This couple heeded the call to become entrepreneurs, and started three very different businesses.
|CN PHOTO: Michael Chan|
Before Sherman Koh, 36, and his wife Mary Yong, 34, started their tri-business venture, “we were working in a U.S. consumer products company. There we were put through one of the best people development programs in the industry, learning core business skills such as sales, marketing and business management. Being immersed in such culture for years, we often wondered whether we could put the same passion and skill sets into a business we can call our own.”
When they started attending City Harvest Church in 2000, they found themselves inspired by the entrepreneurs in the church, like Elim Chew, Nanz Chong-Komo and Jacelyn Tay. During Arise and Build in 2006, they felt the call to go into business.
Their newest “baby,” Yummy King Katong Laksa was started six months ago in a joint venture with a friend “who happens to come from one of the pioneering Katong Laksa families in Singapore. He had spent the last decade working on the family business and had the skills and most importantly, the closely guarded recipe, and was planning to strike out on his own. We felt that the business was viable, and decided to partner with him. We opened our first shop at Simpang Bedok six months ago. As we are still in the stage of increasing customer awareness, we are selling between 100 to 200 bowls of laksa a day, but I look forward to the day when we start selling 1,000 bowls daily.”
Under their own holding company Kristos Group Pte Ltd, the Kohs own My Happy Feet and Sub and Subzero. Started in October 2008, My Happy Feet is a foot reflexology, body therapy and fish spa all rolled up into one location at bustling Holland Village. “Our services are priced at mid-range, while our service and ambience are top-level. This has proven to be the biggest success factor, something that has helped us to weather the recession. Lower-tier customers realize that paying a little more gives them a significantly improved spa experience, while high-tier customers realize that a great spa experience can be enjoyed at a much affordable price. Our main customers are working professionals, but recently we’ve seen CEOs, company presidents, local celebrities—we even had a Hong Kong A-list celebrity coming to our spa!”
The business the Kohs started with in October 2007 was their fashion store at IMM Building. “We are the master franchisee of Sub, a Hong Kong brand. Sub is semi-formal wear that’s versatile—you can wear it to work and to chill out after office hours. We also carry Sub-Zero, the secondary label. Sub offers an Asian cutting that’s better suited to Asian frames. In response to customer feedback, we will be expanding our distribution to top departmental stores this year to ensure our brand is accessible to customers islandwide.”
The Kohs are constantly reviewing their businesses, ready to develop competencies and divest the ones that do not meet the company’s long-term vision. Their chief investment is in good staff: “The key to managing multiple businesses is to hire the best talents available—well trained, with an excellent attitude and aptitude. Most importantly, we look for people who share our business vision and will run with us.”
They are also focusing locally to build up their brand names, “even though there are increasing queries from interested partners as far as France and Dubai who want to franchise our spa, but we decided to expand purposefully,” Koh divulged.
“Our three businesses may seem different on the surface, but they all fall under the theme of ‘lifestyle businesses’,” explained Koh. “We thought that it would be a fun experience to go into businesses where consumers come to us as part of their lifestyle—to look good with our clothes, to feel good with our food, and be pampered at our spa.” While it’s early days yet, the Kohs have a vision for a future in which they can start a social enterprise to help young entrepreneurs.
Sub and Subzero
IMM Building, 2 Jurong East Street 21, #01-103. Tel: 6567-3851
My Happy Feet
29C Lorong Liput, Holland Village. Tel: 6462-0525
Yummy King Katong Laksa
320 Bedok Road, Simpang Bedok. Tel: 6245-3385