Shaun Liew on Coffee and Entrepreneurship

In a live stream session organised for Hospitality students, Shaun Liew, a School of Hospitality alumnus and co-founder of Wizards of Tribeca, Yellow Brick Road and the Flying Monkeys Bar advised all aspiring entrepreneurs to remain humble and not to rush on the journey of entrepreneurship. He emphasised that entrepreneurship is a career built on industry knowledge, not merely passion. "It is also wise to gain basic experience by working with an employer to understand how businesses operate." he added.

As Shaun recollected his memories, he shared that running a café and up-skilling as a barista at the same time, posed a challenge. Nonetheless, he was very thankful for his business partner who coached him on coffee brewing techniques and developing sensory evaluation skills - finding the “perfect balance” between taste, flavour and tactile. He further added that these two skills were complementary, and that possessing good techniques would eventually lead to improved sensory evaluation skills. Furthermore, as a bar manager, one should also learn other beverage-making skills.

Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Shaun was a lecturer. It was during his time as an educator that he gained exposure to the “World of Coffee”, having met various coffee experts from the international coffee arena. His interest also peaked as he attained more knowledge and hands-on experience with specialty coffee. Shaun soon realised that his new-found passion in coffee would change his life. This passion had driven him to leave a teaching career to focus on becoming a barista. As he frequented many cafes, he met his soon-to-be business partner Jason Loo, with whom the idea of starting 'Yellow Brick Road' was birthed.

When asked about tips on how to start a coffee entrepreneurship, Shaun very frankly mentioned that one should always “capitalise on the opportunities”. "It is very important to remember the three “rights” – partner with the right people, possess the right amount of funds and start at the right timing. The products of the business should also be unique in comparison to what was already in the market.", he said. Shaun also added that a question to be kept in mind was whether the product is a trend product. As trend products tend to generate a tremendous amount of revenue in a short time, this mountaintop success may end quickly when the trend fizzles out. Therefore, every business should strive to be sustainable by catering to customers’ needs and building brand loyalty.

Shaun also highlighted how innovation is important for the continuity of any business. During the pandemic period when customers were not able to dine in-store, small and medium sized operators of food and beverage businesses struggled to survive. Businesses were compelled to innovate and extend their product line to meet the changed demands of the market, in this case, for food delivery services. With innovative ideas, businesses would then be able to sustain itself, as seen from the major shift in revenue trend from dine-ins to sales generated from delivery and takeaways.

The live stream session ended with a Q&A session with the audience.


This article has been adapted from the original news found here.