For Lyn Lee, founder and owner of Singapore-based confectionery Awfully Chocolate, entrepreneurship has been a road with plenty of ups and downs to navigate.
She opened her first shop in 1998, to make and sell her “vision of the perfect chocolate cake” — and nothing else. Some were skeptical that a bakery with such a narrow focus could succeed, but after a newspaper reporter wrote a complimentary article her cakes became a runaway local success.
Starting Awfully Chocolate wasn’t just about a passion for a cake, though. When we first spoke with Lee in November 2011, she told us that her desire to start a business was also about her pursuit of work-life balance. Raising a family while growing a business is tough work, of course, but in 2011 her business was flourishing. Her simple, rich chocolate cakes were making money, and 2010 to 2012 was Awfully Chocolate was doing well.
However, between 2013 and 2015, Lee began to see declines in store revenue, which she attributes to the addition of too many malls and restaurants in Singapore at the time. The slump forced Lee to close down one Awfully Chocolate restaurant in the Esplanade, the nation’s national theater.
This year has been better, and Lee is optimistic about the future. But following triumphs and rough patches alike, she is more clear than ever that business owners like her must always be ready to respond to new circumstances and opportunities. “We need to continue to be nimble and to work smarter,” she says.
In a testament to the value that sort of flexibility, Awfully Chocolate did a pop-up Pokemon cafe for a limited time in 2016. She says folks lined up as early as 6 a.m. to shop, and that sales there were four times greater than expected.
Today, Lee operates 14 locations throughout Singapore. And Awfully Chocolate continues to offer franchises, which can be found in Beijing, Shanghai and other major Chinese cities. Those stores are faring well, too, she says.
Though there have been a few bumps, Lee still believes entrepreneurship was the right path for her — especially since it has given her the time with her family that she sought from the beginning. To this day, she takes her three children to school and picks them up at the end of each day.