6 S’pore Entrepreneurs Who Lost Up To $1M Before Finding Success

Failure is inevitable, any entrepreneur will tell you that. In fact, the failed businesses serve as lessons for bigger things to come.

Many entrepreneurs actually built successful business empires despite losing a lot of money when they started.

If you ever feel exhausted or intimidated by the idea of ​​failing, take a look at these six Singaporean entrepreneurs who failed before they succeeded. large.

Golden Duck – Jonathan Shen and Chris Hwang

The Golden Duck gourmet snack brand was founded by Jonathan Shen and Chris Hwang in 2015.

Their salted egg yolk snacks have gained such popularity that they “peddle about a thousand packets of addicting snacks a day.”

Subsequently, the founders of Golden Duck were listed on Forbes’ famous 30 Under 30 list in 2017.

Golden Duck Chris Hwang
Chris Hwang (left) and Jonathan Shen (right) / Image credit: Golden Duck

However, Golden Duck was not their first venture. They previously opened a nightclub together called Vice at Clarke Quay in December 2014.

A legal dispute then forced the club to close in just four months. Although short lived, it cost them S $ 1 million.

“It was out of our control when the company that held our lease was forced to shut down,” Jonathan said.

“Because of this failure, I got closer to Chris (my investor at the time) and after a period of reflection and recalibration, we launched The Golden Duck.

Yummy Bros – Gerald Tan

Gerald Tan and Anson Lim are fitness junkies who hit the gym a lot.

One day, the duo decided to skip ‘leg day’ and went for a drink instead. Over a drink they complained about dieting.

Although they like to go to the gym, they don’t particularly like watching what they eat. As a result, they decided to start a meal prep business that focuses on turning Asian food into healthy meals in 2018.

Delicious brothers
Anson Lim (left) and Gerald Tan (right) / Image credit: Yummy Bros

In less than three years, Yummy Bros. had seven-figure annual sales and increased revenue by over 400% from the previous year.

However, this was not the first time that Gerald had started a business, as he had already tried to build his own fashion and lifestyle media platform GetFash for a good three years, which “failed miserably”.

“We had two rounds of funding amounting to S $ 140,000 (but) we bleed the money until there was nothing left,” Gerald said.

Irvins – Irvin Gunawan

Irvins was founded in 2015 by Indonesian serial entrepreneur Irvin Gunawan.

He first moved to Singapore with his family in 1998 and has worked in various catering companies over the years.

His first business was Cocoba, which is a pun on a chocolate bar. Unfortunately, it was never launched, so he “went back to the drawing board and found that [his] the family had some recipes for Indonesian dishes.

This led to the opening of its first Chilikong restaurant in Tanjong Pagar in 2007. It never broke even and closed within two years.

Despite this setback, Irvin opened a few other restaurants namely Irvin’s Seafood Cze Char in 2008, Irvin’s Live Seafood House in 2011 and Lebanon HK Café in 2012.

Image Credit: Peter Guest via Nikkei Asian Review / ChinaHao.com

River Valley’s zi char restaurant performed well, until they were forced to move when their contract ended. The landlord increased the rent by almost 50 percent, so he had to start over.

Despite its relocation, the seafood house did not perform well and was “in the red every month”, so a way had to be found to boost sales.

As a result, they started selling salted egg snacks after several rounds of experimenting for the perfect recipe.

They have seen immense popularity in Singapore and have launched their snacks overseas as well. Today, they are available in nine countries, including Dubai, the United States, China, Japan and Taiwan.

Kueh Ho Jiak – Sandy Tan and Elizabeth Chan

Sandy Tan and her daughter Elizabeth Chan are the co-founders of Kueh Ho Jiak, which gave old-fashioned confectionery a new twist.

After running a home business for a while, they decided to open a physical booth at Ci Yuan Hawker Center in 2015, then moved to Tanjong Pagar Plaza Food Center in 2017.

Subsequently, in 2019, they opened a cafe in East Village in Bedok, which unfortunately turned out to be a “mistake”.

Kueh Ho Jiak
Image Credit: Kueh Ho Jiak

While they got crowds on weekends, business was not as good on weekdays.

Ultimately, they felt they could no longer justify bearing the rental costs for just two good business days each week.

The failed venture cost them “six-figure numbers,” but for them, they felt the breakthrough was to better understand their audience and focus on the things that were working.

During the breaker, they saw their sales increase by “40 to 50 percent” while most F&B companies struggled during the “breaker period”.

The Soup Spoon – Andrew Chan, Anna Lim and Benedict Leow

The Soup Spoon was founded by Andrew Chan, Anna Lim and Benedict Leow.

They invested S $ 250,000 in their first outlet in Raffles City in June 2002, targeting on-the-go professionals.

Soup spoon
Image Credit: The Tablespoon

On the back of the positive response from customers, they were motivated to open a second store in United Square.

However, it was a huge failure as it closed its doors after only a year and a half due to a mixture of bad planning and bad luck. Business has declined because of the SARS pandemic.

Two years later, they closed their United Square store, which cost them S $ 100,000.

They also cut their kitchen from 2,000 square feet to 500 square feet and did some catering to make ends meet.

Undeterred by this setback, the trio continued to expand their business and open a new outlet in Raffles Place in 2005 after conducting market research.

Learning from the Novena outlet downturn, The Soup Spoon began to focus on courting its core clientele of working adults.

Raffles Place has proven to be a strategic location as the area is crowded with health-conscious and time-hungry Singaporeans.

In 2008, their turnover reached $ 7.29 million and today it is the largest soup chain in Singapore.

Noosh Noodle Bar & Grill – Ummi Abdullah

In 2010 Ms. Sa’adah Jan (who goes by the name Ummi Abdullah) suffered a failure in a conference management business with a partner.

The setback left her in debt of S $ 100,000, and she had to sell her four-room apartment, repossess her car, and even let her maid go.

Her family of five then had to move into an apartment to rent with her sister and mother with cancer.

They also lived on a very tight budget of around S $ 300 per month, with most of her husband’s salary going to pay off his debt.

Ummi Abdullah
Image Credit: Dapur Ummi Abdullah / Parenthetic Pilgrim

To make her comeback, she decided to start a home-cooked meal business. His business took off immediately, with deliveries to 300 families every day.

After two years, she opened a stand in a coffeeshop in Kelantan Lane, before moving again to Tanah Merah Country Club in November 2012.

Business was so good that she took the leap and opened a 60 seat restaurant in Bedok called Ambeng Cafe. Ummi quickly earned the nickname “Queen of Nasi Ambeng”, but she did not rest on her laurels.

She continued to make her mark in the industry with various catering businesses – Tiffin Club (a cafe for the Esplanade staff lounge), Noosh Noodle Bar & Grill and Anggerik Bakery in 2016.

Failure is the mother of success

Successful entrepreneurs often talk about the need to pivot and use failure to help shape future decisions.

Richard Branson of Virgin once wrote: “No one does everything right the first time… Successful entrepreneurs don’t fear failure; they learn from it and move on.

Almost all successful entrepreneurs have failed at least once. Whether it’s rejecting their business idea, making the wrong decision, or not reacting quickly enough to change, running a business is never easy.

Some of the most amazing entrepreneurs have encountered obstacles in their path, but they ultimately succeed with courage and persistence.

Featured Image Credit: Irvins / Golden Duck / Dapur Ummi Abdullah / The Tablespoon / Kueh Ho Jiak / THE Fit Loco

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Jothi Venkat

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