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This Woman Had 5 Failed Businesses Before She Started Her Grocery Chain That Now Brings $8M/Year

Pang Gek Tang, founder of Surrey Hills Grocer, tried her hands at 5 businesses before finding success.
Cover Image Source: Steps to follow to succeed in businesses (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Lum3n
Cover Image Source: Steps to follow to succeed in businesses (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Lum3n

Pang Gek Teng, the founder of Surrey Hills Grocer, had five failed businesses before succeeding in her entrepreneurial journey. The founder of the Australian-inspired grocer, experiential lifestyle, and dining destination in Singapore, Gek began her career as a banker but soon found her calling in business. Gek recently spoke to CNBC Make It, sharing her story and the lessons she learned from building a multimillion-dollar business.

Born in Singapore, Gek's mom was a homemaker, and her dad an engineer. Her parents encouraged her to pursue education and get a stable job, but she was not happy with that. However, she followed her parents’ advice and in 2008, Gek moved to Australia to attend university. She got a bachelor’s degree in management and marketing from the University of Newcastle and landed a job as a banker.

However, she did not feel fulfilled. “I knew that it was not a job that I could work until I retire,” Pang told CNBC Make It. She soon started looking at business ideas to start with friends and by 2015, Pang decided to quit her job and start her entrepreneurial journey.

Before succeeding, Gek tried her hands at five different businesses which failed. Her first venture was a tour agency, where she hosted running tours. She then ventured into real estate, a watch business called Daybook Watches, a home-cooked food delivery business, and a brick-and-mortar grain bowl business called Surch, which she managed to sell.

Surch was the first brand to bring the concept to Australia and shortly after launching the brand, Gek opened three more outlets. She eventually sold the business in 2019. Shortly after the sale, the pandemic derailed the project, as per Tatler Asia. Gek then moved back to Singapore with just 362 Australian dollars ($235) in her account.

1 Prepare for things that can be controlled and have faith in those beyond control.

2 Don’t let failure come in the way and use it as motivation.

3 Go with gut feeling and take the leap of faith when an opportunity presents itself.

Gek’s sixth attempt at business turned out to be successful. After Surch, Gek started toying with the idea of bringing an Australian grocer-café concept to Singapore. A family friend Alvin Lau decided to invest 400,000 Singapore dollars ($293,800) into her business, becoming a founding shareholder of Surrey Hills Grocer.

Gek says Lau put his trust in her with which she opened her first Surrey Hills Grocer store in December 2021. She eventually opened four other locations and today, her business is set to surpass her 2023 revenue of $8 million (SG$11 million). Surrey Hills Grocer did about SG$ 1.4 million in monthly sales this year, per unaudited statements reviewed by CNBC.

Gek is also manufacturing her pet product line called Furry Hills and working on developing a new Japanese ramen restaurant, Spanish restaurant, and Taiwanese shabu restaurant, which she plans to open by the third quarter of this year.