Nat Ho with Mermaid's Tears
Photos: Toh Zi Yi, Nat Ho/Instagram, Bobii Frutii
Local actor-singer Nat Ho made his first foray into business in late 2016, when he opened Love Bento, a takeaway stall hawking healthy and affordable bento sets together with a partner. Fast-forward one year, and the 33-year-old has branched out yet again, bringing in Bobii Frutii, a Taiwanese bubble tea chain shop in to Singapore together with a handful of other partners.
Bobii Frutii’s drinks boasts all natural, premium ingredients, coupled with attractive colours and presentations that are very much ‘Instagram-worthy’.
Toggle caught up with Nat, who also acts as the brand’s Creative Director and Brand Ambassador at the media preview of the brand’s Clementi outlet, a takeaway stall located at Level 4 of The Clementi Mall.
In an earlier Instagram update, the actor-singer, who is currently starring in Channel 5’s long-form drama Tanglin, had hinted at some troubles with Love Bento, though we were heartened to find out that this is all now water under the bridge.
“It’s been hard, but the good news is that my current team is amazing! If they’re reading this, I want to say that I love them very much. I’m not sure how I'd have gotten past last year without them, honestly,” he gushed.
Nat and a partner opened Love Bento together, but Nat had to take over in early May last year.
“I don’t want to go into too much detail, because I don’t want complications, but it all started out with some medical issues, before I found out that business was actually really poor. The business is still very new, and sometimes, there’s just some people out there who just want to see you fail, just because [you’re a public figure],” he revealed.
“We’re all working hard, making a honest living as local businesses, so I feel that there’s really no need for [interference],” he continued.
Nat, who revealed that he does not keep in contact with his business partner, who is based overseas now, added, “Its one thing to love to cook, and its another thing to manage a business. I cannot possibly keep “donating money”. I don’t come from a rich family, and everything I have, I really worked my ass off for it.”
Of course, there are lessons to be learnt from everything, and Nat mused, “The biggest lesson [that I’ve learnt] from this is that you need to work with the right people. But, at the same time, one can never be too sure. Doing business is very much like dating, you wouldn’t know if someone’s a psycho unless you start dating them. They say that you shouldn’t start a business with a friend, but when you do business together, you’ll really find out what type of person they’re.”
However, Love Bento was also the bridge that connected him to the other shareholders of Bobii Frutii.
“It was precisely because I had Love Bento, and they saw the way I worked and my work ethics,” he said, adding that the shop had opened up more opportunities for him as a result.
But, because of Love Bento, Nat had to put his music career on hold.
“I released [my English single], ‘Snakes and Ladders’ on May 4 [last year], and a day before that, I realised that I had to take care of the business,”Nat said. So, the actor-singer got down to business, and headed down to the shop straight away to start cashiering and serving customers.
His initial plans to promote ‘Snakes and Ladders’ had to sit on the backburner, as he focused entirely on Love Bento. Up till today, Nat still pops in at least once a week.
As for the rest of his three singles, which were all recorded and finished since February 2016, the original plan was for Nat to release all of them as an EP, but due to the delays, he’s now toying with the idea of adding a couple more songs, and releasing it as an album, as well a separate Mandarin single that he recently recorded in Beijing.
Click on to the next page to find out what’s Nat’s favourite bubble tea flavour, as well as his plans for 2018.
The bubble tea fan waxed lyrical about the texture of Bobii Frutii’s tapioca pearls, which are freshly made in Taiwan, before being freeze-dried and flown in to Singapore, and laughed that his favourite bubble tea drinks would have to be the brand’s “Don’t Want To Work and Mermaid’s Tears”.
“Well, sometimes, I’m really too tired, even though I do enjoy my work,” he chuckled. “Other than filming and doing what I love, I really have no free time, even though I really want to go on a holiday and go to the beach. So, the mermaid’s tears[in the drink] has become my actual tears.”
With so many different bubble tea brands in Singapore, is Nat worried about the possible competition and comparisons?
“No matter what business you do, there will be competition as well. As long as you focus on your own product, [it should be fine]. I have a lot of confidence in my own products as well. The presentation is attractive, and the ingredients that we use are pretty premium. People nowadays are very well travelled and discerning, so I’m quite sure that they can tell the difference,” he asserted.
2017 was a packed year for Nat, and for now, it seems as if 2018 might be just as busy for the actor-singer.
“We [the cast of Tanglin] are actually on a filming break right now, because it was very intense last year. It was only for a week, but I asked for an extension, and I’m now on no-pay leave, because I really needed a break,” he shared.
He has also picked up a separate project for a regional video-on-demand streaming service, with filming scheduled to start in September this year, if all goes according to plan.
Tanglin airs on weekdays, 8.30pm on Channel 5.