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Coffee:Nowhere CEO Welson Ang shares what’s in store for franchisees

Coffee:Nowhere CEO Welson Ang shares what’s in store for franchisees

Move aside, Frappuccino – specialty coffee is here. Coffee:Nowhere, the latest coffee joint in town, takes its coffee so seriously that it hires a Q-Grader to source, roast and grind their own beans. Coffee connoisseurs will be pleased to know that coffee here is made at a proper brew bar, available in three ways: siphon, aero press and cold brew.

Slow-brewed coffee takes patience and skill.

Slow-brewed coffee takes patience and skill.

And it’s not just coffee that is for sale here. You can sit down for a decent meal, bring home a coffee machine, or even buy the franchising rights to Coffee:Nowhere.

Currently, there are two outlets in Singapore, one in West Coast Plaza, which opened last November, and one in Nanyang Community Club, which opened earlier this year. A third outlet is set to open in early June at Blk 820 Tampines St 82. While Coffee:Nowhere is a Singapore brand, its first outlet was launched in Taman Gaya, Johor Bahru, in December 2013.

Opened by homegrown entrepreneur Mr Welson Ang (he owns printing company Expressprint and figurine maker iGongZai as well), Coffee:Nowhere will equip the franchisee with a comprehensive training plan and ensure excellence across all outlets with strict quality control measures.

Coffee:Nowhere CEO Welson Ang practising his skills at the Brew Bar

Coffee:Nowhere CEO Welson Ang practising his skills at the Brew Bar

If you are wondering why the café is named Coffee:Nowhere, it means that Mr Ang, who came up with the name, has succeeded in making it a talking point. We ask him to tell us more about Coffee:Nowhere and the idea of franchising it as a business proposition.

1. Please tell us something about Coffee:Nowhere and its menu.

This is my first venture into F&B. For our case, this started as a spiritual venture as all the partners are Christian. We planned for this cafe business to 1) make profit, 2) serve the community and 3) evangelise and provide a meeting place for fellowshipping purposes. That’s why the names of our drinks have Christian connotations, such as Grace to Grace, Glory to Glory, Cup of Love.

For espresso-based drinks, we use double ristretto (traditionally a short shot of espresso coffee made with the normal amount of ground coffee but extracted with about half the amount of water), which coincide with the [“xx” to “xx”] drink titles. This also connotes “from No Where to Now Here”.

CNH sources, roasts and grinds its own beans. These are Ethiopian Red Cherry beans.

CNH sources, roasts and grinds its own beans. These are Ethiopian Red Cherry Washed Yirgacheffee beans.

We only use carefully chosen specialty coffee beans roasted by ourselves. As for our food, we cater to families and couples, and there’s something for everyone from the age of eight to 50.

Chicken ham and mushroom spaghetti for the kids. (POA)

Chicken ham and mushroom spaghetti for the kids. (POA)

Burger Nowhere is a beef patty topped with sliced tomato, cheese, lettuce, caramelised onion and a sunny-side up. ($14.80)

Burger Nowhere is a beef patty topped with sliced tomato, cheese, lettuce, caramelised onion and a sunny-side up. ($14.80)

Pizza Nowhere tickles your tastebuds with sweet and savoury sensations. An unusual combination of smoked duck, lychees, mozzarella, cheddar.

Pizza Nowhere tickles your tastebuds with sweet and savoury sensations. An unusual combination of smoked duck, lychees, mozzarella, cheddar. ($19.80)

Thin-crust Vege Delight Pizza with mushrooms.

Thin-crust Vege Delight Pizza with mushrooms. (POA)

Brownie with ice cream. (POA)

Brownie with ice cream. (POA)

Other fun beverages like smoothies, flavoured sodas and shakes are available if you prefer a sugar buzz over a caffeine buzz.

Other fun beverages like smoothies, flavoured sodas and shakes are available if you prefer a sugar buzz over a caffeine buzz.

2. Could you tell us the story behind the name “Coffee:Nowhere”?

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The name Coffee:Nowhere (CNH) is split into three categories and two parts:

1) Coffee – coffee is our specialty and passion.

2) When read as No-where – This is the starting point for all of us.

3) When read as Now Here – This is where we want to belong

Commercially, coffee will be with you in your journey as your best mate, best partner and best friend.

Our tagline, ” a journey of excellence”, encourages people to believe that we are always making progress to a better position in life. Good things will come.

The restaurant cafe at West Coast Plaza is bathed in warm hues.

The restaurant cafe at West Coast Plaza is bathed in warm hues.

