6 S’pore Brands That Were Passion Projects Before Making It Big

When Covid-19 hit us, we were forced to stay at home.

For those looking for an alternative income stream to others working on passionate projects, Covid-19 has made starting a home business more possible than ever.

With the movement to support local brands, more Singaporeans have also shown themselves to be open to frequenting home businesses.

Home-based businesses have made waves online for their homemade food products or knick-knacks.

Here are six businesses that not only started out as passionate ventures, but were so successful that they’ve grown into physical outlets.

1. Love, Bonito

Rachel Lim, Co-Founder of Love, Bonito / Image Credit: Ladyboss Asia

Love, Bonito has grown into a popular local brand over the years, and its founding story has been widely publicized.

The brand started as a blogshop called Bonito Chico in 2005.

At the time, e-commerce was still in its infancy in Singapore, and co-founders Rachel Lim, Viola Tan and Velda Tan were among the pioneers in the blogging space.

Since they were still in school, selling clothes online was a way for them to earn extra pocket money.

The three of them pooled a total of S $ 500 to start the business.

The home-based business quickly grew into a full-fledged business, with Rachel even dropping out of Nanyang Technological University at the age of 19 to focus on building the brand.

In 2010, the brand ventured into designing their own original pieces, and also renamed Love, Bonito.

By 2015, the brand had spread beyond the borders of Singapore – to Malaysia and Indonesia, then to Cambodia in 2016.

It also opened its first flagship store in Singapore in 2017.

The brand has since grown into a multi-million dollar fashion powerhouse and currently has four outlets in Singapore.

2. Sugar (ed)

Sugar (ed)
Jasmine Yong, founder of Sugar (ed) / Image credit: Sugar (ed)

Jasmine Yong started Sugar (ed) in 2016 when she was only 27 years old.

Sugar (ed) is Singapore’s premier body sugar studio and provides organic hair removal services.

Along with sugar, the sugar paste is heated to body temperature. It is then applied to the skin and the hairs are removed in the natural direction of growth, picking up the dead skin cells.

The ex-flight attendant SIA started Sugar (ed) as a home-based business and told Vulcan Post in a separate interview that initially she only had five customers.

Thanks to the power of word of mouth, its clientele quadrupled in the space of nine months.

He gradually grew to 500 clients in three years – to the point where his house could no longer accommodate them.

She then opened her very first brick and mortar studio in 2016 in the heart of Bukit Timah and other subsequent studios each year – Katong in 2017, Keong Saik Road in 2018 and Upper Thomson Road in 2019.

3. Nasty cookie

Nasty cookie
Image Credit: Nasty Cookie

The 23-year-old founder of Nasty Cookie founded the company for one simple reason: she wanted to raise money for a trip to Australia.

Regine Sum told Vulcan Post in a separate interview that she wanted to give cookies a “modern twist” and embarked on a journey to create cookies inspired by Levain Bakery.

It launched the Nasty Cookie website in October 2018 and managed to sell over 800 cookies just two weeks after launch.

What was supposed to be a short-term gig to make some extra cash turned into a promising business opportunity.

In 2019, Nasty Cookie opened its first offline store open at Funan Mall with great fanfare.

Subsequently, the gourmet cookie brand opened its flagship store in Kaki Bukit this year.

Called Nasty Factory, the cookie shop’s flagship concept store houses its central kitchen, office and its own café area.

4. Vintage weekend

Vintagewknd
Vintagewknd co-founders Eileen Tan and Eden Tay / Image credit: Vintagewknd

Eileen Tan and her co-founder and partner Eden Tay were only 23 when they first launched Vintagewknd in 2015.

The duo started the brand as a passionate project and sold their carefully selected vintage pieces on Carousell.

Between 2016 and 2018, they both held full-time jobs. In addition to running Vintagewknd part-time, Eileen was working full-time in an oil and gas company and Eden was completing her college degree.

In December 2018, the two took a leap of faith and launched Vintagewknd as a full-time project.

To date, Vintagewknd has relocated over 36,000 vintage and reworked items.

A social media brand, the online store has 28,000 Instagram subscribers, with more than 30,000 online store visits per month.

Despite the virtual concentration, Vintagewknd made his turn in physical space. The brand has participated in ARTBOX, Geylang Bazaar, shopping mall events and monthly inside sales.

5. Excessive price

Overrice
Image Credit: Overrice

Taking inspiration from the Halal Guys of New York, Overrice offers Mediterranean rice bowls.

Overrice was started by a group of four friends: Shaun Dominic Rishi, 37, Hakim Abdullah, 29, Wan Azhar, 27, and Zuhilmi Zailani, 28.

According to 8days, the business started during the breaker, and the four founders had done the R&D remotely.

Overrice operated like a home-based business, selling nearly 100 bowls a day during its heyday.

So the four decided to take a huge risk and open a brick and mortar store during these uncertain times.

The F&B restaurant now has a physical store along busy Arab Street.

6. Single brothers

Senior Minister of State at the Department of Manpower and Department of Defense Zaqy Mohamad at the Bachelor Brothers store / Image credit: Bachelor Brothers

During the breaker, fashion designer Raffiey Nasir started a home business selling his pastries and a variety of other goodies.

According to Raffiey in an interview with TODAYOnline, the response he received from customers was “overwhelming”.

So, he decided to take the next step and open a physical store. In July, he set up the Bachelor Brothers take-out restaurant along Joo Chiat Road.

Bachelor Brothers now serves a wide variety of desserts and pastries, and is known as the “House of Cake”.

Home-based businesses don’t always have to stay small

Many people don’t start home businesses with the intention of expanding them to physical stores or even regional brands.

However, these examples show us that if expansion is part of your plan when starting a home business, it is not a pipe dream.

From Love, Bonito to Nasty Cookie, part-time efforts to earn more income have become brands in their own right.

This suggests that your passion project might just be the next local brand if you dream big.

Featured Image Credit: Prestige / Lady Boss Asia / CATCH Online / Bachelor Brothers / Overrice

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Jothi Venkat

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