Expatpreneur Awards 2017: How This Singaporean Couple Turned Their Son’s Allergies Into A Blessing
This month, we’re celebrating the successes of savvy expatriates and Singaporeans, as well as the setbacks they overcame, to make life better in Singapore in our Expatpreneur Awards 2017.
“My son Ryan is allergic to eggs, dairy, soy, nuts, gluten and yeast,” says Wendy Chia, who started Ryan’s Grocery in 2015 with her husband, Sebastian, and brother, Willie, to be a one-stop shop for allergen-free needs. “Ryan was the inspiration.”
The co-founders have been working tirelessly to change such negative perceptions about organic and gluten-free foods since Ryan’s Grocery was conceived.
Ryan’s Grocery now offers one of the island’s largest selections of affordable allergen-free, ethically sourced and organic products, as well as a full-service butchery that offers grass fed organic beef, free-range pork, organic lamb and so much more.
In order to cater to their son Ryan’s numerous dietary allergies and intolerances, the Chias were forced to search beyond the local market, says Wendy. The family began travelling to Australia to source and purchase products, which has one of the globe’s finest ranges of gluten-free producers and organic farmers plus strict standards for certification. Wendy and Sebastian soon realised that importing these products directly would help ease the strain of travelling so frequently – the idea that marked the beginnings of Ryan’s Grocery.
Tapping the pair’s extensive business backgrounds as well as that of Wendy’s brother, Willie Foo, the team opened Ryan’s Grocery and named it after the Chia’s now 9-year-old son (their second son, Mattheus, is 4). Some of their biggest challenges in setting up this unique-to-Singapore business: convincing small-batch producers in Australia export here; creating an on-site butchery and mastering “Australian” cuts; and going through the all of the regulatory’ steps to satisfy rules on labelling, sampling and more.
These days, Sebastian oversees retail operations, staff training, logistics, butcher management and production, while Willie handles business structuring and development. Wendy is in charge of all areas of marketing, public relations, website development and procurement for Ryan’s Grocery and Alternative Selection, the team’s second venture, which is both a wholesaler and retailer of gourmet, organic and preservative and allergen-free foods.
Wendy comments on her 27 years of work experience, “Yost of the people I have met or worked with along the way are now very successful entrepreneurs – senior vice presidents or head of sales at Nasdaq listed companies. Some of the young retirees are doing charity or meaningful work towards repaying society.” She loves the fact that she has journeyed with them but is equally satisfied with their efforts put into Ryan’s Grocery. She especially treasures meeting customers who have food intolerances or illnesses. “They appreciate the products and are so thankful to us for setting up a store that meets all their dietary needs.”