19 April 2021
Meet Chuong Van Dang, founder of Yum Seng
Yum Seng is a successful Dim Sum and Cocktail meal kit business founded by husband and wife, Chuong and Stephanie Van Dang, during lockdown. They have always had a passion for great Dim Sum restaurants and decided to start their own. Let’s hear more from Chuong...
‘When we moved here from west London to be closer to our friendship group, we really missed our local dim sum restaurants! We couldn't find anywhere in south east London that could compare. During lock down, with time on our hands we started delivering some dumplings and home-made cocktails to local friends before Zoom dinner parties, and the response was always great. That's when we thought we might be onto something – if our friends loved it so much then maybe we could deliver this to a wider audience? Dim Sum and Cocktails had a ring to it, and we couldn't let it go. We spent the next few weeks sampling different dim sums and cocktails and then launched the website. We found a great shared workspace nearby called “It’s the Flash Pack” in West Dulwich that we could operate from.
From announcing on our neighbourhood WhatsApp and Facebook group chat, we had over a thousand people visit our website and 80 orders in the first two days alone.
My wife and I have both set up separate businesses over the last seven years, but we had never done something together. To be honest, it was something that we both avoided as we were worried that working together might affect our happy marriage! The monotony of Lockdown 3 was affecting our mental health, so we needed a project to distract us. We’ve so far only had one disagreement, and that was about who was putting on our son’s socks! We’ve never had a business that has done so well, so quickly.
SiLL was instrumental in giving us the confidence to flesh out an idea, develop it into a viable business plan and then launch as a commercial business. We’ve learnt a lot from their workshops and were inspired by other entrepreneurs that we had met along the way.
Our local SiLL Champion Rachel Samuels was incredible. She took time to help me with my previous venture, by identifying and introducing me to other council departments that could help. She also helped me successfully apply for grant funding. She gave me the confidence in myself and my idea, which was a massive morale boost.
We still keep in touch with some SiLL alumni, and we keep abreast about how we are progressing. There is a camaraderie amongst local entrepreneurs, who know very well the highs and lows of business! Sadly, COVID-19 has restricted how often we keep in touch at the moment. It’s great to collaborate with local businesses, and we have recently started working with “Letterbox Cocktails'', a cocktail delivery business started by the people behind Bar Three Eight Four on Coldharbour Lane. We will also be collaborating with local breweries in the future, which is very exciting!
We had always toyed with the idea of setting up a dim sum restaurant in our area but were always unsure if there was enough demand to sustain the business. With lockdown, many restaurants successfully pivoted to meal kits and we saw the opportunity for a dim sum version. The huge response we had with no marketing validated our hunch. We have people from as far as Edinburgh wanting us to deliver!
The advice I would give anyone looking to start up a business is to go for it! The first step is always the scariest. There is the fear of failure and the fear of being financially unstable. There is never the right time, but do your research. Develop your idea into a robust business plan and make a simple financial forecast. Work out how much capital you need to start, and how long can you run the business without taking out any profits. If you are currently on furlough, then now is the best time, as you won’t need to worry about living costs until furlough ends. If your business shows potential, then you can decide to quit that day job and go full steam ahead with your business.
The key things I’ve learnt from starting up the business are don’t give up and don’t be afraid to fail. You learn so much from each experience. Keep humble and listen to others. Keep speaking to your customers in order to refine and better your product. And try not to do it for the money, it clouds your judgement.
To anyone looking to go to a SiLL workshop or talk to their local SME Champion, be prepared to listen, network and take advantage of all the tools that they are offering you. Starting your own business can be very lonely, and SiLL is offering you a community of support. You never know, you may even meet your future business partner there!’
For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.