Jekyll & Hyde Owner On Juggling A 9-To-5 Job And A Bar Business

During the day, Ee Chien Chua has a full-time, well-paying job in technology, business, and finance.

At night, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat and runs his Jekyll & Hyde bar which generates more than a million dollars in revenue.

Ee Chien has helped high growth tech startups like Uber and Grab grow and launch different products and solutions. Then, since February of this year, he held the position of Director of Business Development and Partnerships at digital heritage advisor Endowus.

Meanwhile, Jekyll & Hyde received wide media coverage as an example of stellar F&B that successfully survived the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

After declaring his intention to go out of business at Tras Street in June 2020, he resurrected himself in a surprising turn of events the same month when a partnership opportunity with Cheeky Cafe arose. Jekyll and Hyde now occupy the existing space on Cheeky’s second floor, with the two companies coming together to reduce overhead costs.

If these feats seem superhuman to you, it’s because they are. Ee Chien sits down with Vulcan Post to explain how he does it all.

From technology to catering

Born and raised in Singapore, Ee Chien graduated from Brigham Young University in the United States with a communications degree, but never worked in this field.

After graduation, he got a job in finance at Goldman Sachs in the United States, where he traded equity swaps and contracts for difference (CFDs). However, he felt that this was not an area he saw himself doing in the long run and started looking for opportunities in the tech industry.

Due to difficulties with visa and permit issues, and his wish to be closer to his aging parents, he decided to seek a job in tech in Singapore.

He got a job at Uber as an operations and logistics associate, and was successful in integrating Uber’s hourly rental programs into their vehicle solutions team.

ee chien chua at uber
The Uber team he worked with / Image credit: Ee Chien Chua

In 2018, when he switched from Uber to Grab, he discovered the opportunity to take over Jekyll & Hyde operations. He took on the challenge almost on impulse.

I was scrolling through and saw the owners putting the bar up for sale. I thought it would be an interesting project for me to carry out.

I have always been a fan of Jekyll and Hyde. It was a nice little bar that has been around since 2013 and is around the corner from Uber’s office.

– Ee Chien Chua, owner of Jekyll & Hyde

Leading the evolution of Jekyll & Hyde

The concept for Jekyll & Hyde was inspired by a famous Oscar Wilde novel – it adopted two personalities at the time: a nail salon by day and a speakeasy by night.

Ee Chien believed that the bar had built a reputation as a unique local business and that there was a lot of potential to develop it further.

Since taking over Jekyll & Hyde in 2018, Ee Chien has continued to maintain the bar’s standards and unique selling points of bespoke cocktails.

Jekyll & Hyde cocktails
Custom cocktails / Image credit: Jekyll & Hyde

Since Ee Chien knew nothing about cocktail making, he kept the original team and gave them plenty of room to unleash their creativity. However, he had to learn everything from scratch – from menu creation, the art of cocktail making, sourcing, to hiring the right people.

He also had to learn about people management and customer service, which are essential for the F&B industry, in order to better engage with his customers. He spent a few hours every few days of the week personally serving clients to better understand their views and preferences.

Unlike working for big tech companies with massive funding from investors where there is a lot of room for financial losses and setbacks, he had to work hard to bring the dough to his bar and restaurant business.

And unlike startups that race, profit and loss is important to a small business like Jekyll & Hyde.

What he has brought to his tech jobs table, however, is the daring, daring, and agile mindset. that he developed.

Uber’s motto was “always push”. You always have to push yourself together and try to get things done. You need to get things out as quickly as possible and do iterations and tests.

– Ee Chien Chua, owner of Jekyll & Hyde

In tech startups, whenever something fails, it has been trained to try something else the next day and the next. There is no room for hesitation.

During the pandemic, this fearless and decisive approach helped Ee Chien keep the business afloat.

Thankfully, he was also blessed by the outpouring of community and fan support after he announced his intention to shut down.

Many fans and customers have supported Jekyll & Hyde by ordering delivery of their bottled cocktails and subscribing to their online cocktail classes which has given them some cash to keep their business going.

Finding a better landlord and a more affordable space with Cheeky has been another lifeline.

Ee Chien said he really couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel until Cheeky’s Eugenia Tan contacted him about a partnership. At the end of the day, Jekyll & Hyde was saved thanks to the efforts of the community.

