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When Anna Ng and Isabel Lee first met on the Singapore Administration College (SMU) six years in the past, they instantly hit it off. Past simply being good pals, they’re now additionally enterprise companions with one another.

“We each share the identical ardour and curiosity in wholesome consuming and wholesome meals, and we have been at all times looking out for brand new well being traits. We frequently paired with açaí bowls, however in 2016 there weren’t many choices and so they have been typically costly and never of the highest quality,” mentioned Isabel, co-founder of An Açaí Affair.

“We felt it was a terrific product that Singaporeans may take pleasure in, and it was a waste that not many individuals knew about it. Due to this fact, we began An Açaí Affair with the objective of constructing açaí bowls extra reasonably priced and accessible to the plenty.”

They began An Açaí Affair, which is now Singapore’s largest specialty açaí cafe, after they have been each nonetheless of their second yr of college. They ran it as a facet hustle for the following two years till they graduated in 2019.

Apart from internships, they’d no different company jobs, so operating this firm is virtually their first full-time job.

Açaí was fairly unknown again then

Picture Credit score: An Açaí Affair

The truth that açaí wasn’t precisely in style or trending after they began was a double-edged sword.

They needed to intensify schooling efforts about açaí and its well being advantages as a result of most Singaporeans weren’t conscious of it. In addition they needed to interrupt the stereotype that wholesome meals is boring or bland, as a result of açaí bowls are literally scrumptious superfoods.

Throughout our first yr or two, the primary wrestle was a scarcity of product data. There was lots to clarify and educate, however we have been very joyful that the majority Singaporeans have been open-minded and prepared to do that new product.

I believe ultimately the product speaks for itself. Individuals maintain coming again as a result of it is so scrumptious and refreshing and has so many well being advantages. We primarily use social media to extend model and product consciousness, however [also] he typically needed to stand exterior our shops and provides out free samples, discuss to potential clients, reply their questions, and so forth.

– Isabel Lee, co-founder of An Açaí Affair

Sharing extra about açaí berries, Isabel defined that they originate from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. It’s a dense darkish purple berry that resembles a blueberry.

They’re wealthy in antioxidants and neutralize the damaging results of free radicals all through the physique and promote sleek ageing. They’re additionally wealthy in nutritional vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium and beta-carotene, which promote wholesome hair, pores and skin, and nails.

To make sure freshness and high quality, they work instantly with the native communities that harvest the açaí wild. In reality, their single-origin açaí berries are handpicked within the Cametá area of Pará, Brazil.

“We serve natural açaí within the purest and least diluted kind, freed from liquids/synthetic sweeteners. Which means our açaí bowls have one of many lowest ranges of energy and sugars per serving, making it even higher on your physique,” added Isabel.

Innovation is of their DNA

Elizabeth Lee Anna Ng A Romance With Acai Singapore
Isabel Lee (left) and Anna Ng (proper), co-founders of An Açaí Affair / Picture Credit score: An Açaí Affair

After they began in 2016, they solely had 4 variations of açaí bowls on the menu, however have since expanded their choices to 10.

Each co-founders work carefully collectively within the analysis and growth (R&D) means of their merchandise. They might conduct a number of style assessments and regularly modify it, earlier than finalizing their açaí mix.

The method is a whole lot of enjoyable as a result of we get to do a whole lot of style testing and experimentation with [different] flavors

We additionally continually create new seasonal açaí bowls/menu objects based mostly on new meals traits and inspirations we get from completely different sources. Some examples are blue pea lychee sorbet and pear sorbet.

– Isabel Lee, co-founder of An Açaí Affair

He confused that it was essential for them to continually innovate their menu in order that An Açai Affair can keep a powerful worth proposition, which is to supply distinctive variations of açaí bowls that aren’t provided wherever else.

As such, they make a acutely aware effort to remain on prime of meals traits to remain related, in addition to protected collaborations that excite shoppers.

These are simply a few of their enterprise methods that they adhere to with a purpose to stand out from the extremely saturated and aggressive meals and beverage business in Singapore.

They broke even in simply eight months

However at age 20, how did the younger duo handle to get funding to get began?

We begin initially and spend round S$60,000 to S$70,000 on preliminary renovations, R&D and start-up prices. We each take a mortgage from our members of the family for the primary [investment]and fortunately, we managed to interrupt even and pay them off after the primary eight months or so.

– Isabel Lee, co-founder of An Açaí Affair

Nonetheless, finance stays an enormous enterprise problem as we speak, particularly with prices on the rise. They should maintain their costs reasonably priced, take care of rising overhead prices and overcome labor shortages.

Regardless, enterprise progress has at all times been good. In 2019, the co-founders, now 26, have been nominated for the Spirit of Enterprise Award within the Begin-up class, which honors younger entrepreneurs within the native enterprise scene, which gave them nice encouragement.

In the identical yr, it was additionally reported that their flagship retailer in Katong offered a median of 150 bowls per day.

an acai affair singapore
Picture Credit score: An Açaí Affair

They opened their first outlet in Katong within the fourth quarter of 2016 and have constantly opened two to 4 new retailers from 2018 to 2022 (besides 2019). Its most up-to-date outlet openings are at Punggol and Robertson Quay, opening within the second half of this yr.

“Every new level of sale that we open is a superb milestone for us. Once we began, we undoubtedly by no means anticipated it to develop to the place it’s as we speak: 12 retailers and counting!” Elizabeth mentioned.

When organising new retailers, they make an effort to decide on an accessible and precedence location, similar to in style malls and stretches of shops.

As they develop and open extra retailers, additionally they ensure that to keep up their requirements, by way of meals, customer support, and enterprise operations.

In reality, An Açaí Affair has had some retailer closures attributable to poor efficiency, such because the retailers at DUO and Telok Ayer. “[We] I’ve to take this in stride and transfer on,” Isabel mentioned, reflecting her ‘fail quick and transfer on’ mentality.

Robust progress in supply orders throughout COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected most companies, significantly these within the meals and beverage sector.

Thankfully, they weren’t too affected by the dine-in restrictions, as their enterprise is “very quick,” principally based mostly on takeout and supply orders.

“The one time we have been affected was throughout the government-mandated closure of dessert outlets. [during the circuit breaker period]however fortunately most of our landlords have been fairly useful with lease reduction and refunds.

Throughout this lockdown interval, additionally they started to introduce island-wide supply and employed passengers and drivers whose jobs have been affected to ship their merchandise. On the similar time, additionally they briefly opened two cloud kitchens in Tampines and Clementi to raised handle their rising supply orders.

an acai affair singapore
Picture Credit score: An Açaí Affair

Through the years, we now have steadily expanded together with the expansion of the açaí business in Singapore. I’d say that increasingly Singaporeans are consuming açaí recurrently and it has turn into a staple of their diets.

And those that do not eat it recurrently have not less than heard of it, or tried it not less than as soon as. It is a very completely different scene in comparison with 5 years in the past, when in all probability just one or two in 10 Singaporeans have even heard of it.

– Isabel Lee, co-founder of An Açaí Affair

As An Açaí Affair continues to develop, the founders undoubtedly have abroad growth on their enterprise map. That is one thing they’ve been desirous about even earlier than the pandemic hit.

“We’ve set our sights on nations like Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, the place we undoubtedly have the potential to develop,” mentioned Isabel. “Anna and I are additionally continually on the lookout for different enterprise alternatives, [even beyond the F&B space].”

Featured Picture Credit score: An Açaí Affair

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These SMU grads invested S$70K to build An Açaí Affair at age 20

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