Here Are 8 S’pore Couples Who Built Businesses That Make Millions

It’s never a good idea to mix relationships with business.

Families have been torn apart by disputes over money, from the dissolution of marriages to sibling rivalries over inheritance rights.

Despite the odds, these enterprising couples have found ways to maintain their marriage and launch millions, if not billions of dollars in businesses.

Through a combination of trust, hard work and sheer luck, the two partners have also been instrumental in growing their business.

From Hai Di Lao to Udders, here are some of Singapore’s top entrepreneurial couples and the roles they have played in growing their empires.

Hai di lao

haidilao zhang yong shu ping
Shi Yonghong (left) Shu Ping (center) and Zhang Yong (right) / Image Credit: Forbes / Business Insider

With a market capitalization of US $ 23.1 billion, US $ 3.8 billion in sales and more than 935 restaurant chains opened worldwide, Hai Di Lao has grown into one of the biggest brands in catering to the world.

Once a humble hot-pot stall in rural Jianyang, Sichuan, Hai Di Lao was founded in 1994 by the idea of ​​two couples: Zhang Yong and his wife Shu Ping, and Shi Yonghong and his wife Li Haiyan.

Zhang Yong, who ran the operation, came from next to nothing: he graduated from a vocational school in Chengdu and worked for six years in a minimum-wage tractor factory.

The billionaire is said to be penniless and counts his three co-founders as real investors, whose modest savings total less than 10,000 yuan (1,400 dollars).

Their faith in Zhang Yong has paid off. Currently, Zhang Yong has acquired a net worth of US $ 21.6 billion as chairman of Hai Di Lao and the richest man in Singapore.

Shu Ping has a net worth of US $ 5.1 billion and acts as the director of management and strategic development of Hai Di Lao.

Shi Yonghong sits on the boards of Haidilao and Yihai International, a hot pot condiment-making spin-off with a net worth of US $ 12.6 billion.

His wife, Li Haiyan, has a net worth of US $ 6.3 billion and has served as the company supervisor since 2009.


breadtalk founders
Katherine Lee (left) and George Quek (right) / Image credit: Sweet Memoirs

With a market capitalization of approximately S $ 309.9 million, BreadTalk remains one of the largest food empires listed on the SGX despite a decline in market valuation in recent years.

George Quek first met his wife Katherine Lee while working as a supervisor at a Hong Kong craft store in Singapore at Parklane Mall. The two started dating in 1983 and married in 1986.

Soon, the entrepreneurial couple launched their first dragon beard candy sales business while living overseas in Taiwan, which expanded to five kiosks with sales of over $ 240,000 per month.

After selling several successful restaurant businesses in Taiwan and Shanghai over an 11-year period, Quek returned to Singapore and started the famous Food Junction chain of food courts in 1993.

In 2000, the serial entrepreneur made another foray into bakeries, opening BreadTalk, now one of Singapore’s most prominent brands.

The group now has more than 1,000 retail stores open in 17 markets, with popular subsidiaries such as Toast Box, Din Tai Fung and Food Republic to its credit.

With the power behind the throne, Lee acts as vice president of BreadTalk. She’s also the mastermind behind one of BreadTalk’s most popular products: Pork Silk Bread, which sold over 1.3 million pieces in its first year on sale, remaining the best-selling bakery item.

With nearly 50 years in a romantic and corporate relationship, the powerful couple BreadTalk is still going strong.

George announced last year that he would focus on a market cap of S $ 1 billion by 2022 – although those plans may have been disrupted by Covid-19.

In February, George, Katherine and a major shareholder announced a voluntary conditional cash offer to acquire all of BreadTalk’s common stock at a price of $ 0.77 each to delist the company.


udder founders
Wong Peck Lin (left) and David Yim (right) Image credit: Vulcan Post

With an estimated gross income of S $ 20 million for 2019, Udders is one of Singapore’s most popular ice cream shops.

The cafe now supplies ice cream to over 400 retail outlets and has five “Scoop Shops” open across the island.

Started by husband and wife team David Yim and Wong Peck Lim, Udders started out as a passion project between the two.

After David quit his stable job as a high school teacher, the aspiring entrepreneur began making ice cream with nothing more than material ordered over the net.

