As 2021 draws to a close, it is time to take stock of the year and consider 2022. As every year since the pandemic, it has been a race with many ups and downs.
In 2021, we saw several companies take it by the horns and launch their activities despite a year of pandemic. It’s been less than a year, but these companies have grown tremendously.
Here are six local businesses that started in 2021 amid the pandemic and fluctuating government restrictions.
Pace is a Singapore-based fintech solutions company offering Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL), which has seen astronomical growth since its inception in 2021.
It only took a year for Pace to become a pan-Asian BNPL provider and is on track to achieve a gross value of goods fulfillment rate of US $ 1 billion by 2022. More recently, it announced that it had raised US $ 40 million in its Series A. round of investment.
According to the company, the new funding will go towards expanding technology, operations and business development. It aims to grow its user base by 25 times over the next 12 months.
The company is now Singapore’s fastest growing multi-territorial BNPL player as a result of this round of investment.
Pace enables consumers to split their purchase bills into three equal 60-day interest-free payments with an omnichannel experience that helps them spend sustainably.
It has successfully grown its overseas operations by working closely with regulators and adapting ultra-local approaches, such as integrating frequently used payment methods in the market to resonate with merchants and buyers.
To date, Pace has more than 3,000 outlets across the region. This is due to Pace’s ability to increase overall sales by up to 25 percent by leveraging local customer information while driving repeat purchases from Pace’s rapidly growing user base.
2. Champion Bolo Bun
Champion Bolo Bun had its opening in April this year, but quickly gained cult status as the go-to place for bolo bun. The bakery sells 700-900 buns on weekdays and up to 1,200 buns on weekends, all without any marketing effort on its part.
Owner and chef Hoh Loyi did not enter polytechnic or college like most 16-year-olds after completing their “O” level. Instead, Loyi cut her teeth in the baking world in Taiwan, where she earned a bakery certificate for a year.
Later, while on vacation in Hong Kong, she found an apprenticeship in a famous bakery.
The kitchen was somewhat reluctant to accept it at first, considering she was so young and just a PR in Hong Kong. Still, Loyi was as determined as ever and ended up in their kitchen, learning all she could about Hong Kong baked goods.
An upbringing like no other, instead of the usual after-school jaunts or cramming with friends for tests, Loyi found herself kneading dough and surrounded by sympathetic, avunculous older bakers who took her under their wing.
A few successful stints at events and Loyi found herself in a three-story boutique, along the streets of Tanjong Pagar and winding queues.
Another trend that has taken hold in 2021 is the countless studio-style black and white photos that have taken over from everyone.
As ubiquitous as they are, it might surprise you that Fotomat did not open until April 2, 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kevin Chu is the man behind the self-photo studio. Institution graduate Hwa Chong previously did an internship at GovTech, where he worked on Form.gov.sg. He then enlisted in the Air Force in 2018, where he worked in the SWiFT office, solving coding issues.
Fotomat is his way of making portrait photography more fun. By taking the photographer out of the equation, he hopes it will encourage more daring, expressive and innovative poses, which stand out more when given a private space.
With Fotomat, Kevin intended to make portraiture accessible and affordable for everyone, especially students and young adults. Prices start at S $ 30 for a 15-minute shoot (unlimited shots for two people) that includes two prints.
Fotomat has since opened a second outlet along Keong Saik Street. If you need more indication of their success, you can simply count the number of people in your social circle who have already visited Fotomat.
Another product that has wrapped us around his finger are the coconut shakes. While most of us are in love with another brand of coconut shake, CocoBoss is where you should get your next coconut shake when the weather gets unbearable.
CocoBoss opened its first store earlier this year at Space @ Kovan and has since opened its sixth store at the Peninsula Shopping Center within seven months.
Despite having no restaurant experience, Leo Tan and Benjamin Liu decided to take a leap of faith and enter the world of coconut milkshakes.
It was a steep learning curve for the duo, and Leo admitted that their inexperience presented many challenges.
âCovid-19 has affected our normal operating procedures due to security measures put in place by the government, which we must adhere to. As these safety measures are constantly changing, we need to adapt and train our crew accordingly, âsaid Leo.
He added that the global pandemic had caused shipping delays, which resulted in a “logistical nightmare”.
Leo cited the idea of ââbuilding a lifestyle brand around CocoBoss as one of the critical business challenges. They particularly wish to position themselves as the âStarbucks of Coconut Shakesâ.
Commenting on the local F&B landscape, Leo acknowledged that there is a craze for coconut shakes, which has helped propel sales. When asked if this would last as long as the bubble tea hype, Leo simply replied that people are constantly looking for alternatives to bubble tea.
With a growing number of coconut shake players in the scene, Leo admits he’s actually getting saturated and competitive, but they remain unfazed by it.
5. Chin Mee Chin confectionery
Technically, Chin Mee Chin has been around since the 90s, but its rebirth by Ebb & Flow has allowed iconic brand Chin Mee Chin to persist in the age of sushi and pizza.
Reviving a beloved heritage brand is no small feat, and although it took a few delays and a few u-turns, the Chin Mee Chin confectionery finally opened on September 15, 2021. After almost a month endless queues. and glorious buttery patties melting on hot buns, there seems to be no slowing down.
“Our goal is not to modernize Chin Mee Chin into another brand, but to preserve the legacy and keep the spirit of Hainanese bakery as much as possible,” said Lim Kian Chun, CEO of Ebb & Flow. . Like anything, finding that happy medium is much more difficult than you might think.
Chun also faces incredible pressure to get it right. After all, hell doesn’t have a fury as Singaporeans despise breakfast.
To keep the menu items as authentic as possible, Chun and his team tried to source from the same suppliers that Chin Mee Chin Confectionery has used in recent years.
If the consistent lines of Chin Mee Chin Confectionery prove anything, it is that Singaporeans still hold traditional food in high regard.
6. Go for it
Launched on February 25, 2021, GetGo is the latest entry into the carsharing scene already dominated by seven carsharing players in Singapore.
When it was launched, it touted itself as âSingapore’s easiest, most flexible and accessible carsharing serviceâ.
This is clear from GetGo’s billing policy. Other existing carsharing companies require either a cash deposit or prepaid credit top-ups, and some charge a membership fee.
Unlike the others, GetGo decided to do without it. It’s an innovation with no deposit, no membership fees and with a fully Pay-As-You-Go policy.
GetGo cited two reasons for this decision: They want to give users the peace of mind that the company is not withholding their money unnecessarily, and to make the service as flexible and accessible as possible.
âThis improvement further eliminates the need for pre-booking (which might add up for frequent users), and users will only be charged for the fees they have incurred,â GetGo said.
While newbies may be put off by the saturation and competitiveness of the market, Toh Ting Feng, CEO and co-founder of GetGo, believes this is more of a timely launch.
âWe had over 14,000 registered users even before our official launch,â he added.
Beyond the long pre-subscription list, GetGo also built a social network of around 8,000 subscribers in the space of a few months.
Image Credit Featured: CocoBoss / Fotomat / Champion Bolo Bun / GetGo
Also read: Year in review: here are 10 titles that rocked S’pore’s tech and business scene in 2021