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Two 17-year-old’s Started A Muslim-Owned Business While Schooling

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Hazirah Hakeem •  Oct 26, 2023

Proving that entrepreneurship often knows no age boundaries, two 17-year-olds, Aesha Patel and Qays Zara, have embarked on a remarkable journey by co-founding Siësta, a Muslim-owned cafe in Singapore. Their story is an illustration of determination, passion, and an inspiration to young entrepreneurs.

How Siësta Started

Siësta was built through a special opportunity they received. Qays had previously been working at Overrice for a while, where the owner, Megan Lim, a Muslim revert, saw the potential business opportunity of the second-level space. She handed over the reins to Qays, who embraced the chance to create something unique. Knowing the importance of having a like-minded partner, she brought Aesha, her best friend, on board. Their shared values and vision for Siësta led to the birth of this cosy haven.

If you are wondering what Siësta offers, they specialise in toasties and special drink concoctions including their signature drink, ‘Shrek’s Love Potion’ - consisting of a matcha latte with oat milk, coffee and a dash of cinnamon. And of course, if you’re looking for something sweet, they also have desserts, such as creme brulee, brownies, and banana pudding!

Creating a Safe Space

Siësta, named to signify rest and relaxation, embodies the idea of a safe and welcoming space. The duo's objective was to establish an environment where everyone felt comfortable, regardless of their purpose for visiting. Siësta offers patrons a space to study, chat, or simply unwind, without the fear of judgement or getting kicked out if someone stays for long.

“We want to make a space where anyone is welcome to come here. Regardless of what they want to do.”

In a bustling city like Singapore, such a calm and peaceful vibe can be challenging to find. The second-level location of Siësta adds to its charm, offering an escape from the hustle and bustle of the streets below.

Sharing Roles and Responsibilities

Running a cafe is no small feat, especially while juggling the demands of school life. Aesha primarily works during the weekends, while Qays handles the cafe during weekdays. They've efficiently divided tasks, with Qays managing TikTok and customer communications, while Aesha takes care of design aspects, including the logo, menu, and Instagram posts. Both join forces on the weekends to keep Siësta running smoothly.

The Rewards of Entrepreneurship

For these young entrepreneurs, the journey has been immensely rewarding. Working hand in hand to establish a cafe and watching it flourish has been a fulfilling experience. As Aesha puts it, "I guess it's having a place to call, 'I did that,' you know, 'I was a part of that.'"

Aesha and Qays talked about the joy of being able to work together as best friends and the potential to contribute something meaningful to their community as their primary motivations.

Overcoming Challenges

While entrepreneurship comes with its fair share of challenges, Aesha and Qays approach them with a refreshing perspective. They don't see these hurdles as obstacles but as opportunities for growth. Aesha remarks that many challenges aren't major and often stem from the impatience that occasionally plagues young minds. Qays credits guidance and support from mentors and friends for helping them navigate these challenges effectively.

Having Guidance and Support

Megan, a veteran of the F&B industry with 12 years of experience, has been an invaluable source of guidance and mentorship for Aesha and Qays. She has shared her insights into essential aspects such as cash flow, profit and loss, inventory management, and financial balances. Her support is not just limited to the financial side of the business; it extends to constant communication and advice, such as sharing about honesty and values in conducting business, among other business forecasts and insights.

Operating an F&B establishment is a 24/7 endeavour, and Megan, as their mentor, maintains a continuous line of communication with the young entrepreneurs. She views her role as more than just a business mentor, but also as someone who is now able to give back to the community.

"So for me, having12 years in F&B, it's about giving back to the community as a revert. I think helping fellow people in the F&B industry, especially in the Muslim community, is very meaningful."

Megan's strong support and guidance have helped Aesha and Qays deal with the challenges of starting their business. Her experience and wisdom work well with the young entrepreneurs' energy and new ideas.

R&D of Recipe

Aesha and Qays work closely daily with the experienced culinary team at Overrice to develop their recipes and ensure the quality of the halal food and beverage offerings for Siësta. This includes know-how for procurement of ingredients, inventory management and quality and freshness of the ingredients and taste profiles of the toasts and drinks.

Long-Term Vision for Siësta

Siësta's long-term goals revolve around fostering a space where values align and where they can contribute meaningfully to the community. It's a place where creativity and individuality are encouraged, a safe space free from judgement. Their vision is to continue fostering a haven where staff and customers feel at home and find a sense of belonging.

Words of Advice

Aesha and Qays offer simple yet powerful advice for budding young entrepreneurs: seize the opportunity if you have the resources, work passionately, and don't just chase money. Their journey supports the idea that success can be achieved with determination, a passion for what you do, and unwavering honesty.

“Honestly if you have the resources, just go for it, you'll never know how it will go. It will just be a good experience for you no matter how it turns out.”

Aesha and Qays show that with determination and a shared vision, young people can achieve great things. They prove that age doesn't stop you from being a successful entrepreneur. Siësta is not just a cafe; it's a symbol of the strength of youth, passion, and friendship.