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Kenneth Low, Co-Founder & COO of Club Alacarte

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Kenneth Low launched his own business because he loves a good challenge!

What’s your story?
I am an investment banker turned entrepreneur. I started Club Alacarte with two co-founders in 2017. Club Alacarte is a new dining membership application offering buy-1-get-1 privileges in Indonesia.

I worked as a banker in New York and Hong Kong before settling down in Singapore. When the opportunity to launch Club Alacarte in Jakarta presented itself, I packed my bags and pounced on it. As a result, I am reliving my banking days – 100 hour work weeks and non-stop travelling between Singapore and Jakarta.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s the B2C part I am excited by. I love the challenge of creating something meaningful for consumers and the challenges of dealing with various issues on a day-to-day basis. It’s been a steep learning experience and I love a good challenge.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Malaysian. I have also lived in Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore for the past 15 years. When I was a banker in Singapore, I had a regional Southeast Asia role spanning Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. I may be slightly biased as Singapore is home now. It’s English-friendly, it provides investors with the comfort of a transparent legal framework and high governance standards, and has one of the world’s most efficient transport systems which eases my hectic travel schedule.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t try to conquer the world in one go. Life is a marathon not a sprint. Don’t burn yourself out too quick. Take gradual steps to achieve your ultimate goal.

Who inspires you?
Kobe Bryant. I have followed his basketball journey since I was 15. Love him or hate him, I am inspired by his sheer will, utter drive and the ”mamba mentality.”

“I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, my back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill. We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.” -Kobe Bryant

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Google Tag Manager. As geeky as it may sound, I was blown away by how easy it is to track the efficiency of our various advertising campaigns. For start-ups that haven’t implemented this yet, it’s highly recommended.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I believe, things happen for a reason and I don’t look back. But if I had my chance again, I would have paid more attention in computer science class.

How do you unwind?
On weekdays when I’m on the road, I would say a good HIIT workout at the gym. On weekends, I enjoy unwinding by spending time with my partner in crime, my wife.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Niseko. I’m an avid snowboarder. I love sitting on top of the mountain on a sunny day, soaking up the crisp, clean air in the mornings before riding the powder. It’s a great place to get away for a few days, to get your mind off things. It also holds a special place in my heart; it’s where my wife and I have gone the past few years to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

Everyone in business should read this book:
‘Contagious: Why Things Catch On’ by Jonah Berger. Marketing is a key success factor for any business and this is a great book with tips on how to build successful marketing campaigns.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you’re a Jakartan and you want to explore new and trendy restaurants, cafes, bars and lounges while saving up to USD5,000 a year, why not join Club Alacarte? We offer buy-1-get-1 dining privileges across 130 different restaurant brands including Potato Head Group restaurants, Union Group restaurants, TWG, Valentino’s, Eric Kayser, Common Grounds Coffee, Fatburger and more. Here’s a screenshot of my app that shows my savings to date:

Our mission at Club Alacarte is to introduce a unique new concept through technology that can help restaurants increase traffic effectively while benefiting consumers through savings at the same time. Club Alacarte is currently only available in Jakarta but please stay tuned for a city near you!

How can people connect with you?
Drop me a line anytime at [email protected]
Alternatively, please contact me through LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kenneth-low-b29b169b

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Benedict Heng, Founder of Mr. Farmer

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Benedict Heng is bringing back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your story?
I’m Ben from Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an online grocer dedicated to supplying the freshest produce to our customers. We believe in sustainable and ethical farming. Since a young age, I have always been an avid food lover (especially meats), developing a strong interest in all things delicious. That is why I ventured into the F&B industry, working as a junior cook for 3 years.

Midway through my career, I made a move to the finance industry to pursue monetary rewards. I dove into high-risk investments and I made lots of money from these investments. However, the good fortune did not last long and all these came crashing down when I suffered a tremendous loss. This coincided with the time that I had just started my own family and it was a huge blow to me both materially and mentally. It was this crash that made me realize that this life wasn’t for me. I went on a hiatus and eventually, it was only through the strong support from my family that I managed to tide over this tough episode.

I went back to help the family business and this was how Mr Farmer came about. My family has been in the food industry for many decades and one thing they noticed from years of experience is that sustainable farming practices are not as developed as in Europe. This is why through Mr Farmer, we hope that we can provide the best quality products to families out there who want the best ingredients for their loved ones.

What excites you most about your industry?
Delicious and wholesome food excites me. I believe food is a critical component of life and it brings people together. The opportunity to serve the community with fresh produce for a healthy life, that brings me joy.

