TL;DR

What: Zac learns that it's important to listen to customers and move with the market

Quick Word: Zac Chua, Founder of The Nutkins and Kettle Gourmet

Zac tells us how he started his first company with less than $100.

Zac Chua founder Nutkins Kettle Gourmet
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In SBO Quick Word, business owners share with us a slice of their business and life over a quick email interview.

We heard that you started The Kettle Gourmet (TKG) with less than $100. Can you give us a breakdown of your spending?

We simply gave away free popcorn and directed users to our landing page.

It was an event where we wanted to validate our idea with no expectations. We simply gave away free popcorn and directed users to our landing page. We bought a $7 logo off a design marketplace, spent around $50+ on buying the raw materials required to bake the popcorn, and created a one-page landing page where users could transact via Paypal. We then printed a $4 name card and that was it. In fact, we were initially joking about it and didn’t expect to be brave enough to do it – but hey, what’s a great idea without action? That very same night I received a notification email from PayPal that someone had made a $7 purchase – and that was the start of my entire journey.

What were the returns of the $100 capital?

We got about twenty orders amounting to a few hundred dollars in the first week. One of the orders was from a lady who worked at TripAdvisor – she recommended our product to her pantry and that gave us the idea of serving B2B where they would purchase in bulk. We sat down with the regional manager and we’d never thought such a simple commodity, corn, would open such doors and opportunities for us. From then on we focused mainly on B2B businesses and targeted them to serve their pantries.

We got about twenty orders amounting to a few hundred dollars in the first week.

As you expand, how did you capture the attention of your customers and clients?

… we had about 30+ news features in 2018 alone and that really helped in brand awareness a lot.

The uniqueness of the flavour was already a big differentiating factor that sold itself. Our word-of-mouth marketing game was also quite strong. I also used Facebook ads to reach out to more consumers and directed them to our website. PR really helped us as well – we had about 30+ news features in 2018 alone and that really helped in brand awareness a lot.

What did you learn about Singapore consumers?

Most are curious to explore new stuff, some are difficult to please but I take it as good feedback to improve. And many of them are willing to spend on snacks.

I used customer feedback a lot when starting out because I have no F&B background. Everything was customer-centric. It was only after several enquires for bigger bags that we launched our bigger bags. Customers from time to time would suggest flavours and we would conduct focus groups to gather feedback to see if it’s ready to go to market.

Congratulations on your second startup. Will we be expecting the same approach to TKG with The Nutkins?

Thank you. I believe in F&B (and most businesses) it’s all about sales channels. Now established, we simply can tap on our existing channel (i.e. pantries) and provide them with a wider range of products.

The other aspects, like the day-to-day operations, processes, will be more or less the same. Of course, we learn from previous mistakes that we made in TKG so it’s definitely more efficient.

Everything was customer-centric. It was only after several enquires for bigger bags that we launched our bigger bags.

Popcorn, nuts… What’s next?

My late father was a successful venture capitalist who helped sow the business knowledge seeds in me when I was younger.

More snacks! I aspire to build an F&B snack conglomerate one day and I won’t stop till I’m done. We will be launching more flavours this year before expanding overseas. We are already in talks with a few international distributors.

What were some of the critical influences that brought you to where you are today?

My late father was a successful venture capitalist who helped sow the business knowledge seeds in me when I was younger. I had a pretty awesome upbringing as well, where I had the freedom to pursue whatever I wanted.

Along the way, I’m lucky enough to meet good mentors who advised me on my business journey.

In a parallel universe, what would you have become?

I’d rather die than work for people.

Definitely not a 9-5 jobber – I’d rather die than work for people. Probably a trader/investor or maybe a full-time poker player?

Zac leads The Nutkins and The Kettle Gourmet selling nut snacks and popcorn respectively. Connect with him on LinkedIn or find out more about his company.


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I'd rather write how-to guides and stories than about myself, unless absolutely necessary. Also, ironically, I hardly write with a pen and paper.
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