I-Ling Chiu

Obento (Pty) Ltd

What does your company do?

My company is within the food and beverage industry, the Obento brand started in Covid August 2020 where we sold Asian frozen meals online. When lockdown eased in Sept 2021, we did a market research exercise to serve ramen at Fourways Farmers Market, Modderfontein. The products sold were welcomed and it was decided that we open a fully fledged restaurant to focus on offering traditional Asian ramen as a core focus. The business is constantly evolving to introduce new Asian flavours to the South African landscape to provide diversity and building a community of Asian food lovers. The business is currently also venturing to supply its own range of sauces, dim sum items and lekker Asian braai meat range to offer to the local market. Asian flavours and foods made locally with the hope to gearing the business into the manufacturing sector to remove the reliance of imported favourite foods.

What is your biggest success?

My life has been geared within the property sector as a professional construction project manager, but I have always dreamed of owning my own business. I have managed to pivot my life into my love for food and belonging to a community with like-minded individuals. The business has challenged me in a number of facets - learning how to build websites, leveraging social media to get the brand into the market and taking the leap of faith to build my business within the hospitality sector during COVID19 when South Africa was still under lockdown level 3. The biggest success for me is taking all my education and work experience, turning it into a business where I am now employing people to make a difference in other people's lives beyond my own.

What has been your biggest hurdle?

The biggest hurdle is overcoming the fear of failure and leaving my corporate job. The comfort of a salary was a mental hurdle to pursue my own business during COVID19 uncertainties, however, I took the leap of faith to explore new territories instead of living with a "what if" mentality for the rest of my life. All my life savings went into the business, which added the to the stress of running my "side business" along with my job for 18 months proved the resilience I possessed to give up my corporate job and pour all my focus into the restaurant. This allowed me to further build brand confidence and continue to grow the community we have established.