Richard Koh was 54 when he was retrenched in 2016. The coffee lover decided that it was time to embark on one of the biggest dreams on his bucket list – building his brand. Together with wife Ong Bee Yan, they started a cold brew coffee company and called it 1degreeC, a portmanteau of Singapore’s coordinates (1 degree north of the equator) and coffee. “We wanted a brand name that could allow us to sell our coffee overseas without any difficulties. And having 1 in your name helps you come out first in any Google search,” Koh quips.
Their early struggles have become entrepreneurship lore, documented in the multiple articles that have covered their steady rise to the top of the cold brew coffee pile. But perhaps their biggest challenge happened last year during the pandemic. “About 85 per cent of our sales came from B2B channels – events, corporate orders, cafes. When Covid-19 hit, all of that evaporated overnight. We had to pivot,” says Koh.
Fortunately, the shift to a workfrom-home culture meant more people ordered cold brew coffee to last them through the week. It helped the company to make up for the shortfall and stay afloat.
It also taught Koh a valuable lesson.
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