Their Core Strength: From Gym Bros To Meal Prep Pros
STORY: Ng Kai
21 December 2021
Every business has an origin story. And for these hunky fitspos, theirs started with the universal "eh bro" greeting - extremely useful when you want to interact with a stranger but don't know their name.
Fast forward a few years, the trio have gone from "gym bros" to running a successful biz together. Of course after getting each other's names and info down lah - incidentally, Gerald is 34 this year, while Anson and Ben are 33.
Founded in 2018, Yummy Bros is a meal prep delivery service that cooks up healthy and delish Asian meals - think kung pow chicken and sambal fish - that aim to meet all your nutritional needs without leaving you feeling sinful!
The journey thus far hasn't been easy and they've had to make great sacrifices in order to get where they are today. Since they are no strangers to tough decisions, we (meal)-prep the guys by giving them a warm-up round of "Would You Rather" questions, and asking them to make sibei demanding choices 😏.
Would you rather have access to good food or a gym, for the rest of your life?
Anson: I would rather have access to a good gym, I'll get the ingredients and make the good food myself instead.
Ben: Definitely good food. I can do home workouts everyday, but I cannot have bad food everyday for the rest of my life.
Gerald: I think I would die if I could only pick one! If there’s no good food, then all the effort in the gym would go to waste. If there was no good gym, all the good food would be consumed for nothing! Super difficult question for me. I almost “died” when the gyms closed during the circuit breaker. Well, since fitness is 30% workout + 70% diet, let’s go with good food. Then, I’ll probably build a “ghetto gym” that has some home-made barbells, dumbbells, and benches with the help of Anson and Ben, and store them outside one of our central kitchens or something.
Among the three of you, would you rather have Anson, Ben or Gerald as a gym buddy only?
Anson: Gerald, because he's currently my gym buddy if I were to train with someone. Ben is only available at odd timings.
Ben: I will choose Gerald as Anson is too strong to be training with - have to load and unload a lot of weight plates when I train with him! However if I can choose, I would rather work out myself as I prefer to work out at my own pace.
Gerald: Wah lau, y'all trying to stir some politics amongst us is it? LOLOL! I would pick Anson because he lets me select the exercises. HAHAHA but what Ben says is true. Anson is a beast. He takes all the 20kg and 25kg weight plates in the gym. When it comes to my turn, removing the plates is already a quarter of a set worth of energy. But, I guess his brute strength is also motivation for me to keep up!
Would you rather have Nasi Lemak or Beef Rendang (which are, coincidentally, two of the meal prep flavours you offer)?
Anson: Neither of the above, my favourite dish is Yummy Sambal Fish - I can eat it every day without growing sick of it.
Ben: I will definitely choose Nasi Lemak because I don't take beef. I was addicted to Zesty Chicken when we first started out in our "home kitchen".
Gerald: Without a shadow of doubt, the answer for me is… I don’t know! Hahahaha because I typically order both these items for myself. Like Anson, the Yummy Sambal Fish is one item that I cannot stop eating. It’s so flavourful and easy to consume, especially with the brown rice and broccoli!
Would you rather have strong arms and weak legs, or strong legs and weak arms?
Anson: Well, I already have strong arms and strong legs. I think both of them are very important. I do not wish to have a Johnny Bravo or T-Rex like physique!
Ben: I would rather go with either both weak or both strong! That’s because proportion is key. But if I have to choose one, I would go with weak arms and strong legs.
Gerald: I never thought I would have to make such a choice. Hahah! I will go with strong legs and weak arms because I love training my upper body. I will go into leg day with a vengeance and it’s like a love/hate relationship. I’ve put in so much effort to work on my legs, and I don’t ever want to start from scratch again. But, it’s a different story when it comes to my upper body and arms. It’s just too fun for me 😊.
Would you rather eat whatever you want but need to exercise every day, or have a strict diet but never have to exercise?
Anson: I would rather eat whatever I want and exercise every day, because I love eating and I love exercising!
Ben: Definitely eat whatever I want but exercise every day to keep myself in shape. Exercising is what I have been doing every day, so why not?
Gerald: I agree with Anson and Ben. I, too, would rather be able to eat whatever I want and exercise every day than to have a strict diet and never exercise. That’s because I legit love going to the gym. It’s my place of solitude to get away from all the stress and rigours of life. So, this isn’t a question about the eating part. It’s a question about whether to work out or not to work out! LOL.
So, it all started with an "eh bro". Then how did y'all "bro up" from there?
