From a part-time barista to a full-time kopi hawker, Faye Sai is one-third of the millennial trio behind Coffee Break. We speak to the 29-year-old lady boss on taking the road less travelled and beyond.
What do you want to be when you grow up? For most of us, the typical answer may lie in white-collar, high-paying professions such as doctors and bankers. But there’s also been a rise in the number of aspiring millennials who are willing to take the plunge into unorthodox occupations they’re passionate about – the F&B industry being one despite its reputation as being physically strenuous and long working hours, but thriving in the process.
Amid the competitive scene are young entrepreneurs diving into the profession of being hawkers, aka ‘hawkerpreneurs’. Among them is third-generation ‘kopi barista’ Faye Sai who’s heating up the local coffee scene with her innovative brews at Coffee Break. We speak to Faye on how she started out and what makes the brand special in the growing hawker scene.
“I’ve always seen myself as a hawker,” says Faye, who has since taken over the Sai family’s 82-year coffee shop heritage. Along with older brother Jack and twin sister Anna, Faye serves up authentic kopi brews and artisanal toasts while creating modern flavours inspired by their travels.
The 29-year-old’s interest in the business started a while back. Helping her father with the business since she was 19, she wanted to pursue coffee brewing as a career but was denied by her father who urged her to obtain a degree and gain work experience. Undeterred, she continued building up experience by working part-time as a barista and even volunteered for the World Barista Championship to learn more about the speciality coffee scene. This helped Faye in infusing unique flavours such as sea salt caramel, pumpkin spice mocha etc. into the traditional sock-brewed coffee which the business is known for – that’s dedication!
On what others had to say about her job, Faye says: “I usually face mixed reactions, but that was in the beginning when nobody really saw being a hawker as a viable career. My friends have always been supportive, but my mother is still very apprehensive about it. She’s seen our dad slog it out in the past and was reluctant to see us suffer like he did, even more so when it’s all three of us!”
However, despite giving up the stability of a full-time job for her passion, Faye considers herself fortunate for figuring out her strengths in the process of pursuing her dream. The business management graduate said, “I could’ve gotten a comfortable job with a steady pay check, but I’m glad I took this path as it gives me a lot of opportunities to learn more about myself. Back then, I took a diploma that wasn’t a great fit so I switched over to business management in university which I genuinely enjoyed and am now able to apply back to the business.” Playing to her strengths, the lady boss now deals with the marketing aspects, while siblings Jack and Anna manages research and development and operations respectively.
Dishing out advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs, Faye encourages: “Be open to trying new things and don’t be afraid of failure. At the same time, always have a backup plan so you can have a safety net to fall back on while you’re going forward.” So stay dedicated to your dreams and goals no matter how lofty they might seem – you might just make it!
Coffee Break is located at Amoy Street Food Centre, Buona Vista and Raffles Place. Like them on Facebook (@coffeebreakamoystreet) for more kopi-licious updates!
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