An ice cream shop in Singapore’s endless summer? Highly intuitive, and quite the oasis. Then combine artisanal ice cream with chunky, molten lava cookies and swoon — a one-of-a-kind gastronomic experience that will probably leave your palate and Instagram feed very happy. But Sue-Lynn and Sue-Maine, the sister-duo-turned-business-partners behind local ice cream shop Kooks Creamery (and its indulgent signature), won’t exactly call the venture a passion project. Beginning with a big love for desserts, a pining for flavours from their travels, and their yin-yang dynamics… Kooks Creamery was simply, the coming together of perfect sense.
From “We just really love our desserts!” to 2 storefronts and a steady stream of glorious confections, we sit down with Sue-Lynn and Sue-Maine for a candid conversation on finding themselves behind-the-scenes in F&B, the inside scoop of an ice cream business, and trusty advice for surviving the (notoriously cut throat) local F&B industry!
Tell us more about Kooks Creamery! What’s the Kooks backstory?
Sue-Maine: We started way back in 2016! We’ve (Sue-Lynn and I) always wanted to have a business together — just us sisters. We really love our desserts and ice cream, so we thought what better way than to start an F&B business. We got inspired during our travels, and decided to bring a brand new concept to Singapore.
What makes Kooks so special, what do you do differently?
Sue-Maine: Kooks specialises in lava cookies and artisanal ice creams! What’s really exciting (And IG-worthy!) about it is that when the ice cream plops on to the lava cookie, there will be an instant ooze. A lot of our customers love that experience.
Sue-Lynn: It’s a surprise element for our customers! We also have lava cookies in different flavours like chocolate, matcha etc.
Sue-Maine: And we also have limited edition flavours that we bring in seasonally. Sometimes we do different creations like our unicorn cookies, where we have more fun with the decorations.
What does a typical work day look like for you? What goes on behind-the-scenes of an ice cream shop?
Sue-Lynn: I manage the stores and my production staff, so I’m usually running around. But what I really enjoy about my role is the R&D I get to do, in coming up with new ice cream and lava flavours. I like to take inspiration from our travels, from the things around me… And channel that into coming up with new creations for Kooks!
Sue-Maine: We’re usually inspired by trends, what we see on IG…we also do a lot of our own research. That’s the part that really invigorates us! For myself, I hold a full time job so I do more of the marketing side of things and business development. I’m more on the backend (of managing the business), while Sue-Lynn is more on the frontend and on operational R&D.
Ooh! What are some of the more unique flavours you’ve created and what inspired them?
Sue-Maine: Actually a lot of our customers have a specific flavour that they really love, so we have mainstays. But we also launch flavours seasonally, or even flavours to complement what’s in trend! Our most recent one was the a Botanical range —
Sue-Lynn: We did a Blue Chai Hokkaido Milk, Watermelon Rose and Mermaid Spirulina. For the Mermaid Spirulina, we were really inspired by Spirulina as a superfood and tried to integrate it with something more trendy. So we played with the chocolate mermaid tails for a more aesthetic, instagrammable look for our ice cream.
Sue-Maine: Yes! We love to work with what’s on trend e.g. trending superfoods and pair it with more popular, classic flavours for something that will appeal to mass taste buds.
What is it like running a business with your sister? Do you guys have a “work mode”?
Sue-Lynn: We do have a bit of a “work mode”! But I think we’re quite in-sync, we complement each other! We have a bit of the yin and yang. I’m more on the creative side and do more of the production, while Sue-Maine is more on the marketing side of things. So when we exchange ideas, we tend to complement each other quite well.
Sue-Maine: A lot of our conversations actually start organically. We could be chit chatting as sisters and suddenly it would be like, oh, I saw this somewhere! And the conversation kind of takes off from there. I think this also helps with the creation of new flavours. The good thing about having your own business is that when you want to launch certain things it’s pretty quick. We can turn around very quickly! Once we get inspired, we can launch something in a couple of weeks.
Are there ups and downs to being business partners?
Sue-Maine: At the beginning there was definitely some getting used to, because you’ve never really worked with your sister before in a professional context. There were definitely quarrels and teething processes. But I think ultimately (as Sue-Lynn mentioned) we do complement each other quite well in terms of skill set. And along the way we also learned to set scopes, boundaries, and to respect each other in terms of our thought process. We try to see things from each other’s perspectives.
Sue-Lynn: Generally we’re quite different, so we learned to work together. Since we’ve already started this, we would wish for our company to grow, and the best way to grow is to work well together!
We’ve talked a lot about Kooks and its story — but what about you guys? What was life before you started Kooks? (What was it like making the switch?)
Sue-Lynn: Before Kooks I was doing Communications Design and Visual Merchandising. I worked in fashion and learned a lot about layouts, colours, creative processes, mood boards, and what’s commercial. And I think I was able to bring that into Kooks, in how we try to make things commercially appealing. The life of a designer was a lot of late nights, so running the store was quite similar! A lot of late work, a lot of creative processes.
Sue-Maine: For myself, I’ve been in the marketing industry for close to 10 years. I started out in the media, then fashion, then moved to FMCG… The great thing about having a full time role is that I’ll constantly be on the pulse for what’s new and trending. And I can always test it out in my own business! I think that’s the fun part!
For Sue-Maine — how do you juggle a full time job alongside running your own business?