Gerald: Oh, we first got to know each other wayyyy back, which I think was in 2010-11. We met in the gym in very typical fashion. Since the equipment and weights were rather limited, we frequently had to go up to each other and go “eh bro, can share"?
That’s the typical ice-breaker in the gym for guys. It soon became, “Eh bro, today you train what ah? Legs ah? Okay, we do together loh. Can share the squat rack mah".
Subsequently, we would arrange to meet at the gym at specific times so that we could “monopolise” certain equipment together - depending on which part of our bodies we were training. The three of us enjoyed working out together because we would push each other to get stronger and better.
We would do this for months and still call each other “bro” because, frankly, we didn’t know each others’ names yet! LOLOL!
We also had a typical gym-bro greeting for when we met each other and parted ways: the classic fist bump. That’s why we decided on the brand name "Yummy Bros", and it’s also the reason why our logo consists of a fist.
Swee, y'all are now gym bros. How did Yummy Bros come into the picture?
Gerald: It all began with Anson and me feeling very lost in life. I was dealing with business failures, had very little money (I probably had like, $4k left in my savings), and was struggling to figure out how I was going to earn a proper living and marry my then-girlfriend. Anson was sick and tired of his job and wanted a way out.
One fine day in Dec 2017, the two of us decided to skip leg day, went for a few drinks to relieve some stress. However, instead of complaining about life, we found ourselves complaining about dieting!
You see, we absolutely love going to the gym, we didn’t exactly enjoy the eating part. Most active people, like us, want to watch what we eat in order to achieve our fitness goals or maintain our physiques.
Back then, it was so difficult for us to get meals that had:
- Lots of protein
- Tasted awesome
- Contained things that we wanted to eat
- Had the nutritional values all listed down
- Is reasonably priced (omg have you seen the prices of “healthy” meals?)
- Is super accessible, meaning I can have the meal in front of me within minutes
We wanted meals that were made with ingredients that we enjoy and for the portion sizes and sides to be interchangeable. Also, we love Asian food!
That was when we decided that Singapore needed a meal prep brand that serves authentic Asian cuisine that was reinvented into healthier versions. It had to be affordable, customisable, and conveniently delivered to our customers’ doorsteps.
Being the business-obsessed person that I was, I told Anson that we should start this business ASAP. He was like “hmmmm, I dunno leh, bro...” to which I responded “Swee! Let’s go buy a domain now, bro!"
We went with the brand name of Yummy Bros within a minute because it was so obvious - we’re gym bros about to start a food business. So, Yummy Bros it was! And yes, people did poke fun at our name because it sounded like we were starting a pornography business.
After three months of research, building the website, creating the menu, and internal testing, we launched on 1 April 2018! Ben joined us about three months later.
You've been running this business since 2018 - what has changed in the past few years, especially since yall started out in an HDB apartment?
Gerald: Well, the early days of Yummy Bros were as ghetto as it could get. We started out in Anson’s 4-room HDB apartment, and his kitchen had the least number of cooking tools you’d ever see in a home. We started with just one stove, one pot, one frying pan, one spatula, and a fork and spoon.
For the first couple of months, we made do with that because we were broke and we only spent on ingredients, packaging, and the occasional gas bill. We even got our food safety & hygiene certification for free! Skillsfuture FTW!
With the limited gear we had, it took us two sleepless days to prepare, cook, pack, and freeze enough meals for our first 10 orders so that they’d be ready for delivery. Once we were done cooking, we had to quickly clean up and deliver the meals ourselves. It was non-stop work, man.
Wah, your early days sound damn shag! What were some other challenges y'all faced?
Gerald: There was one time when I was so tired that I sliced my thumb open while sharpening a knife. Work continued because we had orders to fulfil, so I just changed the dressing and glove every hour or so to prevent any blood from seeping through.
Anson was in charge of the meal box production so he spent a lot of hours in the kitchen. He still had a full-time job that required him to report early in the morning. But he was so exhausted that he would miss several days of work each month. One day, he came up to me and said “Bro, I took so much unpaid leave that the company asked me to leave".
I was devastated because we weren’t earning much from selling meal boxes. Our costs were quite high because we got everything at retail price. Furthermore, I was the one that pulled Anson into this venture and instead of helping us earn more money, he lost his job! We also only took a salary of $50 each in the first month of operations.
My responsibility was to bring in customers. Since we were operating from a home kitchen, there are rules that we had to adhere to according to the HDB home-based business scheme. One of the bigger challenges was that we were not allowed to advertise our business - online or offline.
