This International Women's Day, we would like to celebrate the journey of a female entrepreneur, Shen Tan, founder of Kizuna, who defied the odds and chose to open a cafe with a beautiful story, in the midst of circuit breaker!
We hope that you'll enjoy this feature, and we thank Shen for so graciously agreeing to our interview!
Wishing all you amazing women a Happy International Women's Day!
1. What inspired Kizuna and what's the story behind the name?
The decade that I’ve spent in Japan and my personal experiences led to the name, “Kizuna”. In Japanese, it means to bond together or connect people.
For me, running a cafe is not the ultimate goal. I have experienced setbacks before, and I think I have managed to develop resilience because I have been blessed by the people around me. I see this space as a platform for me to develop all the things that I believe in - community, conversations, support, environment. I want to create a friendly and safe space that would feel like a second home even to somebody who steps in for the first time.
Shen outside Kizuna (feat. Toto her cat) | Photo by @goderic
2. How long did it take from the inception of the idea to the opening of the cafe and what has been your favourite moment or encounter in this journey?
At some point in time, I thought it was going to take a year. It started with a text from my family in the summer of 2019, asking if I would take over this space, which was a family bakery set up by my grandfather, and ran by my aunt and uncles. The bakery ended its operations in early November 2019, but paperwork, approval by the authorities and issues with the main contractor took months to resolve. I thought I would be ready to open by the end of February but the situation got worse, and Covid-19 hit.
The following picture was taken on the evening of the day before circuit breaker. I was waiting for the glass windows to be installed and we only had a couple of hours before circuit breaker kicked in. To be honest, it was nerve-racking but I kept faith that everything would be alright.
I was also taken by surprise when the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) allowed us to start our business amid the circuit breaker in April 2020. However, two days after opening, we were banned from operating, together with other shops selling only beverages and desserts. That said, there were silver linings for us in the whole Covid-19 and circuit breaker situation, and I remember feeling rather blessed to have this space.
Honestly, there have been too many serendipitous and wonderful moments and encounters here, that it is difficult for me to pick one. Whenever it happens, we call it the Kizuna experience. This is not easily articulated - it is something that you have to experience personally. So many stories and connections have been made here in less than a year, and this journey so far has given me a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life.
Kizuna on the evening before circuit breaker started in April 2020 | Photo by Shen
3. Which is your favorite corner of the cafe?
The end of our counter bar. It has been nicknamed “the family table” and is open only to regulars and friends. It is not the most comfortable or instagrammable spot, but it is the homiest spot. <3
A glimpse of the carefully considered details in the cafe's interior that tell a beautiful story
4. What is your go-to fix from Kizuna?
Coffee jelly!!! Which is also the most underrated item here. I miss coffee jelly from my days in Japan, and decided to create our own here (:
Kizuna’s coffee jelly | Photo by @iris.nihao
5. What do you dream for Kizuna to become in the next few years?
I wish for us to grow so that we can support even more causes and have more capacity for meaningful collaborations. I hope that Kizuna will continue to be a place where old bonds are reinforced and new bonds are fostered. Hopefully, some of these bonds will lead to separate ideas and collaborations that will make the world a better place. I would also love to weave more sustainability and eco-awareness into the space and operations.
Bar night at Kizuna | Photo by @goderic
6. This International Women’s Day, tell us about one woman who has been an inspiration to you.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I would say, my mom. She’s not a perfect human being, but she does the best she knows. I appreciate her for being so forward in her thinking, for being so independent and such a strong pillar of support. As I grow older, I find myself looking to her and up to her when I need to make critical decisions. She is a voice of reason, but tempered by compassion and empathy.
Shen with her Mom | Photo by Shen
To have a taste of the Kizuna experience, drop by their cosy cafe at:
148 Potong Pasir Ave 1, #01-37, Singapore 350148
Open from 9am to 6pm daily