A few months from now, you will be hearing this from us again; Foreword will be celebrating our 3rd birthday in April 2020 and at this moment we are undergoing some reorganization within the company. We are relooking into our brand and our operations. How can we better tell the story of Foreword and how can we scale more efficiently? With regard to these areas, Nadi and I have taken bold and concrete steps to create a better Foreword in the months to come.
The Foreword team at the newly opened Temasek Shophouse in May 2019
Foreword is all about people. We’re about the relationships between people that transcends abilities. We’re about sustainability for the environment and creating a positive impact with people from disadvantaged communities, namely those with special needs, disabilities, and mental health conditions. We’re about partnerships with the public, private, and people sectors in driving social change. And because we are so much more than coffee, it is natural for us to place greater emphasis on our Foreword branding as we move, well, forward.
We would like to give a warm welcome to our ex-intern and incoming Head of Marketing, Grace into our team! Grace did an internship with us back in December 2018, after she wrote in to share how our mobile barista team during an event left an impression on her and she wished to join the company to contribute and learn. That one month of internship was not enough for her, and Grace extended her internship with us on a part-time basis as she was juggling with her final semester while managing our social media content. Upon graduation from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with a good Bachelor’s in Sociology, she moved on to doing hard-core digital marketing, managing multiple accounts and taking up Google certifications. All this while, Grace still has her heart with Foreword and continued to work part-time on weekends at the Temasek Shophouse (TSH) outlet.
Besides Grace, we also like to celebrate the milestones of other members in our team. Our longest-serving employee joined us since 15 January 2018, and if you have met Nicholas, his usual opening liner would include this piece of information before he goes on to introduce Foreword Coffee. Keith, our Monday Barista at TSH, has been with us since the start of Foreword, and we are surely grateful for his loyalty and belief in our social mission through the years.
Our last company meeting and gathering for the year at Gardens By The Bay!
Six of our team members (Leena, Carmen, Sabrina, Rachael, Ambika, and Darren) have served for more than 1.5 years, and Darren has also recently been promoted to our full-time barista at the Civil Service College (CSC) for being a valuable team player there. Another four of our team members (Josiah, Pauline, Daniel, and Ivan) have also crossed their first-year mark with us. In 2019, we welcomed a total of seven new members into the team. Wei Ying, Joshua, Victor, Jason, Beth, Vanessa, and Mark joined us at different months between March and December this year.
A special dedication to the Foreword Leadership team, where our manager and supervisors of the CSC and Centre for Healthcare Innovation (CHI) outlets have been working so well to serve both our crew and our customers there with dedication. Pauline and Victor both took up the role of supervisors at the CHI outlet starting in May 2019, and have created a strong team that can deal with large crowds of visitors, doctors, and nurses who frequent us there. Leena and Darren make a great pair at CSC, and Leena’s patience with our team is greatly appreciated. Besides our daily work, the leadership team also help take charge of the training and progression of student interns from various special education (SPED) schools and programs. Our leadership team has definitely proved themselves to be capable of doing everything except hearing, showing that Deaf individuals should be given more opportunity in our society to take the lead.
An informal get-together with the leadership team at Glasshouse. Cafe hopping with the team!
There are upcoming changes happening at the Foreword Coffee outlets. Starting in January, both our CSC and CHI outlets will be seeing changes in the menu. No longer will we be serving 2 sizes of coffee cups, but reduced to just “hot” and “cold” options. This will prove to be a lot easier for some of our team members with special needs when having too many options create too many varieties for our team to cope with.
Gone with the old, here’s our new branded hot cups (with PLA lining). Our cold cups have upgraded too! All these not just for sustainability and customer experience, but also to improve the workflow at our cafes.
For example, one of our team member’s mom recreated a work station at home to teach her child and revise work at home. She was taping some cups with black tape so that her child could generalize these “black cups” at home to the ones used at the café. This was proving to be difficult for the mom as she was trying to teach her child how to differentiate the 8oz and 12oz cups. This change in our menu would certainly help this team member work more efficiently and to make fewer mistakes at work.
An employee’s mom recreated black cups using black tape over styrofoam cups to simulate work station at home.
The outlet at TSH will be slightly differentiated as customers can expect more room for experimentation and wider menu offerings at TSH. Loose tea and filter coffee options are only available at our TSH outlet. Our expansive loose tea selections are curated from local tea companies and social enterprises.
Have you tried our curated list of specialTeas?
Slight differentiation between outlets will serve to help us in several ways: 1) assigning team members of different abilities into different concepts where they may thrive better and 2) offer our products at different price points to different market segments. While every outlet is mostly similar, some parts will be slightly different.
We are grateful for the opportunities that we were given, and to have received recognition and media attention for the work that we do.
In May 2019, we opened our 3rd outlet at Temasek Shophouse, home to Temasek’s philanthropic arm. Temasek Shophouse is a social impact hub that seeks to encourage, enhance and elevate initiatives and activities that contribute towards the common good and Foreword Coffee is privileged and grateful to be their co-working partner there.
Foreword Coffee is also known for the inclusive hiring that we are doing and we were awarded with the Best Newcomer Award in the 5th Enabling Employers Award 2019. We were also featured in SG Enable’s latest employer’s guide on inclusive hiring and hosted Minister of State Mr. Mohammad Zaqy and Mr. Sam Tan in the launch of the guide at TSH.
