After serving delicious food to the business school community as well as hosting many events for six years, Reedz Cafe@BizSchool is now closing. It did not win the tender to continue with its operations in the school and will make way for a new café come August. We take a walk down memory lane with BBA (2008) alumnus Lee Junxian who co-founded Reedz with Chang Jen Fi (Engineering):
That year in 2010, the MRB Building was in the final stages of completion when the opportunity to operate a café on site became available. Junxian then was still studying on the premises while Jen Fi was just down the road. They remember juggling studies, co-curricular activities and running their food business at the same time.
Reedz at Business School is their third food venture, and one built on success, then failure, and resurrected by going back to the basics of how to really start and run a business.
The first Reedz Café was set up at PGP where within weeks, it became profitable. It was a good business model. The duo correctly profiled the customers as mostly hostelites who would not be in during the day, but would often stay up till 2am into the night. They decided to serve waffles in the daytime, which was minimal work and offered a high rate of return, and set up the kitchen to serve hot meals till 2am in the morning – the result: a popular hit with the hostelites.
Buoyed by this success, the duo went on to set up a Japanese restaurant in the Central Business District which they closed down after a dismal eight months. The lunchtime traffic was good but dried up come evening. The duo had failed to grasp that for dinner, executives liked to have a slow dinner with drinks and since many were on company accounts, preferred to head to the more expensive establishments.
It was back to the drawing board with a hole in their pockets. Junxian and Jen Fi studied the footfall around the various sites offered for lease – how many staff and students versus how many other competing food outlets, the type of hours potential customers will keep, how deep were the pockets of these students, etc. They had learnt the hard way that location is a key factor in the F&B industry. The maths pointed to the Business School location.
“We were still hesitant about setting up another outlet again after our recent failure. It was then Vice Dean of Research, the late Leong Siew Meng, who encouraged us to not give up over a failure. Jen Fi and I thus decided to go ahead. Thank you, Prof Leong.”
Even then, it was important to get the right mix of ambience, food, drinks, even seating, right. Junxian says:
The faculty and administration at the time envisioned a social and lifestyle cafe to not only host international guests, but more importantly to serve as a cosy hangout that was conducive for students (and staff alike) to work, mingle, engage in discussion, and of course, study in. To effectively cater to these needs, we researched and test-bedded various pilot concepts.
We designed Reedz to encompass various seating styles: Bench, Table and Lounge seating etc. to both cater to various needs and also to create a sense of depth and space within the premise. We also made sure that the local community had a home away from home where they could work and hang out at, no matter the purpose, and indulge in a warm, solid cup of gourmet coffee.
Food-wise, our mantra was to provide premium grills and plates at outstanding prices. Each plate served is marinated and grilled fresh, utilising up to 3 different methods of cooking – for each and every plate. Though the preparation time involved increased as a result, we were nevertheless convinced that this should not be a reason to compromise food quality but to use it as a point of differentiation.
The duo now adopt this same in-house matrix to evaluate the “value” of each subsequent location. Today Jen Fi and Junxian run a chain of six cafés dotted around the science parks and tertiary institutions. But Reedz will always occupy a soft spot in Junxian’s heart. Junxian has this to say about his time here:
The Reedz Cafe @ NUS Business School has always been exceptionally special to Jen Fi and I. It holds countless memories and has played a significant role in both our professional and personal lives. We have volunteered actively with, donated fervently to and grown together with the NUS Business school through the six years that we have been here. We have also forged close relationships with so many of the staff, students and alumni here that we can safely claim that the NUS Business School is our second family, our home away from home.
The both of us will like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all the wonderful supporters we’ve had from the NUS community throughout the six years that we have been here. Thank you for accepting us into this NUS Biz family and thank you for your patient and kind support of us throughout the years. A very special thank you also to the administrators at the NUS Business School for the honour and privilege of both serving and being part of your community.
As Reeds serves up its last meals these last few days, we leave you with some memories. Click on either images to watch a video of a day in Reedz:
Reedz Cafe has not only fed our stomachs and quenched our thirst, it also actively participates in many of the School’s activities. Did you know Reedz Cafe sponsored the Homecoming cake this year and hosted many Business School events like the 2012 and 2015 Bizad Charity Runs? Reedz Cafe’s commitment to the Runs stems from a historical link – Junxian was one of the co-founders of the Bizad Charity Run, which had its humble beginnings in the hands of its alumni.
For Junxian, Reedz is not just a café. Building on his success and failure as a young start-up entrepreneur with Reedz, he has gone on to found many more set-ups. He is today co-founder and CFO of CashShield, a global cybersecurity firm operating into the Asian, American and European markets. He also co-founded private investment platform, Fundnel.com, a regional fintech company, with a number of fellow finance professionals from the top investment banks and private equity funds. He is currently partner at three private equity funds with investment mandates in the Southeast Asian regions and Hong Kong.
Even though Reedz will no longer be on site, Junxian will still call Businss School home. He continues to serve on the Board of Directors of the NUS Business School’s alumni association as a Director and the Treasurer of its endowment fund. He sits on the finance committee of the National University of Singapore Society, a private recreational club with three clubhouses for graduates and associates. He is passionate about philanthropy and education and has spoken actively on Ted Talks on the importance of conducting our daily business from the heart.
We are happy to be able to continue to see you around the school, Junxian!
As we lament the moving on of a homegrown café run by one of our own, we also take this opportunity to share Junxian’s memory of the late Prof Leong Siew Meng who – as he hesitated about setting up Reedz Cafe@Business School, as he wondered about carrying on with his business ventures – encouraged Junxian to never give up. Prof Leong passed on in 2013. Read more about Prof Leong at https://bschool.nus.edu.sg/news-hub/press-release/news/3297