Today we have the huge pleasure of interviewing the team at Spinacas to find out more about their start-up journey! 🙂 Enjoy the sharing.[Photo credits: Spinacas.]
IG: Can you tell us more about Spinacas?
Spinacas is an online healthy food delivery food business. We specialize in low-carb, meaty salads and healthy bentos.
IG: Why Spinacas?
Spinacas comes from a play on ‘Espinacas’ – the Spanish word for spinach. This is because the idea behind Spinacas came to us when we went on a 2-month sabbatical to Spain.
There, we discovered that healthy good food was a way of life and was exposed to a variety of fresh whole produce and readily available meats used in the salads.
When we came back, Phyllis attempted to recreate the meal experiences back in Singapore but without success.
“Salads that were nutritious and hearty just didn’t exist. Most of them were too protein-light and carb-heavy, and I would always be hungry by 3pm.’
As a health and fitness fanatic, it was then that she began creating her own salads, always adding more meat cooked in flavour-packed mixes.
She packed some for friends to try and before she knew it, she was making deliveries around town on her red Vespa scooter, and Spinacas, Hearty Salads Delivered, was born.
IG: Who is your target audience?
Most of our customers are females. The idea of a salad appeals to them because it is healthy, fresh and unprocessed. We make all our meats and dressings in house!
Our customers are typically in the 25 – 45 yr range. They are busy, value health and fitness and want a healthy yet tasty meal!
We also get some male customers; they like our salads because it is meaty and protein packed. In fact, our meat-lover salads (containing 200 g of meat) are very popular with the guys!
IG: FnB in Singapore must have been really challenging. How long does it take for you to break even?
Yes absolutely! It’s very long hours, and highly competitive.
We’re fortunate to have found a niche for ourselves and have created loyal, repeat customers who like our salads and bentos.
It usually takes between 6 – 12 months for an F&B business to break even.
IG: What is the difference between your brand and home-made salad? I mean I can always make our salads at home and pack them to work…?
Good question! There are 3 reasons why someone would choose a Spinacas salad –
A. You’ll love our meats! – We make all our meats in-house and they are very tasty!
From our fiery Moroccan Spiced Chicken to our Shiraz Braised Beef Cheeks, these are all flavor packed. This is what really separates our salads from those that use deli-meats.
B. Super simple ordering – There is no need to spend time deciding on toppings, sauces etc. We’ve done all the work and put together the best topping combination. Just choose a meat flavor and check out. Simple as that.
C. To your desk – We know our customers are very busy. Also, to make a salad, you’ll need to buy 10 ingredients and combine them, creating a lot of wasted food. Who can resist a super easy check-out process and having a fresh, tasty salad or bento sent to their desk? 😉
IG: How did you get started with the initial idea of a hearty salad delivery in Singapore? Do tell us more about the initial conceptualisation of the business idea, how the initial six months were, and any things you did not expect on this entrepreneurial journey.
See Qn 2. for how the initial idea came about.
Phyllis was an architect and I’m a designer – we didn’t have any F&B experience. So the first 6 months were extremely challenging. A lof of the time, we didn’t know what we were doing!
However, what we did to reduce the risk was to spend more time fine-tuning the idea by serving our friends and families first before jumping in and spending a lot of money.
At that point, our goal was to see if the idea was feasible, to identify the pain-points in our business and also refine our food.
When more people started inquiring about our salads, we then felt it was time to rent a kitchen, upgrade our online store and hire full time staff.
The unexpected thing we realized is that it’s really hard to employ F&B staff in Singapore! The turn-over for kitchen staff is very high, even at market rates.
Couple that with this being a competitive industry and you can see why so many establishments close within 1 year.
IG: What keeps you going? And how do you test if you are on the right track?
What keeps us going is seeing our idea come into fruition and growing Spinacas as a business.
It’s also extremely satisfying when you have customer who tell you they love your food!
To test if an idea works, it’s best to try to start selling your products to friends and families. Are people willing to pay for your product or service? Will they buy it again or recommend others?
If the answer is yes, then you’ve got an idea that could possibly work. If not, then go back and improve it until the answer is yes!
IG: What would you say are the biggest things you have learnt thus far in your entrepreneurial journey?
1. That people don’t eat healthy food because it’s healthy, people eat healthy food because it tastes GOOD. Healthy food that doesn’t taste good doesn’t get repeat customers. That is why we insist on cooking all our meats and making all our dressings.
2. Being disciplined and knowing when to work and when to relax. Because we’re business partners as well as life-partners, it’s quite easy to talk about work even when at home. While we work very hard (even Sunday is a work day!), we always make it a point to create pockets of ‘no work talk’ time.
IG: What are some of the obstacles you have faced, and how did you overcome them?
We kept turning-over kitchen staff due to the F&B manpower shortage in the industry. This was very disruptive to the business and stressful for us because we had orders to fulfill and some days we didn’t have enough help to do the work! It wasn’t uncommon for both of us to work into the night and on the weekends in the kitchen.
To solve this, we had to constantly improve our operational processes and efficiencies to make it easier and faster for ourselves to do the same amount of work. Then we taught this to our staff; they also accept it because it makes their life easier.
We also try to make our staff happy by being flexible with their hours. Happy staff means they are more willing to stay and work with you.
IG: What’s next in your plans in the next 1, 5 and 10 years?
For the next year, we would like to continue growing Spinacas along this same path.
There is still so much to do and explore!
Of course, new salads, bentos and more products are being planned to keep our customers interested and happy!
Over the next 5 to 10 years, we see a lot of potential growth in the healthy food business and delivery food business, and we see ourselves at the intersection of these 2 growing industries.
It’s possible, when Spinacas is ready, to take external growth funding to replicate our online model overseas.