Interview with Mike Chin
I would best describe d’Good Café’s founder, Mike Chin, as a modern day David. He is fearless and humble, and God’s grace emanates from all facets of his life. He is also a warrior who has conquered a series of Goliaths with profound faith and tenacity. Currently 50 years old, Mike passionately runs two cafés at prime locations, actualised an unconventional business recipe — prayer and accountability, waiting and seeking, daily intimacy with the Lord, and lots of favour.
Though Mike’s sharing on the blueprint of his business, I was in awe of how Father God took care and planned every detail of His beloved child’s life. Unknown to most people, d’Good Café’s top-selling dessert — Maple Sea Salt Cheesecake — was a one-hit wonder which God gave Mike one morning; till today, it sets the café apart from many others. It is little things like this that demonstrates God’s love and providence in Mike’s life.
When did you first have the desire to run a business?
I landed a job at Singapore Airlines (SIA) when I was 24 years old, but the desire to run a business was constantly lingering at the back of my head. A few years later, I felt called to serve as a cell group leader, and that was when I surrendered this desire and dream to God. I knew that there was absolutely no way I could run a business and lead a cell concurrently; if leading a cell was where He wanted me to be, I’ll obey.
How did you feel about your marketplace job despite having such the desire to run your own business?
After my stint at SIA, I got posted to SATS and completed their management trainee programme. I was offered a full-time position and stayed for approximately 2 years. I thank God for the opportunity to learn and grow as an individual in the marketplace. I’ve learnt how to navigate through culture and politics —communicating with others and managing interpersonal conflict.
Despite having made steady progress in my career, I knew that I could not stay longer in that place because it was a specialised field, hence there very few options available in Singapore in terms of career progression. I took a job offer which involved designing restaurants and kitchens. I seized the opportunity and saw it as a good platform to build my design foundations and learn technical skills, which today still helps me in running my café business.
Unfortunately, a bad recession came along and I was laid off. By then, I was 26 years old and also about to get married. It was one of the worst times in my life as I had difficulty finding a job and my faith was really tested. But that was the time when God really started to strengthen and build my faith.
What were your convictions that led to you starting d’Good Café?
After being retrenched from the job involving the designing of restaurants and kitchens, I got into a large B2B company which helped companies to grow. I was also leading a cell group. I was so happy that things were falling into place — I had found stability and security.
However, during this comfortable season, I felt this heavy burden to start a business that ran counter-culturally to the ungodly views in Singapore society which were largely caused by the influences of multi-national corporations.
After working with so many businesses and start-ups, I realised that many corporations were anchored on values that were not aligned with what God has taught me, and I wasn’t satisfied. Must we follow worldly values in order to be successful? With this in mind, I desired to impact and transform the community; I wanted to change the way businesses were run.
What were the active steps you took in starting your business?
Simple steps: I just made sure that in all that I did, I prayed. Like my time in the marketplace or in cell ministry, I obeyed God and just did what He told me to do in faith. I won’t deny that I did question this call to start my business — was it my own desire or was it truly God’s calling?
I chose to stay accountable to my cell, my wife, and leaders, and they prayed together with me for almost two years. The other important question I asked myself was, “Am I walking closely with God and listening to Him?” I was already in my forties and married with kids, hence I wanted to be 100% sure that the calling was from God. High risk was involved because I needed to take into consideration my loved ones too.
Given that there are many other types of businesses with easier barriers of entry, why F&B?
God spoke to me during a church seminar: He asked me to head to Korea’s prayer mountain by myself to seek Him. I obeyed and when I was there, I had the divine opportunity to meet up with people who were in the coffee industry. The coffee and café culture was trending in Korea at that time and growing exponentially as compared to Singapore.
The entire journey was an eye-opener as I learnt more about coffee and roasting. Furthermore, I had always loved food and baking — whenever I travelled, I always observed different cafés or anything related to food. After my trip to Korea, I felt all the more strongly to start a café business, and took this trip as a sign of confirmation to enter into F&B.
Were there any obstacles in starting your café?
We started planning in 2010, and the entire process of opening our first outlet took two years. We had our first offer from a mall in Thomson area — the previous tenant had shifted out and we were offered to take over the space for the remaining lease period of 18 months. I negotiated for a three-year contract instead and requested for the rental fee to be consistent throughout the period. While the landlord had agreed at first, he changed his mind a week later after we have paid the deposit and signed the contract. He wanted to change the terms in the contract and even challenged my faith as a Christian. Somehow I had the peace from God to reject his new terms and we cancelled the contract.
Thus, we started all over again. We found no suitable location until 2012, when we found a space at Holland Village. We decided to take a leap of faith to share our desired rental rate and contractual terms with the tenant, and he surprisingly agreed! I felt that this was a result of God’s favour. God had planned out everything in His perfect timing. All we needed to do was to wait and seek Him.
After finally opening your first café at Holland Village, was it all that you had hoped for it to be?
Our first outlet at Holland Village was located on the second storey. At that point in time, many people told me that no one would head to the second floor because the café culture wasn’t popular then. However, I did not allow these comments to get to me, and worked towards opening a café that was based on international standards.
I knew made the right decision as many expatriates from Korea and Japan shared with me that d’Good Cafe reminded them of their home. Slowly and steadily, our business grew. Business was definitely rocky for the first six months, and we had our doubts. Thankfully, I had spent more than two years praying and anchoring myself in the Word of God and had stayed accountable to my community; this meant that I was not easily shaken through the difficult times.
How did you end up opening your second outlet at Takashimaya?
In 2014, we won the RAS Epicurean Star Award under the Best Café category. Ever since then, many organisations have invited us to open other outlets at their premises.
When Takashimaya approached us the following year to take up an available space, I told God that I needed to be very sure that this was from Him. There were many big players vying for the same space. I also needed investors, hence I asked God to send people to me, and He really did!
After submitting our café concept, the management of Takashimaya Shopping Centre gave us our desired space and our desired terms! We were almost like how David defeated Goliath (given that we were a small kid among the big players).
How do you use d’Good Café as a platform to share Godly values?
We started off by playing Christian music and encountered cases where people took offense. Nonetheless, we took a stand, and somehow our business got better! We also have prayer cards for our customers and have been ministering to their prayer requests and needs over the last few years.
We offer to bless customers through prayers. Customers have the option to remain anonymous. All they need to do is pick up the prayer cards from our red post boxes, select the areas where they need blessings, drop the cards back to the post boxes and our team would be committed to praying over them for a week with no strings attached.
What would your advice be to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I personally feel that you can plan all you want for your business, but if it’s not from God, it may not work out. Running a business involves major decisions, and you must know the purpose behind every one of them. If you’re a believer, I strongly encourage you to be accountable to the church, your leaders, and to the body of Christ.
There will be certain moments when you’ll need guidance and spiritual advice. This is when accountability kicks in — your community or leaders may not be able to provide you with the solution and may not be experts, but they are anointed to speak life into your situations. Trust me, we all need prayer support and accountability.
It is also important to constantly question yourself to see if you are faithful to God and obeying Him every single step of the way. When you are on auto-pilot mode and stop consulting God, that is when the pitfalls come.
Get d’Good Café’s specialty coffee & tea, fresh bakes, and savoury mains at 273 Holland Avenue S278992 or Takashimaya Shopping Centre, Ngee Ann City #B1-56. Follow their journey on Facebook and Instagram.