Sue-Maine: I think it’s a work-life integration of sorts. My full time job is 9 to 5, so on weekdays I’ll be focusing on my day job. Then on the weekends, I focus more on Kooks…and sometimes at night too. We (Sue-Lynn and I) have discussions at night, and if there’s anything urgent I need to do for Kooks’ marketing or business development I’d have to do it at night on weekdays or on weekends.
Kooks is going on 5 this year, we’re sure it’s been a journey! What were some of the challenges you faced in the beginning of starting Kooks?
Sue-Maine: Because we never really did F&B before, there was quite a steep learning curve. From managing the business to knowing what were the key things to expect… There was a lot of hustle required and it was super manpower intensive. So when we first started the store we were there working on weekends and trying to find suitable staff to join the team.
And what about the challenges now?
Sue-Lynn: Now it’s about being consistent in our service standards! As well as always staying relevant to our customers and as a company.
Sue-Maine: As a company we’ve been here about 4 (coming to 5) years, so it’s always about sussing out opportunities for growth!
What’s next for Kooks?
Sue-Lynn: I think ever since COVID happened, we’ve learnt that e-commerce is a very good area for growth. I guess that’s where we want to continue to grow in.
Sue-Maine: We saw the opportunity during COVID. People weren’t really going out and they wanted to order gifts for their friends, or order dessert. If you look at our lava cookies, the experience is very much a dine-in one. So we created a brand new, customised version of our lava cookie you could bake at home, retailing on our webstore www.kookscreamery.com!
The F&B industry in Singapore is notoriously competitive. Do you have any advice for aspiring F&B business owners, or those who’ve just started their own venture?
Sue-Lynn: Really hustle! And do your market research, especially if you’re trying to introduce something that isn’t in Singapore yet. Keep trying until you succeed.
Sue-Maine: Yes! Do not be afraid of the hustle. Sometimes it can look like all glitz and glamour on social media but really, you must have a very robust system in place and a very solid business plan. Look at your financials and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If all else fails, a lot of business teachers will tell you to use your gut. Especially if you’re trying something new — take the leap of faith and don’t be afraid to take risks!
Introducing: Kooks Creamery x The DC Edit
Serving up our sweetest collaboration yet! Together with Kooks Creamery, The DC Edit is excited to bring you an exclusive ice cream collection inspired by springtime energy. The limited edition Kooks Creamery x The DC Edit collection will introduce 2 new artisanal ice cream flavours and a series of original merchandise.
Spring In A Pint: Our Ice Cream
Mild & Mindful - Oolong Kombucha
A unique and aromatic tea creation, featuring sweet and tarty Kombucha with earthy Oolong. Taking from the slow fermentation process of creating Kombucha, we imagine ‘Mild & Mindful’ being a treat for unhurried days-in.
Rise & Sunshine - Yuzu Mint
For lighter palates, this refreshing creation combines zesty and freshly harvested Japanese Yuzu peels with hints of refreshing mint. Sparkling and bright, ‘Rise & Sunshine’ is inspired by sunny days, mood-boosting company and uplifting adventures!
‘Mild & Mindful’ and ‘Rise & Sunshine’ will be available at S$5.90/single scoop and S$19.90/pint. See below for our launch details!
For Sunny Ice Cream Dates: Our Merchandise
To accompany our 2 ice cream flavours, we will also be launching an exclusive series of Kooks Creamery x The DC Edit merchandise; as always, conceptualised and designed in-house by us truly!
Rise & Sunshine Tea Towel
A sunny tea towel and 2021 calendar hybrid to keep things clean and on track. Available at S$15.
Mild & Mindful Notepad
Reminders to self, memos for others, reflections and other thoughts… This charming block will also brighten your workspace. Available at S$8.
Everyday Tee Shirt
Your next everyday, everywhere wardrobe staple. This soft, comfortable and breezy tee is perfect for casual days in the sun. Available at S$25.
The Kooks Creamery x The DC Edit merchandise series will launch 23 January, Saturday, 3PM ONLINE on Shop DC Edit. You’ll also find our merchandise stocked IN-STORES (in highly limited quantities) at both Kooks Creamery outlets — only while stocks last!
Everything To Know About Our Launch
The Kooks Creamery x The DC Edit collection will launch in a limited edition on 23 Jan, Saturday IN-STORES at Kooks Creamery and ONLINE (from 3PM) on Shop DC Edit. Here’s how you can enjoy our ‘Mild & Mindful’ and ‘Rise & Sunshine’ ice cream flavours:
- Enjoy them IN-STORES at Kooks Creamery! Pop by Kooks Creamery’s outlets and enjoy our ice cream the signature Kooks way — atop a chunky, oozey lava cookie! ‘Mild & Mindful’ and ‘Rise & Sunshine’ are also available for purchase by the pint (S$19.90/pint) in-stores at Kooks Creamery.
- Enjoy them at home! Purchase our ‘Mild & Mindful’ and ‘Rise & Sunshine’ ice cream pints (S$19.90/pint) ONLINE from Shop DC Edit.
- Enjoy the full experience with our ice cream + merchandise bundle! Our exclusive ice cream bundles come with 1 x ‘Mild & Mindful’ pint, 1 x ‘Rise & Sunshine’ pint and our complete merchandise collection (Notepad, Tee, Tea Towel Calendar). This is an ONLINE exclusive and only available on Shop DC Edit at S$60/bundle, while stocks last.
It’s an ice cream date! You know we love our desserts here in the DC Team, and we’re thrilled to be opening the new year with a collection of our ultimate happy food. We hope you enjoy the collection as much as we enjoyed creating it!
The DC Edit