Women Who Launch: Zero Cuisine
Serene Loong, 37
Founder, Zero Cuisine
In 2003, Serene went on a date with destiny (in other words, with Anthony Robbins). She made a list of big audacious goals and learnt skills to make it happen; from bagging an award-winning career in advertising to purchasing her second home before turning 30. In 2009, the global economic crisis hit and Serene was retrenched from her high-flying career. Three years after losing her job, a holiday with a friend changed her life.
What was your state of mind when you were retrenched?
Shocked and in disbelief. After 10 years building global brands with international advertising agencies, working 12-14 hour days and winning many (more than 100) industry awards, I did not expect it. I realised that no matter how hard I worked and how many awards I received, I was still dispensable.
What propelled you to create your own product?
Shortly after my retrenchment, I found a new job. It was then that I went on a low-carb diet and lost 10kg in 3 months. But once I stopped the diet, the weight came back with a vengeance. I realized that a meal is usually built around a starchy carbohydrate like rice, noodles or mashed potatoes. It was hard to sustain a low-carb diet forever. I found plenty of other friends with similar sluggish metabolism looking for a solution too.
I googled and found cauliflower mash and cauliflower rice have been traditionally made by those on special diets. Problem was it had to be made from scratch and took about 20 minutes to do. I couldn’t find any instant versions.
December 2012, I went on holiday with a friend to Australia. We stayed at a rented house. There was not much to do except cook and chat. I made my cauliflower mash for dinner, and my friend, who has his own successful gourmet pet food business, loved it. He persuaded me to pursue the idea and do it as a business. He even lent me his food tech (food tech: a person who assists in developing food products and establishing standards for production and packaging
Six months later (June 2013), I worked out a formula.
How did you come up with the name ‘Zero Cuisine’?
I wanted a name people could easily remember and since the goal was to create a no carb carbohydrate, ‘zero’ seemed apt. As for ‘cuisine’, food is much more than sustenance to me.
So you consider yourself a ‘foodie’?
What’s your sinful go-to meal?
Happy Crab on Arab Street. It’s grilled BBQ crab. Really good and zero carb!
How is Zero Cuisine different from other dietary food alternative?
It is instant, uses natural ingredients and without preservatives. Zero Cuisine is the first starchy carbohydrate made almost entirely of vegetables.
How do you keep your product fresh without preservatives?
By taking out the moisture in cauliflower and limiting air in the packet. This naturally preserves the product for over 12 months.
What was your initial capital investment to startup?
Did you think you would one day start your own business?
As a child, I have always had random business ideas. Plus, I’m not great with taking instructions so starting my own business seems like a natural fit. Anyway, it is probably best that I be my own boss. Zero Cuisine is my first serious foray in business although I have dabbled in making tee-shirts, publishing a book and marketing seminars.
Is the journey of entrepreneurship something you expected?
I never expected it to be easy. The hardest part is believing and sticking to it when things don’t go as planned; despite plummeting personal savings and tempting job offers.
What are your future plans for your business?
I am always thinking about ‘the end game’. When I got the idea for this business, I attended a course on how to take a company public. It shifted my mentality about money and business. So, going IPO is my long-term plan.
What is your biggest challenge?
Finding the right partners to work with.
What is the most exciting news you got about your business thus far?
Through my food broker in San Francisco, Amazon has invited Zero Cuisine to be one of their vendors. They are interested to purchase my products to build their Grocery business. How exciting!
Has starting your own business changed you?
Absolutely. The biggest shift is my perception. In the past, I perceived myself as just a small cog. Like an indirect part of the bigger picture. Now, I am still a small cog. But I have come to realise that I am actually directly connected to other cogs, and hence have the ability to influence and impact the Universe.
What advice do you give young women entreprenuers in Singapore?
It is ok NOT do it all by yourself. If your dream is really big, you need a team to make it happen.
Who inspires you?
Anthony Robbins. He empowers people to transform their lives.
If I had to describe you, what would it be?
I am a conduit of change.
How important is eco-living to you?
Honestly, eco-living is not something I think about on a daily basis. But I do believe for someone to respect and love the planet, it starts with respecting and loving themselves first.
If you could play your part in saving the planet in ONE way, what would it be?
Take quick showers; not long baths.
Thanks Serene ♥
To know more about Zero Cuisine and to purchase Cauliflower Mash and Rice, click here.
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