NS: Selling food is a big jump from your previous experience designing bags for your fashion label – where did the idea for Straits Market first come from?
LE: I think the base of the idea came from the fish farm my husband is involved with here in Singapore. It’s a unique project which farms hormone and anti-biotic free barramundi in a healthy environment, leading to excellent quality fish. The more our friends tasted the fish from the farm, the more the interest grew and I soon realised that we needed an outlet. I couldn’t really supply the fish from my home so I decided to start a business. I also realised that I would have to offer more than just the fish if it was going to be successful as no one is going to log in to a website for just one item. So that’s how it started and I’m enjoying it!
NS: What is special about the farmed barramundi from the farm?
LE: I think as awareness about what goes into our food rises, more and more people are turning away from mass produced food which often contains harmful substances. As the fish are not treated with antibiotics or hormones, and live as happy animals in an environment designed to provide them with low stress, they not only taste better but are also a good source of nutrition. The price we offer for the fish is also very competitive which makes it one of our most popular products.
NS: What else do you offer on the site?
LE: Apart from the barramundi, we offer a selection of organic vegetables, herbs and fruit as well as high quality meats from some of the best suppliers available in the country.
NS: What is the concept behind Straits Market?
LE: I want the site to be a convenient option for those looking for daily essentials. If you’re a mum like myself – I’m busy, I work, I play tennis, I have three kids – you don’t want to go on five different websites, click click and have five separate food deliveries. What you want is to go to a one-stop shopping place and that’s what we offer. It’s one-stop shopping for premium natural fresh essentials. I don’t offer a huge selection but what I do offer I think is the best of the best. For example, I really believe items like our New Zealand lamb, our tenderloin and our minced black angus beef is the best quality meat available!
NS: How did you source your produce?
LE: I’m very particular about who we work with. I need to know where the farm or supplier is, what ethical standards they follow – is it sustainable like our fish? I want everything to follow the sustainable eco friendly concept as much as possible. Not everything I offer is organic but everything is as natural and as organic as possible. Our vegetables are certified organic and we’re offering them at a very competitive rate compared with other sources around Singapore. For example, my Kailan is organic and pesticide free and sells for $2.90, which is the same as the wet market. My Kale is $6.50 while in most stores it’s $12!
NS: How do you offer such competitive pricing?
LE: We keep prices low by our farm to table concept. We currently only deliver once a week – orders come in on a Tuesday and the food is delivered on a Thursday, two days later. We have low overheads so don’t add on high mark-ups on the price. We know that if people really want to go out to the suppliers and farms they’ll get a slightly cheaper product but it would be a very time consuming exercise. We offer the convenience of being able to get a range of high quality products at the touch of a button. I don’t keep a large inventory, the produce goes straight out, so it’s super fresh.
NS: Are you continually looking for new produce?
LE: Yes, I add new items regularly. I’m also looking for new products from Nepal if I can find a consistent source as the quality is generally very good. I’ve started offering bread, an organic sourdough, and lifestyle items like coconut oil, Himalayan rock salt and organic pasta.
NS: How does Straits Market compare with your experience in the fashion business?
LE: Fashion is different to fish! I still make my range of bags in Bali but am moving into more natural fabrics than my original range. I’m trying to ween off animal skins to be more ethically conscious, it’s a natural progression of my life. Before I was younger, trendy and out clubbing, now I have three kids and live in Singapore. I prefer tennis over bars – those partying days are over! Nowadays I’m more concerned about healthy living and eating right.
For more information, visit straitsmarket.com
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