I feel that there is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of food and bring it to the masses. One of the key components of ensuring greater quality of food is to support ethical and sustainable farming. Due to commercialization and urbanization, most farming practices these days are no longer the way they were in the old “kampong” times. Shortcuts are taken, standards are compromised, all in the name of profit. At Mr. Farmer, profit is important too but we want to focus on the concept of One Welfare – sustainable farming directly impacts our health. Our vision is to bring back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I call Singapore my home as it’s where my family and close friends are. I also travel frequently to Malaysia and APAC for work.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s definitely Singapore. There is just so much this tiny city can offer! Singapore has been globally recognized for its top-notch business environment providing its residents with developed infrastructure, political stability and excellent connectivity. These factors have given us an outstanding support system for businesses to strive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better and, keep them in your life.

Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my uncle, who is the head of both the family and business. He takes care of our family matters at home and manages hundreds of employees at work. Handling both the family and business side of things can be tricky, but he has shown me that success can be sustainable and done with a conscience. His guiding philosophy of handling business and family is simply, to have a big heart.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Even just one day of separation from the day the meat is slaughtered, makes a world of difference to its flavour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have come to learn that awareness is the beginning of everything. If I had my time again, I would have probably spent more time figuring out who I truly am and with that self-awareness, begun to lead my life with more purpose and meaning.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend my free time sipping white coffee at my favourite coffee place. I enjoy taking in the surrounding sights and letting my mind wander freely. It allows me to unwind and gain clarity at the same time. It also helps me organize my thoughts to prepare for the week ahead.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would be Bangkok as the people there are genuinely friendly and hospitable. They say people are what defines the city and I couldn’t agree more with this. I also enjoy the ‘laid back’ vibe of Bangkok. Not to mention Bangkok has all the good food and awesome shopping choices too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Spin selling” by Neil Reckham. It’s an amazing book that teaches you a process designed to help you successfully sell your products and services to business buyers.

Shameless plug for your business:
We at Mr. Farmer have the best tasting meats in Singapore, do a blind test and you will know why it’s Michelin chefs’ preferred choice. Not only are we very confident about the taste, we are also proud to say that all our products are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. We also focus a lot on supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices believing in the ‘One Welfare’ concept. Do check us out if you enjoy good quality food like us!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

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Zac Chua’s popcorn business validated itself straight away and fast tracked him to the startup world. Zac now employs 11 people and shifts 500 bags of popcorn daily.

What’s your story?
It’s a crazy one. It was an accidental startup. If you think about it, no university graduate would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller. We crashed our first tech event to validate our idea and it took off from there. I bought a logo for $7 from a designers marketplace, printed some cheap name cards, and built a 1 page landing page. Sales started pouring in and eventually, we were serving B2B clients (corporate pantries) and we have never looked back. Today we move about 500 bags daily, we have 11 employees and we are growing. Talk about a validation that worked in our favour.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s food! Everybody loves food! In Singapore the F&B scene is brutally competitive and it spurs me on to fight and compete for market share and to prove to myself that I can do it. It keeps me going and I won’t stop until we become the market leader.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, and have traveled to most of Southeast Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Even though Singapore has a high cost of living, the Government is actually very supportive of startups. They provide grants for us to tap into, and the technological infrastructure makes it possible for us to compete on a global scale. I believe if you can succeed in your business in Singapore, you can succeed in most of Southeast Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only need to be right once, and the rest is history.

Who inspires you?
My father, who was a VC. In fact he was the one who gave me the best piece of advice which I shared above. Having one successful exit, he showed me that it’s okay to fail a million times – all it takes is just one time for you to win in business and in life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of compounding.

  • Mary and John are the same age.
  • Mary saves $2k annually from the age of 19-25 – so she puts $14k into her portfolio
  • John saves $2k annually from the age of 26-65 – so he puts $80k into his portfolio, but 7 years after Mary.
  • If both are able to generate 10% per annum, who would have more at age 65?
  • John of course! But how much more?
  • Mary will have $944,641 whilst John will have $973,704
  • Think about it! Mary puts in only $14k but John delays for 7 years and puts in $80k.

CRAZY RIGHT!?!?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, my mistakes taught me how to become a better me. But if I really must choose, I’d say take more time to find the right business partner.

How do you unwind?
Poker, Mahjong and Dota 2.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! Things are cheap, people are warm and friendly, and their coffee fills up my life. I would love to retire there if possible.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The richest man in Babylon

Shameless plug for your business:
We don’t need a plug. Just try our competitors and you’ll understand why!

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuazongyou
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacchua

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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