Really respect the hustle. When did the biz really start to take off?
Gerald: I went to different gyms in Singapore to work out, make friends, and share about Yummy Bros with these new friends. I would carry business cards in my pocket and hand them out whenever I made a new friend.
What really helped us grow faster was our Instagram page. During the early days of Yummy Bros, I was posting photos that featured not just our food but also tips on nutrition, exercise, and quirky tongue-in-cheek motivational quotes. The content helped grow our following and, soon, strangers began going to our website and placing orders!
We also regularly contacted customers from Instagram, and improved our recipes and systems many times with their feedback.
As our orders grew from 50 meal boxes per week to 300 meal boxes per week, Anson and I were overwhelmed because we weren’t allowed to hire people. When Ben came onboard, he contributed a lot in the kitchen, so that made life a little better.
We then bought more cooking stoves, new pots and pans, and more forks and spoons. We even had two upright refrigerators and a 450-litre chest freezer!
Storage seemed like a big issue! How did you guys resolve it?
Gerald: We operated as a home-based business for almost a year and were running out of space. There was no way that we could stuff a 4th freezer into Anson’s home.
We had the idea of raising money to rent a retail space where we could prepare food, fulfil online orders and sell to walk-in customers at the same time. But that plan failed because nobody was interested in investing in us. Thankfully, that didn’t succeed because the next step was what brought us to the next level.
By a miraculous stroke of luck, I was introduced to Uncle Raymond, who owned a catering company operating from a fully equipped central kitchen with several staff and an established supply chain. It was exactly what we needed!
So, we struck a deal with Uncle Raymond to partner up and Yummy Bros was no longer a home-based business. We could run advertising campaigns, speak louder to the market, and proudly showcase our brand to many more fitspos in Singapore. We were happy that we could finally scale our marketing efforts.
Our partnership was able to produce and sell so many meals that we had to build a second walk-in freezer!
Today, we work hand-in-hand with two central kitchens (a second partnership was set-up recently to help deliver meals to our east-side customers) to develop new and exciting dishes for our customers, run the production line, and explore new business opportunities together too.
We also have multiple delivery vendors to help us get our customers’ meals to them in a timely and orderly manner.
So many meal-prep selections out there though - how do you bros stand out from the rest?
Gerald: While we can’t speak for other meal-prep providers in Singapore, I believe that our key differentiator is our core value of helping people enjoy the process of healthy eating and eating for their fitness objectives.
This mindset has guided us toward developing unique features for our Yummy Army, such as the freedom to customise their meals by upsizing the proteins or reducing the amounts of carbohydrates. We also display clearly and transparently the nutritional values of each meal.
Yummy Bros has innovative recipes that our customers enjoy and consistently reorder, such as Yummy Nasi Lemak, Yummy Chicken Panggang, Yummy Sambal Fish, and Yummy Kopi Chicken, just to name a few. It is also very convenient for the Yummy Army to receive their orders because of our wide selection of delivery time slots.
I can confidently say that our customers enjoy dieting with Yummy Bros because referrals are our biggest source of new customers. We’ve got many repeat customers ordering from us on a weekly basis over years and months. This is despite us not offering a monthly subscription; our customers actually make the effort to come back to our website every week to order their meals for the next seven days.
Our background in nutrition and fitness plays a big part because it helps us avoid putting fad diets into our menu. By relying on the fundamental principles of weight loss and gain, we have been able to help our customers achieve their fitness goals through our food.
Gerald, it seems like you were pretty enthu during national service. Share-share more about your NS experience and how it shaped your entrepreneurial spirit leh!
Gerald: I’m probably the most “siao on” person here when it comes to NS. I was fortunate to have gone through training at the Officer Cadet School (OCS), which granted me a lot of leadership experience. My stint as a commander also taught me how to be a meticulous planner and executor.
Strong leadership and planning skills are crucial skills any business person should possess. The journey ahead is difficult and uncertain. Every team needs a leader who knows (or seems to know) where he’s going.
For that, I loved and enjoyed my NS a lot to the extent that I extended my NS liability beyond my 10-year obligation. I love going back to serve, attend courses, and take on more responsibilities because of how much I stand to learn.
NS inspired me to be in charge. To lead the way and be responsible for people around me. It inspired me to take on hardship and challenges with determination and fortitude. I can confidently say that without NS, I wouldn’t be the entrepreneur I am today.