2019 was a ride on the emotional roller coaster. The fear and excitement of setting up Ark Coffee, a mobile coffee catering business with my best friend, Beat, when we both had zero experience running a business. The joy of watching the business grow, the sorrow from a break-up and the happiness from new and deepened relationships with friends that came along. It was a wild and hectic year. You could only imagine my relief and delight when it came to pass that I could take a 6-month sabbatical to go for a discipleship course in New Zealand to recharge and reorganise myself.
The runway leading up to my departure was divinely planned by God: from the provision of finances to go for my course to the arrangement for the right people to join the team at Ark Coffee so that Beat wouldn’t be running the business alone. Come January 2020, I left for New Zealand, knowing that the business would run smoothly, with events and weddings laid out for the next few months.
Living in a small city in New Zealand, I chose to be shut off from the entire world. Though I heard about you briefly from concerned families and friends back at home, I was completely unaffected by your existence. But before I knew it, you turned my plans (personal and business) for 2020 upside down when you met me in the form of a global pandemic. With the cancellation of my course, I returned home in a haste, welcomed by uncertainties and a loss of control of what lay ahead, to Ark Coffee at the very least. Like it wasn’t enough that I was a wreck emotionally with all the transitions, I had to deal with the news that most of our business engagements were cancelled due to restrictions around gatherings and events. Our little takeaway coffee bar (which was launched in February in response to the declining corporate events and weddings) too had to cease operations when your persistent presence resulted in the circuit breaker.
Just when I thought you closed all doors for the business, I had a deep sense of assurance that God was still in control and that it was ultimately His plans that would prevail. Within a week of the start of circuit breaker, my team at Ark Coffee was faced with a sudden increase in demand for our handcrafted bottled brews through our e-commerce platform (again timely launched a week before circuit breaker started). This was a pivotal point for our business, and we were suddenly forced to pick up new skills such as managing an online store, creating an online presence and social media marketing, all while meeting the increasing demands for our products. What I thought was going to be a dull and purposeless circuit breaker was amazingly turned into a time where we got to market ourselves, fine-tune and increase our product range, and most importantly became friends with many of our customers. Though tiring, it has certainly been a very rewarding season.
When things seemed to have stabilised and appeared to have found new normalcy in the busy-ness, you pitched me a curve as the circuit breaker came to an end. The demand for coffee deliveries was immediately affected when more people returned to their offices and more cafes and coffee stands began operations again. It has since been a month and we are now in Phase 2 of Singapore’s reopening. Business has certainly been further affected and while this is no doubt worrying, I choose to focus on the many things that I am thankful for.
Though you have taken away my original plans and expectations for the year as well as our main source of income at Ark Coffee, I am grateful for the many friends and families who have come alongside Ark Coffee to rally and support us, especially by promoting us to their friends and families. I am also thankful for the #supportlocal movement where we saw many people coming together in unity to help local businesses like mine remain sustainable. Most significantly, you gave Beat and I the chance to comprehend what truly matters to us as owners of the business. Amongst other things, the heart of Ark Coffee is building relationships as we value and love the people that we come in contact with through coffee. Through this circuit breaker, you have allowed us to deepen our relationships with many of our customers through personalised cards and intentional conversations where we commiserated in our common plight but shared the hope that we are all in this together.
Although with you, it has been a journey of uncertainties since the beginning and the struggles with you continue, I am contented for the many good that came along with your appearance. Even as we think about how to pivot the business once again, my team and I know that we are not alone. If there is one thing you can’t defeat, it is the camaraderie found within our community and in this little island I call home.
Meanwhile, see you never, COVID-19. I hope you take your leave soon.