Thoughts on Investment and Money built on a Christ-Centered Mindset

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Business and Testimony

This was written during the depths of the Covid19 Crisis in 2020. Many businesses are hurting. You are hurting.

I know. Because I've been through it. MANY people have been through something like this. You're not alone.

Many years ago (2002), I started the first soup cafe in Singapore with some friends. (The inspiration actually came from the #SoupNazi episode in #Seinfeld!)

We did well initially. We were featured in the press. There were lines outside the shop everyday. We must be on to a good thing! We even got other investors on board and tried to expand the business. Before we knew it, we had a central kitchen and 4 outlets.

What excellent timing! ...SARS hit within a few months of our expansion.

On hindsight, we probably made some bad business decisions, got carried away etc. But that is for another post.

We were HOUNDED by our landlords everyday. Demand letters from lawyers, threatening to evict us, threatening to take us to court. We were still quite young then, late 20s, so it was a very stressful period. It dragged for several months.

Our rental was about $15,000 per month and we had another 2 years more to go, so we were on the hook for about $360,000 or so. Bleeding cash everyday.

I find it hard to describe in words the stress then. It was extremely painful. I remember one day I was led to read the story of King Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 20) where he was facing a huge army. He CHOSE instead to praise the Lord and worship (IN THE FACE OF CERTAIN ANNIHILATION). So I chose that day, to worship the Lord and give thanks, no matter the circumstances.

Well, my problems didn't go away immediately!

I can't remember how long after, but things got really serious with our landlords. Technically we could just walk away from our lease and declare bankruptcy but we felt it was not the right thing to do.

We advertised and faxed (yes fax! it was 2003!) every potential F&B chain that we thought would be interested. None replied. Meanwhile the letters of demand continued.

One day, a potential tenant said he would take over our lease, but on the condition that we subsidize his rental. I can't remember exactly but I think it would have cost us maybe $150,000 (a lot of money now, even more back then) over 2 years. But we thought we would just bite the bullet and do it. So we arranged to meet the incoming tenant and the landlord on Friday, 3pm to formalise.

Friday came along, I called the potential incoming tenant at lunchtime to remind him but could not get through. Several unsuccessful calls later, we are getting nervous. He finally called back at 2.30pm and said he was NOT going to take up the lease. I offered to increase our subsidy. Nope.
We were devastated. We felt betrayed, again.

Me and one of my business partners drove to a nearby carpark. Speechless. The meeting was going to be in 30min and we didn't want to be calling our landlord again. We just sat in the car, and prayed. Opened our eyes, nothing happened.

I remember all these details vividly as if it happened yesterday, not 17 years ago.

My phone rang, it was the landlord. First question out of his mouth, "Are you coming over now?" My breaking reply, "Er, I am not sure it is necessary because the potential tenant backed out." "Just come. I got someone for you." he barked back. "You don't understand, the tenant has backed out." Landlord hangs up.

We went dutifully. A bit confused, a bit afraid of meeting our "executioner".

Cut the long story short. The 2 bosses of a well known F&B chain HAPPENED (right time, right place, remember?) to be having lunch next to our now empty shop. We had definitely faxed the availability of our shop to this chain but it was such big company, they probably had a dedicated guy who looks at potential locations, saw it and threw it in the thrash immediately. But because it was the 2 decision makers, they made a decision ON THE SPOT. Called their leasing agent, found out who the landlord was, and agreed to take the shop, WITHOUT any subsidy required from us. Zero negotiation required. Coincidence? What are the chances!!!

I am taking the time to write and share this because I know many people will be hurting right now.

Yes, the future looks bleak. Worship.

Yes, you might have lost everything. Give thanks to the Lord.

I don't have any other advice.

Blessings and Shalom.

PS: I am most proud of the fact that I am still great friends with all my business partners even though we lost money. Obviously, I pivoted after that, and have not looked back since.