The udders menu started out with just 12 flavors made from liquid nitrogen right in their living room. In July 2007, the couple decided to open an ice cream shop, and S $ 150,000 was injected into the business.

Times were tough – the income generated was redirected to the udders and the couple relied on Peck Lin’s full-time job as a business consultant to bring home their two children’s bacon while David worked full time. time at Udders.

Today, Udders has more than 100 employees in its last workforce and envisions Indonesia as the next expansion market, with plans to reach 10 major cities over the next three years.

The couple even launched another brand of ice cream, Nuude Ice Cream, which is 35% lower in calories, sugars and fat.


the founders of tablespoon
Benedict Leow (left), Anna Lim (center), Andrew Chan (right) / Image credit: Vulcan Post

With a market capitalization of S $ 23.184 million, five brands to its name, and more than 30 retail outlets opened across Singapore, The Soup Spoon is Singapore’s largest soup franchise.

The brand has even spread to packets of chilled soup sold in major supermarkets in Singapore.

Started by Anna Lim, Benedict Leow, and Andrew Chan, The Soup Spoon is a joint project between three best friends – two of whom eventually got married.

The three co-founders of The Soup Spoon first met as students at Murdoch University in Perth who all shared the same love of soup.

Anna later married Andrew in 2001 and was the first to quit her full-time job as an embryologist to set up the tablespoon. The latter two quickly followed, forming the core team to head the company’s operations.

In 2002, the three college comrades invested S $ 250,000 between them to launch the first Soup Spoon store in Raffles City. The franchise grew rapidly, reaching a turnover of S $ 7.9 million in 2008, despite several hiccups that led to the loss of a S $ 100,000 outlet.

The Empire eats

empire eats
Lim Hui Nan (left), Howard Lo (right) and their children / Image credit: Vulcan Post

Harnessing some of Singapore’s leading F&B concepts, Empire Eats is the product of a couple of entrepreneurs who met and stayed together through their mutual love of food.

Born in the United States, Howard first arrived in Singapore in 2003 and opened the first Standing Sushi Bar outlet in August 2009 with an initial investment of around S $ 150,000 while working full time at Microsoft. .

It was at the bar that Howard first met his wife Hui Nan, who worked as a lawyer at an intellectual property law firm near the joint. Hui Nan visited Howard Bar almost every night for dinner or drinks, which ultimately led to a wedding in 2012 and two children.

The two ended up co-leading the Empire Eats group as equal partners.

Howard describes their marriage as a complementary mix of private and business relationships, Howard acting as a visionary while Hui Nan acts as the company’s liquidator.

Now the Empire Eats group owns Tanuki Raw, Salmon Samurai, The Secret Mermaid, Sumo Bar Happy, Shinkansen, The World is Flat and Black Dot Sweet Provisions among other prolific brands in their portfolio.

Today, the brand achieves at least $ 1 million in revenue per month.

Aloha Poke

aloha poke founders
John Chen (far left) and Lee Yue Xian (center left), Paladin Hsu (center right) and Selene Ong (far right) / Image credit: Vulcan Post

Expected to produce over $ 3.8 million in revenue per year, Aloha Poke has quickly risen through the ranks of Singapore’s competitive restaurant scene since its inception in 2015.

Started by another pair of married couples, the idea for Aloha Poke was born after the group went on vacation to Hawaii.

John Chen and Lee Yue Xian, as well as Paladin Hsu and Selene Ong fell in love with it when they first tasted poke in a supermarket called Foodland.

Finding no alternative to their return to Singapore, the group jointly launched the first Aloha Poke outlet on Amoy Street, which eventually grew into three outlets spanning Marina Bay, Jewel Changi and Westgate.

The business has even expanded to the St Martins Center in Perth.

The couple who work together, stay together

Mixing your personal and public life together isn’t always ideal, but those couples who have stuck with their business and marriages for decades seem to have found the winning formula.

While some have gone on to build Forbes listed businesses, other couples have gradually grown their startups into some of Singapore’s biggest house names.

Have we missed power couples? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured Image Credit: Business Insider / Sweet Memoirs / Aloha Poke / Love and Bravery / Tanuki Raw / Spoon Soup / Udders

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Jothi Venkat

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