Just like us here at ICC, the folks at Knead to Eat love a good sandwich - but instead of the dessert variety, they specialise in the savoury kind. Founder Mumtaz Marican shares her entrepreneurial story, and what makes her sandwiches stand out from the crowd.
Located in a cosy corner of Changi Business Park, Knead to Eat doesn't boast a trendy address, or a high-traffic shopping mall locale, but its team strives to make good quality products with great service - which has garnered the business a loyal following since it first started in 2013.
Says Mumtaz, "I realise that the F&B business in Singapore is so vibrant. There are always newcomers and it is easy to just disappear. So I'm always trying to improve and I'm very particular about the service and quality. These two have to go hand in hand."
Being customer centric, she is acutely aware of who her customers are (both the demographic, as well as individual customers) and caters to them specifically. "There is a certain demographic of customers that appreciate what I do. I know half the people who come here - by their names. We have regulars who can just walk in and pay us. We try and keep them by always offering better service and products."
Good service is something Mumtaz instils in her staff too - some members of her team have been with the cafe since it started, so they understand the importance of building good relationships with the shop's regular clientele.
As for product quality, Mumtaz says, "There are quite a lot of sandwich shops in Singapore, but there aren't that many good ones. I realised that most are bakeries that focus on bread, and sandwiches are a secondary thing. Or there are places that sell pre-packed sandwiches. Instead, I focus on made-to-order sandwiches. I think that's one of the reasons we still do well - customers like having some control."
Above: Knead to Eat's roasted veg sandwich - a hit even with non-vegetarians
Unlike many sandwich shops that use pre-made fillings, Knead to Eat makes most of theirs from scratch. "We do our own pulled pork, our own roast beef, pesto, tikka - it's a lot of work, but I think it pays off. When you make as much of the final product as possible, you have better control of the end result. We also cook our own soups. Nothing comes from a package," says Mumtaz.
Above: the beef for the roast beef sandwich is cooked sous vide so it's juicy and tender
It's a philosophy we agree with (our ice cream sandwiches are still all made from scratch by hand) - and which makes Knead to Eat a great fit as a stockist. "I think they're very synergistic - sandwich ice cream, in a sandwich shop!" says Mumtaz. "I try to focus on my core: sandwiches, salads and coffee. For peripheral things, I'd rather outsource to people who are best at it and who can complement my business. I've tried a lot of different things, the ice cream cookies are something that's actually stuck, which is why I've continued. I've also tried cookies, granolas, a lot things from local companies - I'm happy if it works, because I want to try and support local businesses as well. But not everything does."
When Mumtaz speaks about her work, the real sincerity of spirit that she puts into her business is palpable. To her, the best part about running her own company is the autonomy and personal challenge. Part of the reason she branched out on her own was to see if she could succeed in her own right. She explains: "In my previous job as a salesperson, sometimes your success is not your success. Sometimes it depends on the product, a good team that supports you, or a good company name - and I've always wondered whether my success was previously due to my supportive structure, or whether it was because I was really good at what I did."
And the toughest part? "In a big company you can push things around. When you run your own business, if you don't fix it, it won't get done. Yes, you can tell your staff and give them autonomy to make decisions but you still kind of need to be there. The freedom comes at a price. There is a lot of responsibility. I have to make sure I can pay everyone's salaries, and that they are happy and comfortable working. I cannot fail. I've spent sleepless nights wondering what I was doing - giving up a stable job and a good salary to earn next to nothing - but I think that fear of failing also keeps you going. It pushes me, and pushes my guys as well."
Knead to Eat
6 Changi Business Park Ave 1
Also available on Deliveroo and UberEATS