The first time I tasted coffee from ST. ALi, one of Melbourne's trendiest cafes, was right here at The Co. in Singapore. Thanks to Cafebond.com, an online retail platform that pulls together freshly roasted coffee beans from Melbourne's glittering cafe trail, the coffee machine at The Co. never runs low on quality brews. Founded by Keyis Ng and Eugene Chen, the Singapore-based start-up ensures that freshly roasted coffee beans from Australia reaches customers in Singapore at prices that don't break the bank. Below, Ng speaks to us about the genesis of the business, curating the right product mix, and how the 10-month-old e-commerce platform will continue to grow this year.
What compelled Eugene and yourself to start Cafebond.com?
Eugene and I were on holiday in Melbourne when we were first exposed to the captivating coffee culture in Australia. While we were there, we visited ST.ALi, a cafe in South Melbourne, which changed everything for us. It was here that we tasted one of the best cups of coffee in our lives.
We have always been coffee lovers. For myself, I have been making coffee at home for many years and I drink at least three to five cups of it each day. The initial inspiration for Cafebond.com came after our trip to Melbourne when I realised how I missed the coffee we had back there. I can still vividly remember how it smelled and tasted. So I went online to find a way to purchase coffee from Melbourne, only to find out that some cafes do not ship outside of Australia. For those that did, the shipping fees ended up costing more than the bag of beans itself.
Given the market's growing appetite for specialty coffee and the increasing number of online marketplaces which give consumers more choices and small businesses the ability to reach out to customers outside their physical stores, it seemed like the right time to start Cafebond.com. With Eugene's 12-year-strong background in coding and my seven years of marketing experience, we realised that Cafebond.com would be the perfect platform for our skills to come together.
There are over 2,000 small and independent coffee roasters in Melbourne alone. How did you arrive at the shortlist of 13 cafes from the city? What's your process like when it comes to the selection of coffee beans that make it to the site?
Think of us as a well-curated multi-label fashion boutique, but instead of clothes, we sell coffee. Our team works hard to source for a variety of coffee partners with different characters and stories. All our merchants are well-known cafes in Melbourne, many of which have become unofficial tourist destinations for travellers.
The ability for a merchant to deliver coffee beans that are consistently good in quality is an important criteria for us. Many of our merchants are market leaders in the coffee industry and are respected globally by their industry peers.
Who's the most interesting person you've met on the job?
It would be James Tan, the managing partner of Quest Ventures — Cafebond.com's first investor. James is also one the very first investors to bolster top local start-ups such as Carousell, 99.co, and Burpple. He has been very supportive. Given his wealth of experience, we've learnt a lot from him as an investor and mentor.
What's your favourite way to enjoy a cup of coffee?
Filter coffee with no sugar or milk. I love how you can taste different flavours of coffee, say with fruity or chocolatey notes, when you drink coffee at its purest form. When I travel, I will always bring along a Kalita Wave Filter, manual coffee grinder, and of course a bag of freshly roasted beans. When I'm at home and am rushing to work in the mornings, I turn to my trusted De'Longhi coffee machine to make my favourite milk-based coffee.
Do you have any favourite cafes in Singapore?
I love Dutch Colony for their extensive range of coffee beans sourced from Indonesia. The food there is delicious as well.
What books are you reading right now?
I'm halfway through The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and The Age Of Amazon by Brad Stone, which gives us an insight into the beginnings of Amazon and how it grew into the world's largest retailer. As the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos' leadership style is inspirational. There are some great stories of his journey which have inspired me as I build our own e-commerce start-up.
What's next for Cafebond.com?
We are currently working on expanding two areas, our merchant lineup and consumer market. For our Singapore-based audience, we will be bringing in the best cafes and roasters from Singapore, Malaysia, Taipei, Tokyo, and the United States. Meanwhile, we're looking to reach out to coffee lovers in Chinese markets such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. We are keen to introduce new product segments on our platform to complement our current offerings.
Interested in co-working at The Co.? The Co. is located at 99 Duxton Road, Singapore. To find out more about this premium workspace, click here.
Image: Cafebond.com, Getty Images, and respective cafes