Really thankful for the recognition of the work that we are doing! This is for the team!
With such publicity, it also comes with greater responsibility.
We receive frequent job applications come from the public or by referrals from various social service agencies (SSAs) who deal with clients with disabilities and special needs. We thank our partners for the referrals and we have to deal with the pressure on our side to grow the company further before we can gainfully employ more people. We risk under-employing our current pool of staff, which is the case right now as our part-time staff does not get sufficient work in a week.
Part-timers in a regular F&B mainly comprises of people who value flexibility and want to earn extra money on the side without relying on the job for sustenance. As someone who worked in the F&B scene in a bubble tea chain after my studies while waiting to enlist into the army (years ago), I experienced this all too well. This is not the case for the part-timers in Foreword Coffee. Our team comprises of dedicated staff who work every single day and wish to be engaged meaningfully at work. The pressure is on me and Nadi to provide the work for our people.
With this, we really appreciate partners who view Foreword Coffee as a good company to provide employment for their clients, but we also seek everyone’s understanding that hiring will go slower for us now as we have sufficient people in our team, even with expansion plans in place. We are also looking into upskilling our current employees for some of them to take on higher-order jobs in the company such as being an administrative executive. All these changes takes time and effort, and it is in line with our goal to provide progression and development in every person in Foreword Coffee.
Foreword Coffee continues to work closely with the SPED schools to provide their students with internship opportunities. This year, we provided internship slots to students from Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School (CPASS), MINDS Woodland Gardens School, a youth from the NCSS’ Youth Forte Program, and traineeship for a beneficiary of SAMH’s Mindset Learning Hub (MLH). These internships provide students with a safe, first step into the café industry. While we don’t guarantee employment after the internship, we want to provide the real world work experience to as many students as we can.
The energetic volunteer team which comprises of students and working adults at MINDS Towner Gardens School :)
We also conducted the SPED school coffee workshops for the 3rd year running. This year, we reached out to 3 schools, namely MINDS Towner Gardens School, Metta School, and APSN Tanglin School. We mobilised a total of 33 volunteers, of which 7 of them went above and beyond to be part of the planning committee for the workshops!
People have asked Nadi and I, what’s in our typical day of work?
At the Istana for the President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Award. We didn’t win anything but it was still fun to hang around!
Some of the “chores” that we need to do include: coffee roasting, packing our warehouse, making orders for some of the cafe’s inventory, responding to our leadership team’s requests for disposable cups, deliveries for the online HuskeeCup orders, meeting with external partners, being interviewed or writing our thoughts for the media, check-ins with our employees, replying emails, planning for the next workshop, thinking of what food to eat for our monthly company lunches…
We’re also really glad that with the support of raiSE, we are growing as entrepreneurs and leaders of the company. Over the past 6 months, we attend many of their workshops and networking sessions such as breakfast meetup with Richardo from Adrenalin Group, Tech Clinic with Empact, Business Growth Strategy and Investment Readiness Workshop with Blackstone, and the most impactful of them all is the raiSE Fellowship Program.
Photo with our mentor (between me and Nadi), SJ Lim, and Jierong and Yen Yee from raiSE!
It is a luxury for us to take some time out for such “tuition” and to learn from workshops and mentorship. More than working in our company, Nadi and I need to work on the company and continue to strategize for our growth. We are grateful to those who keep a lookout for us — friends, acquaintances, family — when there are opportunities we can leverage on.
So, how will Foreword be growing in 2020?
We will keep silent on new café outlets at this moment, but fingers are crossed for potential locations for us!
We are putting resources into growing our Events and Workshops. Over the past 6 months of 2019, we saw an increase in the number of bookings for mobile barista kiosks and we have been able to serve up to 1000 people in a conference setting. We also receive requests for team building workshops especially for latte art and coffee brewing. We are currently looking at how we can further improve our workshop offerings and even coming up with a NEW workshop on coffee roasting with the Ikawa sample roaster that we have recently acquired. If you are planning for some event or staff engagement in 2020, do consider giving us the opportunity to provide specialty coffee service and workshops in your company!
Serving coffee at Pan Pacific Hotel Group’s inclusivity event. Mayor Ms. Denise Phua giving us her support!
Foreword has a new headquarter! We finally got a space in a light industrial building for us to store our increasing green coffee and HuskeeCup inventories. This office would also allow us to provide technical barista training for our team and trainees of our coffee program for persons with disabilities. Keep a lookout as we give you more information on this ;)
Lastly, I am making a personal promise to my team that I will be spending more time into developing them in their personal growth areas. To always hire new people and providing training for interns without focusing on our current team would be a hypocritical thing to do. Talent development and retention are critical. Personal and professional development for our current team would take the form of apprenticeship to learn a new skill such as coffee roasting, or more frequent contact time for feedback and mentorship, and job shadowing with the eventual goal of creating a new role for the individual to work beyond just café operations and contribute meaningfully to the company. Full-timers who have served more than a year with the company would go on to take up professional barista courses, and both Nadi and I will continue to upgrade ourselves in both coffee skills and being leaders of the company.
Onward and Foreword :)