Third year anniversary: personal reflection from CEO & Co-founder - Amy Zheng (Part 1)
What the Food?
Growing up, I’ve had ambitions to be an economist, a lawyer, a social justice advocate and even a mayor but never a food entrepreneur. Working in the food industry was usually frowned upon as something that people did if they didn't get good grades at school. Up until three years ago, I would have never imagined that I'd be making granolas, nuts and nut butters. Today, as I look around the young talented people at Amazin’ Graze, our supportive customers and what we’ve achieved so far, there’s an incredible feeling of awe and gratitude to everyone who made Amazin’ Graze possible.
As we celebrate our third year anniversary this month, I’m prompted to reflect about the major milestones in our growth journey and key lessons learned. I also hope this reflection will be useful for fellow entrepreneurs and those who want to enter into this path.
1. Start with a problem that you’re passionate about...and a solution that you believe in
We wanted to address a growing problem that we were seeing all around us. Many of our colleagues and friends were suffering from health-related issues due to long working hours and poor diets at a young age. Never before, have we been so stressed and unhealthy as a society. It just didn’t seem right.
We started with food because it was one of the most important thing in our culture (who doesn’t love food?). We compared food options here and abroad and observed that there was a real lack of healthy food options for people in Malaysia and other similar Asian countries. So we rolled up our sleeves, closed our laptops and got to work in the kitchen. Our mission is simple - create joy and empower people through real amazing food.
Photo: Amy baking Berry-licious nut mix at a borrowed commercial kitchen
2. Introducing a new brand on a shoestring budget
We first introduced Amazin’ Graze granolas and nut mixes to the world at a weekend food & crafts market back in August 2015. At that point, we had created some recipes for granolas and nut mixes but we still were extremely unsure whether this will work at all. However, instead of doing countless research, focus groups and surveys, we decided that the most important test was to bring it out to the real market. We quickly engaged with a freelancer who designed our first logo and product labels. It wasn’t perfect, it didn’t go through a full branding exercise with an chic creative agency and we didn’t end up keeping these designs but it gave us a fast way to test the market on a small budget. After all, the best feedback is when people actually have to vote with their wallets!
Photo: Ching & Amy at one of their first markets at Bangsar Shopping Centre
Photos: Sabrina at the Lowen's Market as part of Amazin' Graze's first entry into Singapore
3. Setting up our first working kitchen in the local neighborhood
After attending a couple of weekend markets and getting a lot of positive responses from the community, we decided that it was time to build a team and set up a kitchen. Like many cottage industry entrepreneurs, we did all our own sourcing, baking & packaging ourselves (imagine 16 hour days) and spent our weekends at markets. While it’s extremely useful and satisfying to be doing everything ourselves in the beginning, it was also emotionally and physically draining and prevented us from taking the business to bigger places. On a fine day in September 2015, in what felt like a scary move at the time, we put a down deposit on a small shop lot in Sentul and quickly got to work to turn it into a small bakery combined with retail space. We poured our life savings into this space - learned all that our can about how to set up a commercial baking kitchen, hired our first employee which gave us time to go out there to market our products.
Photo: our first team baking from the neighborhood kitchen in Sentul.
Photo: our first retail store connected to the kitchen in Sentul