Three friends found common ground in food and decided to open a food stall serving rice bowls and lok lok. They share their story with City News.
This unassuming coffee shop stall opened in December 2020, when Nicky Ang and his two friends Arnold Wee and Raeann Tan, all in their 20s, wanted to satisfy the lok lok cravings of those who used to cross the Causeway for their fix. Lok lok, a skewer of three pieces of meat or vegetable, is a popular snack sold through food trucks in Malaysia. Since the borders to our friendly neighbour have been closed since Malaysia’s movement control order (MCO), the craving can get real.
With Arnold’s marketing skills, Raeann’s culinary experience and Nicky’s operational understanding gleaned from helping out at his parents’ hawker stall, Sticks ‘N’ Bowls began with two main items on their menu: lok lok and rice bowls. Rice bowls were added to create some sustainability to the business instead of solely relying on lok lok sales.
The stall is also located near schools, making it an ideal spot for students to fill their stomachs after school. The founders envisioned their customers enjoying the food and leaving with a smile, which explains their smiley face logo consisting of circles—representing bowls—and “X”s—representing lok lok sticks.
TAKING THEIR FIRST STEPS BY FAITH
Nicky, who is a member of City Harvest Church along with Arnold, shares, “Opening our own stall meant we would have to work at it daily. We had to be mentally and physically prepared, we had to be resourceful and nimble in adapting to changes.” One of the things the trio did was procure second-hand equipment for the stall. “We asked around and found them online, saving about 40 per cent of the cost in the process.”
They began by marketing the stall to their close friends and church friends. Then word got to some social media influencers. Through referrals, the team also hired an ex-chef from Ritz-Carlton Hotel. In one short year, some of their regular customers have become their friends.
Nicky is thankful for his parents’ support. Though they cautioned him at the start, they also told him that starting his own business would be a good experience.
Nicky and Arnold share that how their mentors and leaders in the church would constantly encourage them with their messages and prayers. They also experienced God’s intervention in different ways. For instance, one day during a slow period for their business, they prayed before opening for the day. Shortly after, they received an order via Grab, and the customer’s name was Christian!
Sticks ‘N’ Bowls recently revamped its menu in August as the team wanted to offer a wider selection of quality food, such as unagi and torched mentaiko salmon.
City News tried the sukiyaki beef bowl and several lok lok sticks. The beef slices were stir-fried with mushrooms, and the seasoning was flavourful but not overly sweet. The bowl was also topped with half a lava egg.
The lok lok sticks were lightly seasoned and yummy, with special mention going to the broccoli, shiitake mushroom and ebi prawn tempura.
They are planning to open their second outlet in Jurong at the end of this year. When the opportunity was given to them, the team felt a sense of peace to go ahead with the expansion.
What would they say to another young person thinking of starting his own businesses? “If you have a business idea, document it down and find the right mentor,” is Arnold’s advice. “You don’t need to look to everyone for opinions. Believe in yourself and in God. Pray and if you feel peace, go for it! If it’s for you, God will place the right people in your life. Do not fear!”
Nicky shares, “I never knew how strong I could be until I experienced challenges and failures doing this business. I found inner strength from within. I also learnt how to manage and lead, even though by nature I’m more of an introverted follower. As long as you have a passion, just give it a try.”
Sticks ‘N’ Bowls is located at Blk 824 Tampines St 81 #01-38 Singapore 520824 and is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm to 2am. CHC members can enjoy 10% off by showing the CHC app.