Meet the ‘new’ Jekyll & Hyde

Located in a two-story shophouse at 74 Neil Road, Jekyll & Hyde now offers two distinct environments: exterior and interior.

Downstairs, guests are immediately greeted by a whimsical 40-seat courtyard lined with green artificial turf and Victorian-inspired artwork. This dog-friendly outdoor space provides guests with a breezy spot for lazy weekend brunches, casual appetizers, and boozy dinners.

jekyll & hyde outdoor
Jekyll & Hyde Outdoor Area / Image Credit: Jekyll & Hyde

Past the open-air section, a staircase leads to an eight-seat bar with a 22-seat dining area on the second floor of the shophouse. In stark contrast to the technicolor decor on the ground floor, this upper level signals a monochromatic and grainy urban sophistication.

Since reopening, Jekyll & Hyde reintroduces itself as a cocktail bar and full kitchen that offers expanded food menu service.

The new menu features a selection of local comfort food such as Chili Crab Nachos, Fresh Orh Lua (Oyster Omelet) and Hua Tiao Bee Hoon.

jekyll & hyde food
Jekyll & Hyde’s interpretation of the oyster omelet / Image credit: Jekyll & Hyde

Their cocktail menu is as interesting as ever with offerings like PB&J, a peanut butter and jelly cocktail; and The OG B&B, which is an inspired take on the classic banana and bacon breakfast.

The new Jekyll & Hyde is a comfortable, grown-up version of its old self. We’ve come to recognize that our customers look to us for both comfort and sophistication.

That’s why we’ve paired our craft cocktails with elevated comfort food that captures a lot of what we love about the street food of our region.

– Ee Chien Chua, owner of Jekyll & Hyde

Always “iterate and test” first

Chua Ee Chien, owner of Jekyll & Hyde
Chua Ee Chien, Owner of Jekyll & Hyde / Image Credit: Jekyll & Hyde

Looking back on his own journey, Ee Chien said he wouldn’t advise anyone who dreams of starting their own business to quit their full-time job.

Just like in the tech world, you have to iterate and test before you launch a product; so you need to iterate and test your business before doing it full time. Unless you get funding to do it full time then I would say slowly test it sideways first.

– Ee Chien Chua, owner of Jekyll & Hyde

Jekyll & Hyde is simply a form of alternative investing where it can get financial returns in a different way while having fun at the same time.

Recognizing the low profit margins of restaurant businesses, Ee Chien said he does business out of passion and personal growth rather than financial gain.

If money was ever a point of contention for him, he would explore other ventures or efforts instead, he added.

For him, the joy of running Jekyll & Hyde comes with the experience of creating the food, drink and community that makes people happy. When customers leave with a satisfying experience, it gives her a lot of joy and personal satisfaction.

Ee Chien wasn’t expecting this when he first took the plunge into the business. Like every other endeavor in his life, he stumbled upon this opportunity, which he ended up doing well and finding meaning in.

“I’m not a fan of pre-planning your dreams and visions early and following them throughout. Life doesn’t work that way. Maybe for some people it’s the narrative but definitely not for me. I am a man of many interests and passions, and I learn and grow with every effort, ”he said.

He further attributed his excellent time management, high pain tolerance and hard work endurance as key factors that allowed him to juggle a full-time job and grow a restaurant business.

He wakes up at 7:30 am everyday and makes sure to do his daily job efficiently. After work, he helps bar operations.

He also devotes time to regular exercise each week and makes sure he gets enough sleep each day. On weekends, he will work a little but also make a point of setting aside time for leisure and social life.

Ee Chien shared that behind her superhuman will and motivation lies her desire to question herself and continually push herself to grow and evolve.

Maybe, you are asking me, “What’s the point of running one side if it’s not going to be my main thing?”

My question in return is, “If we only live once, what’s the point of only doing things that are safe and comfortable?” The purpose of life is to continue to grow and evolve in any way possible. Cultivating is not easy; it is often painful and uncomfortable, but it is infinitely rewarding.

– Ee Chien Chua, owner of Jekyll & Hyde

Going forward, Ee Chien is delighted to continue to develop his career expertise in financial and technology products. With Jekyll & Hyde, his vision is to establish the company as a benchmark for original handcrafted cocktails and Singaporean fusion cuisine recipes.

There are no immediate plans to let go of either. The man is determined to have his cake and eat it too.

Featured Image Credit: Jekyll & Hyde

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