Lena Sim is the founder and CEO of Ministry of Food (MOF). MOF now has 15 varying concepts spanning across many different cuisines.
Lena was abandoned by her parents when she was an infant, and was brought up by her grandmother who passed away when she was 16. At a tender age, she had already saved about $30,000 from juggling as many as 3 part time jobs, all whilst still being in school.
Lena studied finance at the University of Manchester and became a trader with financial institution Morgan Stanley after she graduated. She then realized that being in finance wasn’t what she truly wanted and left her job.
During her travels to Taiwan, she stumbled upon a Japanese dessert shop and teahouse named Azabu Sabo, and was mesmerized by their desserts, and was particularly drawn to their green tea ice cream. This made her write to the Japanese headquarters multiple times, requesting for a franchise opportunity. She eventually convinced its founder for her to set up franchises in Singapore and Hong Kong. In 2006, Lena sold her shares at Azabu and set up her own food chain restaurants in Singapore, and that was how Ministry of Food was born.
“When I finally got a chance to present my business plan to them in Tokyo, I showed them what I used to earn as a trader and offered to work for free as a management trainee for three months. I was determined to show them I was serious. When I first started, I had to work in the central kitchen, just like any other employee. I did everything from taking inventory, preparing ingredients, washing dishes, and even clearing the sink or drainage system whenever it choked. It was tiring but I learned a lot about discipline and dedication from my Japanese counterparts. Everybody was always multi-tasking. No one was ever idle! After about a month, the franchise owners were impressed by my commitment as well as the detailed business expansion plan that I had drawn up, and accepted me onboard” – Lena Sim (https://www.oishii.sg/article/1233/)