David Gan’s Culinary Journey Unveiled from Teen Entrepreuner to Industry Professional

David Gan’s journey reflects fervent passion and a commitment to staying ahead of trends and consumer expectations. When most of Singaporeans his age were still studying, the 32-year old co-founder and executive chairman of Tipsy Collective (“Tipsy”) had already begun his first business venture at a tender age of 17. Utilizing social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram as valuable touch-points, Tipsy, formed in 2018, was borne out of the vision to provide guests with the most memorable food and beverage (“F&B”) experience possible.

Tipsy, which has thirteen F&B concepts under its belt, actively stays ahead of emerging food trends in Singapore, through a firm focus of bringing out local flavours in casual, laidback spaces, such as Tipsy Flamingo and more. Crowd-favourites include the wildly popular Wok-Fired Beef Cubes and Moki’s Cheesy Garlic Bomb, of which, their inviting textures and flavours are well-paired with inviting cocktails.

Moki’s Cheesy Garlic Bomb, found at Tipsy Hippo

The collective’s ventures, which showcase the founder’s entrepreneurial spirit, are also borne out in Wallich Manor, showcasing a commitment to storytelling via fabled character, Wallich the 9th, who personifies a rebellious yet refined nature.

The visually stunning ceiling at Wallich Manor, provides a great backdrop for those who wish to grab a cocktail on the sixth floor of Sofitel Singapore City Centre, a hotel conveniently located at Tanjong Pagar. Guests can unwind to the swanky beats, with an entertainment line-up by industry veteran DJ KoFlow, who has also co-curated the space with touches of grafitti and a gastronomic menu inspired by contemporary European cuisine.

From the Onion Tartlets sprinkled with luxurious avruga caviar, to the house-made sauces accompanying the succulent cut of Wagyu Beef paired with indulgent tender bone marrow, that added richness to the ensemble, and a delightful Chicken Roulade drizzled with truffle jus, every element is a testament to the artistry and dedication that defines the thoughtful process that went into creating this dawn-to-dusk, dining and dancing establishment, with more premium touches, such as lounge sofas, a wine cabinet and a private room, as differentiated from its other establishments that are situated mostly within high-traffic heartland areas, shopping malls or at their first foray into Malaysia at The Exchange TRX.

Onion Tartlets at Wallich Manor

As an SME 500 accredited organization, Tipsy’s personable brand narrative further extends to more bold concepts like the Tipsy Unicorn at Sentosa, displaying a penchant for creating immersive experiences for all their guests. Tipsy’s brand engagement extends beyond the playful approach in digital realms, through David’s active participation in industry F&B events and collaborations with social media influencers.

Popspoken: Can you share more details about your first entrepreneurial venture in the F&B sector at the age of 17?

David Gan: My first entrepreneurial venture in the F&B sector at the age of 17 was an eye-opening journey. Collaborating with my best friend to establish a Western food stall, I quickly learned that personal bonds don’t seamlessly translate into successful business partnerships. Our differing views and expectations strained our collaboration, ultimately leading us to the difficult decision of closing the business.

The challenges we faced as business partners didn’t just impact our professional endeavours; they took a toll on our friendship. Despite the tough period, we eventually addressed the issues, recognising that our friendship held greater significance than the business venture. Thankfully, not only did we successfully rebuild our friendship, but we have also remained best friends to this day.

Wallich Manor, for dining and dancing

Another crucial lesson I learned while navigating the business landscape was that the reality of running a business proved to be far less glamorous than I had envisioned. Growing up, witnessing my mother effectively manage her own business led me to believe that entrepreneurship would be second nature to me. However, I soon realised it demanded extensive hours and a willingness to get my hands dirty. There were days when we struggled to make just $100, starkly highlighting the harsh reality of entrepreneurship.

These experiences became defining moments for me, shaping my understanding that entrepreneurship is not solely about the potential for financial success, but also about navigating daily challenges with dedication. These failures motivated me to continue pursuing my passion in the F&B industry.