3. Being new to the F&B industry, what was it like developing a new brand from scratch?

Of course it was difficult, literally getting from nowhere to “now here”. The word “Nowhere” in our name confused people and made it a talking point. When they realise that it can actually be positively read as NOW HERE, we will become a positive thought on their mind. This is just step one. There are many more brand and PR strategies which I have employed to ensure brand penetration and loyalty.

CNH's Q grader, Mr Ian Consulta, has acute senses of taste and smell.

CNH’s Q grader, Mr Ian Consulta, has acute senses of taste and smell.

 

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4. How was business after opening in Taman Gaya, Malaysia in Dec 2013?

We had a great start. It was after two months of overwhelming business that my partners decided to back out of our partnership. The most knowledgeable partner was not prepared; he was physically and mentally drained due to the massive ops in the backroom. He decided to pull out. That’s where our crisis started.

5. What did you learn and what did do differently after those first two months, to turn business around? What experience and skills have you and your team picked up to develop a franchise?

Despite being less knowledgeable about coffee than my ex-partner, I still decided to continue the business. Our pioneer staff had quit their previous jobs to join us and I simply could not disappoint them. I run the business as a “business”. I started to deploy business strategies to manage the business. We invited Ms Kammie Hui, world renowned sensory judge and barista expert to help us in bar management and coffee training.

6. To potential franchisees, what is Coffee:Nowhere’s value proposition? How much money would a franchisee stand to make on his investment?

One of the main reasons that people fail in the café business is the underestimation or total omission of a marketing budget. Business does not flow in just because you open your door for business. Also, newbies need to understand that there is a difference between running a café and having experience working as a café employee.

Coffee:Nowhere at West Coast Plaza - you can't miss it.

Coffee:Nowhere at West Coast Plaza – you can’t miss it.

A CNH franchisee will gain immediate experience operating the cafe where an experience trainer will be assigned as care-taker in the initial stage of running the business. Training will be provided, on top of compulsory on-the-job training before the official opening. We have documented manuals and a video database for easy reference too. We are the distributor of most of the products and supply is never a problem. Beans are also roasted in-house and we carry out tests on consumers to create a blend specifically catered to that franchisee. This will invite more crowds. As for marketing, franchisees can tap onto the brand’s goodwill and massive Facebook following of 80k. They save on design, photography and advertising as CNH has a huge library of templates. This helps to eliminate “error cost” for rookies. Error cost, which is usually not factored in most newbies’ budgets, includes failed recipes, mis-targeted advertising and other fruitless efforts.

Steven Teo's little girl Stacci is happy with her dessert of three kinds of waffles.

Steven Teo’s little girl Stacci is happy with her dessert of three kinds of waffles.

In a nutshell, CNH ensures that from the moment you sign on the dotted line, you will be taken care of from setting up of the company, acquiring the necessary licences, location sourcing, training, operation, coming up with the recipe, menus, supplies, design, renovation and so on, to ringing in your first sale.

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CNH franchisees can expect to invest between US$80k to 150k per outlet, licence term renewable after five years.

7. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve observed that the current five Coffee Nowhere outlets across the three markets are located in suburbia. Is this deliberate? How do you test the viability of a location before setting up shop?

Yes, we shy away from the town area. This is deliberate as we find that more of our target audience lives in neighbourhood areas. We actually do a survey to tabulate the total number of households and their demographic within 3 km of the area to see if it is of sustainable size.

8. What services does Coffee:Nowhere currently provide to customers, and what is in the pipeline for the upcoming months?

We offer five main services:

1) Food and beverage

2) Training

3) Sale of coffee apparatus and gear

4) Sale of beans

5) Mobile catering

Can you tell what coffee beans these are?

Can you tell what coffee beans these are?

9. There have been quite a few hipster coffee joints which sprouted up in Singapore in the recent years. What sets Coffee:Nowhere apart from all these other coffee places?

One of our success factors is location positioning. We want to provide a more up-market place for customers to indulge in a comfortable ambience, but at affordable prices. We are also an “all-in-one” cafe that serves customers food and drink, trains them in coffee appreciation and supplies them with the beans and apparatus for all customers. We also have events that serve the community, for example “Coffee explorer” and the “Brew mum a coffee” campaign.

Drop by at the Coffee:Nowhere flagship outlet to see if this business is really for you.

West Coast Plaza
154 West Coast Road, #B1-06/07

About The Author

Rachel Chan

Rachel has nearly a decade of experience as a print journalist for my paper (English) and Straits Times Life! and has also worked as a news producer for Mediacorp Channel 8.

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