Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Stories Behind The Nurturing of Vegetarianism (3) -- The Veg School Moving On

Presentation at Veg Congress
@ Kuala Lumpur, Oct 2013
The Veg School (TVS)
was first conceived late 2010,
and officially started up in May 2011,
as an effort and good will,
to advance vegetarianism in the region,
by teaching scientifically sound procedures
to adopt a plant based diet and lifestyle.

After returning to Kuala Lumpur in 2012,
I was still required to travel to Singapore
to teach Vegetarian Nutrition for a few Buddhist Associations,
including Sagaramudra Buddhist Society,
80-Gallery (Mahaboddhi Monastry),
and Bliss and Wisdom Society.

TVS was still progressing steadily in low profile
despite my frequent absence in Singapore.

In 2013,
TVS' Signature Vegetarian Nutrition Course
reached out to some 150 students;
TVS' new course, Vegan Culinary Certification Program
also successfully trained two batches of healthy, vegan culinary students.

As TVS is getting a little more well-received,
I decided to expand TVS vegetarian teachings
to Kuala Lumpur, since I am already physically here.

Oct 2013, I gathered some courage to step up my veg effort,
by ending the contract with RPA Academy,
and docking onto full time establishment of TVS programs in KL.

After some intensive meetings and discussions with collaborators
and potential students,
The Veg School will officially conduct
Veg programs in KL starting Feb 2014,
as per some highlights below:
Detox Retreat @ Titi Eco Farm 3-7 Feb
Advance Veg Nutrition & Healing (Private classes) Mar-Jun
* Veg Culinary Workshop (semi-volunteering @ Tzu Chi) Mar-Jun
* Yoga and Nutrition for Digestive Health (collaborating with Yin Yoga Asia) 4-6 Apr

In 2014, TVS also continues to add value
in the vegetarian communities in both KL and SG
by creating a free Mobile App
accessible/downloadable at

harbouring the following features,
with which I hope to mobilize more people into health vegetarian living:

* TVS Events Calendar

GPS-assisted Map of Healthy Veg Eateries in KL and SG 
TVS Veggie Map @ KL and SG

* Health Vegan Recipes
Free Healthy
Vegan Recipes on the go

* Vegetarian Info Downloads
Bite-size Veg Info Downloads

Looking forward,
I am hopeful that 2014 will be a promising year
for The Veg School to advance vegetarianism
in Malaysia and Singapore =)

Have a Horse-some New Year :D
Kee Yew

{Learning Holistic Wellness for Wisdom and Compassion}

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Stories Behind The Nurturing of Vegetarianism (2) -- Leveraging from Home

Sunset at Home
@ Sungai Long, Kuala Lumpur
At the age of 14,
long before I receive formal Buddhist education,
I was blessed enough to meet a good teacher (Mdm Inthira)
who taught me to look deep within
and leverage from the strength within.

Since then, along some years of
learning and practising Buddhism,
the same teachings and guidance
surface every now and then
whenever I need to gather strength to move on,
whether in my own life path or
in the path of vegetarianism.

I knew, since very early days in Singapore,
that I need to return to my place of origin one day.
Because that is the place I should locate myself
to harvest strength from within.

After quitting from biotech research,
my plan was to return to Kuala Lumpur.
I gathered this is only natural
given the philosophy that,
if one were to leverage strength from within one's own heart, in micro-sense,
one would have to leverage from one's
own home, own family, own country, in a macro perspective.

That was why when Bamboo House
manifested the lack of ability to sustain,
my instinct drifted me back to Kuala Lumpur
to work with RPA Holistic Wellness Academy
to teach nutrition courses.

Some close friends were a little startled,
especially friends in Malaysia
who thought it would be tough for me
to make a living in KL
where salary is relatively low
culture is a bit different from that in Singapore.

With faith on Buddhist teachings,
I was positive and prepared to tackle any hurdle
to make my transition back to KL
well cushioned,
despite the reality of cutting my absolute income by 70-80%.

After returning to KL, teaching at RPA,
my experience was very encouraging and joyful!

In contrast to the belief by many,
I had a very understanding and kind boss,
very caring and friendly colleagues,
very enthusiastic and diligent students,
and didn't experience tightness in financial situation.

As what I learnt in Buddhist text,
with sincerity, true effort and humble lifestyle,
a lot of hurdles will dissolve on their own.

Returning home,
actually renewed me another contract
to put effort in my own family,
fostering closer bonds with my siblings,
and spending quality time with my mum.

Returning to Kuala Lumpur,
actually offered me another chance
to contribute to my home land,
helping people closer to home
and catching up with my old friends.

During new voyage in Malaysia,
I verified a few precious teachings
that I have learnt from Buddhism:
-- in order to achieve more, one need to give up more personal attachment
-- in order to serve more people, one need to lower personal desires
-- in order to be more free and liberated, one need to grateful with what one already have (at home)

I made the right decision,
by surrendering my seniority in biotech research.
Otherwise, I wouldn't have the opportunity
to start up Bamboo House,
although for just that 13months.

It's a pleasurable decision
to pace my path back to KL.
Otherwise, I wouldn't have the chance
to teach healthy vegetarian and nutrition
at RPA Academy.

