IMPACT 0399: BEING THE NEXT GENERATION OF YOUNG HAWKERS
Chen Desheng, 31, is one of the co-founders of Pure Soya Bean, a hawker stall that first launched three years ago at 127 Toa Payoh Hawker Centre. He is extremely passionate about the craft of making traditional soya products with high-quality ingredients, as well as being part of a new generation of hawkers! Today, he shares more about his journey.
Tell us more about what you do!
Pure Soya Bean started three years ago at 127 Toa Payoh Hawker Centre. My business partner Vance and I decided to leave our full-time jobs and work together to open a dessert store as both of us have a strong passion for the food and beverage (F&B) industry.
Every morning, we start our day at 5am, setting up the shop and grinding our pre-soaked premium non-GMO soya beans that we later cook with utmost care using our tried-and-tested methods and recipe. Operations start at 7am daily, and we serve our wonderful customers, regulars, and friends throughout the day until 2pm.
What inspired you to do this?
Both Vance and I have loved soya milk and beancurd ever since we were kids. Right now, we are running a soya bean business and selling these treats that are close to our hearts. Doing something we love every single day doesn’t make me feel bored at all.
I graduated from Shatec and worked as a chef in various fine dining restaurants and hotels before starting this soya bean business. My purpose and passion is to create the best soya milk and silky smooth beancurd using my own special recipe.
Have you faced any challenges so far? How did you overcome them?
With soya beans being our only main ingredient, one of the challenges is to ensure that our beans are of the highest quality. We must do quality checks on the beans that we receive from our suppliers as the first step, and another round of quality check on every batch of soya milk and beancurd that we produce. Canadian non-GMO beans are our choice due to the consistency and quality of every bean.
Another challenge we face is competition within the industry. Some customers tend to be sensitive to the increase in food pricing, thus a small rise in the price of a hawker dish could lead to a decrease in stall patronage. Therefore, we can’t really increase our price much and have to remain competitive with our pricing, especially when there’s new businesses constantly being started. However, we try to keep our prices affordable for our customers so that we can share the same joy we experienced when we were younger.
How we try to stay ahead of the curve is by focusing on product differentiation rather than solely on pricing. One way to stand out is by providing the best customer service that we can. Most recently, we also worked with Kellogg’s and started incorporating Kellogg’s into our menu by fusing a traditional beancurd with cereal, which became a hit amongst the younger crowd.
If you could share one piece of advice with your fellow youth, what would it be?
Don’t give up! Stay positive. It is not easy to run a food business as it requires a passion for the craft – long hours of working and food preparation are part and parcel of the trade. We put in a lot of effort in researching and designing our unique recipes.
Especially in this COVID-19 pandemic, running a food business is extremely hard because of the growing preference for online deliveries, causing us to lose some of our customer base. Regardless, we still try our best to remain positive – believing in our products and trying every possible way to increase our sales by offering delivery and catering services.
What are your hopes or plans for the future? What do you want to see or perhaps do?
We recently found a machine that can make soya milk quickly while keeping up with our standards, so we hope to have more stalls in Singapore in the future. We want more people to be able to enjoy our soya bean beverages and desserts. It’s very fulfilling whenever a first-time customer compliments us!