budget gave them financial support and, thanks to the SGUnited program, they were able to hire a small team to develop the business.

Plus, the boom in e-commerce during the breaker helped propel their sales. To date, they have sold over 10,000 packets of Shiitake crisps.

Crystal and Joshua had injected an initial capital of S $ 50,000 into the business, and every penny they earned has since been reinvested to be spent on inbound inventory and research and development of new flavors.

It’s only been four months since its inception, but Crystal is confident they can break even in early 2021.

Either way, cash flow remains a relevant issue for them.

For all commodity companies, cash is always the biggest issue, unless cash is never an issue to begin with.

The nature of having to buy inventory in advance and ensuring that our supply meets demand is the challenge we face today.

– Crystal Cheng, co-founder of Eden Chips

Shiitake chips are not common in the market

Despite the competitive snack market, Crystal is confident that they will thrive because their concept is “relatively fresh”.

“We see a lot of chips and fish skin in the supermarket, but rarely shiitake chips.”

Himalayan sea salt shiitake crisps and summer black truffle shiitake crisps Edens crisps
Himalayan sea salt shiitake chips and black summer truffle shiitake chips / Image credit: Edens Chips

Plus, they have some interesting flavors such as Himalayan sea salt shiitake chips and black summer truffle shiitake chips.

According to Crystal, finding a flavor takes at least three months.

“We source our seasoning from all over the world. Finding the right combination of flavors and ensuring that it is healthier than products on the market through lab testing is a tedious and expensive process, ”she said.

Szechuan Mala Shiitake Chips Eden Chips
Szechuan Mala Shiitake Chips / Image credit: Edens Chips

Regardless, she’s happy to announce that she plans to launch two new flavors next month: Szechuan Mala Shiitake Crisps with Lotus Root and Chili Pepper, as well as the upcoming Garlic Shiitake Crisps with real pieces of garlic.

While striving to expand their flavors, Edens Chips is also striving to reduce its prices.

Apparently a common comment they get is that their price is a bit steep (it costs from S $ 16.90 for a two-pack bundle). This is why they are working to optimize their processes to allow them to offer their products at a more competitive price.

Business with a heart

Commenting on the retail landscape today, Crystal pointed out that consumerism has evolved.

“We have so much to choose from (and) that we can literally buy anywhere in the world. (However) today’s consumers are not just looking for a product or solution, but rather a vision.

This includes what the brand stands for, what the company does that positively impact the world, and how consumers can be a part of that positive contribution by purchasing the products of that particular brand.

edens chips x spirits
Partnership with MINDS / Image credit: Edens Chips

To this end, Edens Chips is working with the Intellectually Disabled Schools Movement (MINDS) to meet storage needs and fulfill their online orders.

In every package, we put a note to let customers know that their purchase of our Shiitake chips goes beyond a simple packet of snacks.

It’s a win-win-win situation as a party gets hired, we have our execution run by a reliable organization, and customers get their products quickly. This is one of the best decisions we have made without knowing it.

– Crystal Cheng, co-founder of Eden Chips

Sharing her big vision for Edens Chips, Crystal said she purely wants to make healthy snacks an easy and enjoyable experience.

They plan to retain the niche of their product line and enter Singapore’s offline markets, before expanding into Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.

Looking back on her entrepreneurial journey so far, Crystal is fully aware that entrepreneurship is a gamble – you never know if it will ever work.

Either way, Crystal jumped into deep water with both feet because she doesn’t want to regret not doing something.

“(If) you never try, you never know. If you are unsure if the idea would be feasible, give it a try. “

“If that fails, you have wasted no time. The time spent (working on the idea) gave you the answer you were looking for – it’s all about perspective, ”she told herself.

Featured Image Credit: Edens Chips

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Jothi Venkat

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