An Acai Affair: Isabel’s love affair for the acai superfood
A superfood like no other — made of frozen and mashed acai berry puree, an acai bowl is a powerhouse of fibre, antioxidants and healthy fats that’s good for you. The acai berry is known to be higher in antioxidants than blueberries, blackberries or strawberries.
Pronounced ah-sigh-ee, the acai berry is a deep purple fruit which grows on the acai palm tree, native to Brazil. Most acai bowls sold here in Singapore are topped with other fresh fruits like strawberries, banana, coconut and other toppings like granola and chia seeds, making them very worthy pics for the ’Gram too. If you haven’t tried it, give it a go — it may just be the start of your love affair with acai.
Today, we have Isabel from An Acai Affair to share with us how she fell in love with acai and started the whole affair with her co-founder Anna when they were still studying at Singapore Management University (SMU).
1. Tell us a bit about yourselves, as the founders of An Acai Affair.
An Açaí Affair was founded by myself and my university friend Anna, back in 2016 when we were both studying in SMU. Currently, we have graduated and are both managing An Açaí Affair full time. We have also started other F&B ventures such as Sweet Cheeks Gelato, specialising in handcrafted gelato.
2. Why did you start An Acai Affair?
We are both passionate about health foods and healthy eating, and we loved to have açaí bowls together. We believe that açaí is a great product with a great number of health benefits, and tastes really great as well. We wanted to raise awareness about açaí and make it more accessible to the masses for them to enjoy it.
We also both had the dream of starting and managing our own business, and we saw a great business opportunity in the local market for açaí bowls because the available options at that time were limited, expensive and not the best quality. We wanted to offer açaí bowls that were affordable for all so that more people could enjoy them, but at the same time does not compromise on quality.
3. How did you start the business?
We opened our first outlet in 2016 at East Coast Road (Katong). We invested our own savings into the business and borrowed some money from our family as well. We managed to breakeven in less than a year and re-paid the loans, and managed to get external investments to open our second outlet at DUO Galleria in 2017. After that, we sold two franchises in 2018 (Upper Thomson and Westgate), then opened another outlet at Jewel Changi in 2019. Recently, we opened two more delivery-only kitchens in Clementi and Tampines North where we sell and deliver açaí bowls via delivery platforms.
4. What were your biggest challenges launching your F&B business?
At the beginning, it was definitely challenging because açaí was a new product and not many people have heard about it before. They also had the misconception that it would not be tasty, as it was labelled as a “health food”. We had to put in a lot of effort to educate our customers about açaí and its benefits, and convince them to give it a try.
Also, Anna and I were both only 20 years old when we first started the business – we were young and inexperienced, hence it was difficult to get people to take us seriously. Even our own parents had doubts about us going into this business initially, and it took a lot of persuasion before they agreed to loan us money and give us approval to start the business. We also had to juggle school and managing the business, which was a huge challenge. We definitely made a fair share of mistakes along the way but we learnt many valuable lessons from our experiences thus far.
5. Describe what is An Acai Affair is all about.
Our mission is to promote easy, healthy living that is accessible with the best ingredients that Mother Nature has to offer.
6. Why healthy food?
We believe that healthy eating is important, but it doesn’t have to be torture. It’s a common misconception that healthy food is bland, boring and tastes bad. With our variety of tasty açaí bowls, we aim to challenge that misconception and make healthy eating a fun and enjoyable experience, where you can choose your favourite options, customise your own açaí bowls to your liking and have it with your friends.
7. What do you envision the future of healthy food to be in Singapore?
I believe that Singaporeans are becoming increasingly health conscious, but at the same time we do enjoy eating good food and we can be very picky about our food. In the health foods industry, it’s important to be transparent about our products’ nutritional benefits, and at the same time make them tasty, appetising and even aesthetic so that Singaporeans will be willing to keep coming back.
8. What is one health hack or tip you personally subscribe to in your own life?
I never believed in overly-restrictive diets or excessive exercising, and I think that everything in moderation is sufficient for a healthy lifestyle that is also sustainable in the long run – I eat whatever I like in moderation, and exercise regularly 3-4 times a week by doing things that I enjoy, such as swimming or running with my dog. That way, I won’t feel worn out by too many restrictions on my diet or pressured to do more exercise than I can handle and feel like it’s a chore, rather than something I enjoy doing.
9. What is one advice you would give to budding womenpreneurs?
If you’re afraid to start something, you can always start small first and slowly expand it from there. Test out your product/service with your friends, engage in pop-ups and start your business online before you commit your resources to a more permanent arrangement. That way, you can get a sense of whether your product/service would succeed or fail, collect feedback and make the necessary adjustments and improvements before you expand.
Also, you don’t have to do everything alone – look for like-minded friends around you who have strengths that complement yours and can potentially be your business partners. It might be easier to start a business as a team compared to doing it alone, as you can divide the workload and responsibility, and come up with more ideas together.