New business and new mum
Not many people are brave enough to start their own business just two weeks before giving birth to twins. We chat to a French expat mum about doing exactly that – and her mission to provide affordable, healthy and organic fruit and vegetables to families in Singapore.
Claire Chabrieres is no stranger to the business world. She’s been in Asia for 20 years now, with three-quarters of that time spent in the fast-moving world of digital marketing. So, what made her jump the corporate ship and set up ShiokFarm, her own, rather slower-paced, foodie venture?
“I founded the company because I needed organic vegetables and fruit at an affordable price. When I had kids, I realised what you put in a young child’s system really affects their health. I was pregnant with twins when it dawned on me that the organic pear I was feeding my son cost $6. With the additions of twins, that would become $18, just for dessert. At the time, my husband and I both earned a decent salary, but if we couldn’t afford that, neither could most people in Singapore.
Based on the French AMAP system, ShiokFarm brings together a group of families who agree to buy everything a farmer grows, keeping prices low by reducing the risk factor of unsold produce. Host volunteers open up their homes as weekly collection points, which reduces delivery costs and creates community spirit. By working directly with the farms, Claire can also keep a close eye on quality. “I know all the farmers and I regularly go on-site to make sure there are plenty of bugs running around, which means it’s pesticide-free,” Claire explains.
Most of her suppliers are in Malaysia and Thailand. However, some items, like apples and pears, won’t grow in a tropical climate so she also imports from Australia to allow for a wider variety. As far as possible though, she keeps the supply chain short and stays plastic-free. “Unfortunately, it’s impossible to do away with foam boxes to keep the produce cool, but they are all reused and recycled.”
Having more time for her family and working with local communities has really made a difference to Claire’s life. “I’m so much happier now,” she tells me. “I take my children to school and see them when they get home. Sure, I work again in the evening to catch up, but I’m much more relaxed. I’m also doing something that helps the community, which is a very nice feeling.”
A social enterprise through and through, ShiokFarm has already donated close to three tonnes of organic produce to Cheshire Home for the Disabled. It also works with Onesimus, a farm project that uses farming as therapy for the disadvantaged. “Last Christmas, we worked with Martin from the Onesimus café to make a roselle jam that we gifted to our customers. This year, we’ll be supporting Fair Farms in Kep, Cambodia, so ShiokFarmers can look forward to some very special organic Kampot pepper in their Christmas basket.”
How it works
• Customers sign up for a weekly bag over a minimum six-month period. This keeps prices affordable by guaranteeing farmers they won’t waste any produce.
• Going away? Arrange for someone else to take over your bag, or donate it to charity.
• There are standard 5kg or 7kg bags, and a 3kg premium bag, all designed to suit the needs of different families.
• Bags are delivered to one of 20 collection points for pick up within a two-hour time frame. This not only brings neighbours together, but keeps delivery costs low
For more helpful tips head to our living in Singapore section.
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This article first appeared in the November 2018 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!