Back home,
I truly have gathered more strength
to advance vegetarianism further =)

With deep gratitude,
Kee Yew


{Learning Holistic Wellness for Wisdom and Compassion}

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Stories Behind The Nurturing of Vegetarianism (1) -- Bamboo House

Ex-Bamboo House
Vegan Eatery @ Hougang
It has been quite a few years
since I had some update on this blog
about some exciting vegetarian endeavors
that I have been participating.

The past few years have been
awesomely hectic,
but also enriching, heart-warming and eye-opening.
While things now are taking a relatively slower pace,
I thought it's a good time to review together
some important events in retrospect.
This may also help clarify my mind
and reaffirm how things are going to evolve in the next steps =)

Japanese Private Dining
In 2011, I officially left academic biotech research
and started, along with two friends,
a small vegan restaurant, Bamboo House,
in Hougang, Singapore,

Given the financial education I had between 2008-2011,
I knew very well, that time wasn't an appropriate time
to start a F&B retail;
-- due to poor economy, and
especially healthy vegetarianism in Singapore
was still in the infancy stage.

However, I decided to plunge in,
to not just give it a try, due to curiosity,
but also and mainly,
to experience the true colours behind vegetarian F&B;
-- although the official explanation was that
Bamboo House could serve as supportive wing
to The Veg School which just started in 2011.

Also, the landlady of Bamboo House,
who was a Buddhist friend of mine,
offered a lower-than-market-rate premise rental,
along with other incentives
e.g. free rental of kitchen equipments, crockery, restaurant furniture etc..
It was worth taking the chance, amidst hostile weather towards vegetarian biz,
given the precious blessings from the landlady.

Bamboo House kicked started after very short 1.5months planning,
including minor renovation, recipe testing, minimal publicity
and pooling of relatively small capital (below SGD20k).

Business for Bamboo House wasn't rosy as expected,
from the every beginning.
The residents at Hougang were concerned about
the middle price range at Bamboo House
and skeptical about the taste of meatless diet,
with low salt, low sugar content, without any fried items...

One of Bamboo House partners left within the first month
due to her family pressure and prejudice that it was a wrong investment
and my stubborn resistance not to compromise
the way I design the menu and manage the restaurant...

The path became tougher, left with just Siaw Wei and I.
It took both us for about 6months to harmonise
upon external criticisms on the lack of food variety, location, pricing etc.

All throughout, Bamboo House couldn't breakeven every month.
We added a bit more variety, invested more money in marketing and publicity,
organised value-adding Holistic Meetup events to boost the crowd.
But we still couldn't close the loss gap.

We later noticed that it's mainly due to a very small vegetarian market in Singapore.
In order to boost our revenue to breakeven point,
we decided to adopt two strategies:
i. food delivery service island wide
ii. private dining program

Business revenue chalked up drastically and
the loss gap narrowed during the month
with bookings of food delivery and private dinings
and we were hopeful that we will eventually breakeven in another 1year..

However, our cash flow were soon running out.
Both Siaw Wei and I had been topping up every month
and certainly was concerned of digging deeper into our personal saving reserves.

I then started to talk to different private investors and big companies
to pull in fundings.

We were almost successful in convincing a private investor
who had a big heart for organic movement,
but in the end the investment didn't take place.
The reason given by the investor was that
I couldn't spend full time in Bamboo House
and was worried that Bamboo House will not run well without my supervision.

-- I was a bit ashamed of myself,
as that time, due to zero income from Bamboo House,
I indeed agreed to collaborate with an academy in Kuala Lumpur
to teach Nutrition courses.

With such agreement,
I would be spending most time in Kuala Lumpur,
and Bamboo House would have to be supervised
by an inexperienced staff (which the investor is not confident with)
-- Siaw Wei was still keeping her full time job then,
so, with my departure to KL,
she definitely couldn't handle Bamboo House alone.

Bamboo House eventually sustained for some 13 months
till the monthly cash top up hit our "stop loss".
Actually, without some small amount of funding from two good friends of mine,
Bamboo House would have closed earlier.

When Siaw Wei and I made the decision to close down Bamboo House,
we were still hopeful that Bamboo House will succeed
given a longer period of stabilisation.

We figured out food delivery and private dining were
two promising factors.
But funding was a critical issue.

At the juncture of renewing the rental contract with the landlady,
Siaw Wei and I were discussing whether we could adjust our stop loss,
but after putting in all factors in consideration,
especially when F&B was taking too much time to manage,
etching into Siaw Wei's family time, my teaching time at The Veg School
and avenues of basic income,
we had to close it.

Bamboo House is physically gone,
but the spirit is still around,
for the birth of Bamboo House had never been
an agenda of profiteering
but a mission to nurture vegetarianism in Singapore.

Up till today, consciously or subconsciously,
I tell people around me,
if ever anybody have the passion and a deep pocket
to start up a healthy vegetarian eatery
(and don't mind losing for a few years),
I am ever ready to be the consultant,
to transfer the experience, culinary skills and healthy recipes ^.^

For friends who had been supporting Bamboo House,
this is a deep down the heart expression of gratitude
to have allowed Bamboo House
to pull through the difficult times
to have a precious 13 months to learn and serve the vegetarian community!

All in all, Bamboo House had been a blessings!! ^.^

Kee Yew

. Bamboo House

{Learning Holistic Wellness for Wisdom and Compassion}
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