Tough to be a Coffeeshop Owner in Singapore?

An online post by a Singaporean coffeeshop owner went viral recently…

The coffeeshop wrote that he will be winding up his last and final coffeeshop operating in Singapore, and shared his experiences, such as tough work and long hours..

He also shared his story of being scammed by 2 business partners, and went through lots of issues when operating his coffeeshop business due to the sour partnership… Plus some insights into some unknown secrets of the coffeeshop industry in Singapore.

Below is the actual Facebook post:

This is the original post content (with some privacy information being censored to protect the identity of the author):

Dear friends, in less than 24hours I’ll be winding up my last and final coffeeshop.

Being a hawker or F&B trade is really tough with long hours of work almost everyday. Yet, I believe it is something a young Singaporean should do and preserve this trade.

The names I used in my post is just a nick name.

It has been a great adventure and high entrepreneurial dare for me so far. I have learned to develop a strong fighting spirit and appreciate the immense love from friends and family members.

My tumultuous journey all began in 2016 when my university classmate (a mother of 6 now) introduced me to 2 guys by the name of Ah Lye and Ah Ben; people who enticed me to invest and start operating a canteen in Tampines.

Long story cut short, they are one of the biggest scammers in Singapore if I’m not wrong; known for cheating and conning people into sham agreement and investments.

I was unlucky enough to be one of their victims. In ignorance, I continued and signed more and more coffeeshops with Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) company sponsoring hundreds of thousand dollars to kick start the business.

This money is an advanced payment for a rebate collected from stalls using the LPG my company signed; with me being the guarantor.

What happened to Ah Ben and Ah Lye? They told me their reputation would cost us this opportunity due to their past history in the market.

Me being new and young in this industry, I knew nothing but I trusted the two of them so much that I failed to have a thorough check on their background. A mistake that changed my life completely.

Coincidentally, Ah Ben’s son is a friend of my sister. With all the sweet talking and fake elevation of his ‘glorious’ past, who wouldn’t believe him? I fell right into his trap!

Roping in his son to join the company as director and guarantor gave me some assurance that this man may be sincere and serious about this business.

Alas the horror began…

Ah Ben went around telling employees, customers, stall tenants and even suppliers that Melvin was his manager.

Despite the initial conspiracy with Ah Lye, both quarrelled and fell out in Feb 2017. Ah Ben made a promise to recover the money taken by Ah Lye during the initial invested sum of 54k. Ah Ben apologized, blaming that Ah Lye was still the same old person despite serving 2 years in jail.

He even suggested venturing further by taking up a few more shops to help recover the lost money. I was optimistic about overcoming all the setbacks.

He even reassured me by getting the son involved. Ah Ben continued to collect the sales from the shops daily (est to be 5k to 8k), but never once did he bank in all the money collected. I asked “why you don’t want to bank in the money”? Ah Ben said “aiyah, bank in need to draw out again and pay beer, cigarette and give salary”. He even retorted “ Is it you don’t trust me”?

I never knew that not banking in the money is an offence. The money belongs to the company, neither the director nor Ah Ben. Especially since he was a liar and an undischarged bankrupt since the day we met. I should have stayed away from this unscrupulous man and followed proper procedures.

Whenever there was a new LPG company willing to provide advance credit to start a new shop. Ah Ben will get the company or the director to quickly cash out the cheque and hand over half the amount to him. The other half will be kept by me to pay off any balance owing to the supplier, rental to landlord and government agencies like CPF and MOM.

The shares he took became his, signed by the company. So it eventually belonged to him! He spent the money on cars including his son’s car. When the company was struggling for fundings, he got me to sell off my car, took the money and pay for company’s expenses.

Months later, a lump sum came in from LPG company and he took the money to get me a continental car. I was worried about the monthly instalment and he said “don’t worry la, we can earn back. One day cash collection is 5k to 8k). “

When I was bidding for HDB shops, his 16 coffeeshops experience didn’t help at all. Renovation was delayed and he went to China. The fact that he was able to fly off made me believe that he was a discharged bankrupt.

Months later, he managed to open the shop at Seng Kang and Whampoa. But alas, 3 months later, the coffee shop at Seng Kang failed.

We closed the shop for good. At least 50k was spent on renovation work. Another 50k on rental to HDB because we didn’t manage to enjoy the grace rent free period due to our delayed reno.

We closed the Whampoa shop after operating for a good 10 months. The strange thing was Ah Lye appeared again like some wild pokemon. He wanted to run a shop from the list of 9 we have.

Ah Ben tried to convince me and said Ah Lye was going to use another person’s name to rent the shop from us. True enough, Ah Lye took more than 100k to pay for deposit and one month rental. The money came from 1 investor and the money was never put into my company’s account.

Where did that money go to? He did show me that he collected cash, but not a single cent went into the company account. I will give him 55 claps if this is an outdoor adventure camp.

Did Ah Ben and Ah Lye conspire to cheat my company’s money? After several checks, I realized they had the same residential address.

As a bankrupt, Ah Ben did the following to my company. 
1) He didn’t bank in the money from the daily sales and did not keep a clean record of his recordings.

2) He abused his position given to him and lied to many people that he was the real boss and I was only his manager. With that strong conviction, tenants passed him their security deposits, suppliers collected cheques from him with no sufficient credits for deduction.

3) He was seen spending money in night clubs and remitting money to China. With nightly spending amounting to 2k to 3, it became ridiculous as his basic salary was merely 2.4k. He needed to pay his condo rental, lungs diffuser and car instalment of 3.6k. A quick math will deduce that this amount of salary is not enough.

4) He solicited money from investor, got the company to issue a letter but the money was never banked into the company’s account. The best part was that the investor did a personal transfer to Ah Ben.

5) He signed off as the personal guarantor for my company’s auto loan. It was a small amount but he got himself into big trouble as he was not supposed to be the one signing.

6) He literally owed every landlord rental. He confronted every landlord for chasing him for payment. Crazy right? He even scolded the customer when he took forever to cook their food.

Because of all these that happened, my journey running F&B went through the great Indian ocean plus a few tsunamis. All because of my negligence and my complete trust for the wrong co-captain.

The ship will never sink. The captain will continue to steer the ship and brave the consequences that may come in the next couple of months, even years.

Raking up millions in debt, I only wish to be given a chance to run this business again, an opportunity to work with an honest and sincere partner and work my way up again. I do not need any donations.

*On 15th March 2019, I will be holding a mini celebration to commemorate my 2 1/2 years journey with coffeeshop. I will dock my ship at << censored >> from 7pm to 12midnight. I will even make some coffee, food and snacks to show my appreciation to all who have supported my journey and walked through this challenging path with me.*

I must pay special mention to my family who has stood by me all these years. Words are not enough to express how thankful i am to have my Dad, Mom, Sister and Girlfriend as my strongest pillars during this difficult period. They definitely deserve better.

Despite all the painful encounters and misconceptions, I’ve gained rich exposures at a heavy price; to all who care for me I’m here to tell you I’m fine and I’m fighting strong to move on with life.

Hope to see you tomorrow. Thanks for your support.

#我的最后几杯 #有机会还是会回来的 #我只是想为你泡杯咖啡不是煲汤

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Some net citizens and friends offered positive encouragements and advises to the author.

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Is setting-up and operating a coffeeshop, or any businesses in Singapore for that matter, a tough thing to do in Singapore?

What do you think?

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