Looking back, I am grateful for the lessons learned from my first entrepreneurial venture. It underscored the importance of selecting the right business partners, understanding the realities of running a business, and staying true to my passions. These experiences have molded my entrepreneurial journey, fostering resilience and determination to succeed in the ever-changing F&B industry.

Popspoken: From traditional zi char dishes to modern tapas bars in Canada, you’ve had a wide range of experiences in the F&B industry. How have these diverse exposures influenced your approach to Tipsy Collective and then the localisation via the heartlands? Is legacy in the F&B business something you struggle with – what are the pros and cons of having such a heritage to take reference from?

David Gan: Having delved into everything from traditional zi char dishes to modern tapas bars in Canada, I’ve had the privilege of exploring diverse segments of the F&B industry. Each exposure has played a pivotal role in shaping my approach to Tipsy Collective, with a particular emphasis on localisation through the Heartlands.

Identifying a gap in the nightlife scene, our goal is to inject new life into it by offering unique and innovative dining experiences. While drawing inspiration from the rich legacy of the F&B business, we enthusiastically embrace the excitement of introducing fresh concepts and flavours. Striking a balance between tradition and innovation enables us to curate a dynamic and engaging atmosphere for our customers.

Veteran DJ KoFlow on the decks at Wallich Manor

Popspoken: What were the turning points in your career that led you back to the F&B industry, after exploring other fields like private education and banking?

David Gan: My career took a significant turn when my family and I moved to Canada in 2015, where we acquired a café. I took on the task of managing it and immersed myself in learning everything from scratch – from baking and coffee preparation to menu engineering. Despite the challenges, this experience was immensely fulfilling, reigniting my passion for the F&B industry.

During this time, one of my managers shared insights about the industry serving as a melting pot, connecting people from diverse walks of life. This realisation, coupled with the opportunity to craft immersive dining experiences and contribute to revitalising the industry, proved too exciting to ignore.

Popspoken: How did your collaboration with your late-cofounder come about and what inspired the creation of Tipsy Collective? Can you share the vision you had for the company when it was founded in 2018? Also, what is behind the name, “Tipsy Collective”?

David Gan: My partnership with my late co-founder originated from a shared vision, driven by the aspiration to rejuvenate the nightlife scene and address an existing market gap. This led to the creation of Tipsy Collective, a homegrown company committed to introducing refreshing F&B entertainment experiences. At its inception in 2018, our vision for the company was clear: to emerge as a leader in the lifestyle F&B domain, renowned for innovative concepts that generate a buzz in the nightlife scene.

Originally named as Social Room Concepts, our company later evolved to Tipsy Collective. This name change reflected our desire to foster connections and create a lively and engaging atmosphere for our guests. While crafting our first brand, Tipsy Penguin, we aimed to convey our business’s essence to customers even before they visited us.

Beyond our enticing array of food and beverages, the essence of “Tipsy” embodies our mission to ensure patrons not only leave our establishment content, but genuinely ‘tipsy’ from the fantastic time they’ve experienced. We strive to offer a distinctive Tipsy experience or ‘Tipsy’-style hospitality that leaves a lasting positive impression.

Popspoken: As the Executive Chairman, could you elaborate on your role in leading Tipsy Collective? What specific strategies and goals are you currently focusing on for the group’s growth and how do you work synergistically with your management team, since the appointment of Alex as your CEO?

David Gan: As the Executive Chairman of Tipsy Collective, my role involves shaping the future plans, direction, and overall vision for the company. My primary objective is to ensure we stay true to our original intentions when we first started. Additionally, I actively engage in developing strategic partnerships and exploring untapped markets for expansion.

With the appointment of Alex as our Acting CEO, we work synergistically to propel the company’s growth. Alex is responsible for formulating detailed plans and strategies to bring our vision to fruition. As the Acting CEO, he adeptly manages the day-to-day operations, ensuring the realisation of our goals. Presently, our focus is keenly directed towards structuring and positioning ourselves for future growth. We are diligently working on implementing strategies that will facilitate the effective scaling of our operations and allow us to seize new opportunities in the market.

Popspoken: Tell us something interesting or a little known fact about yourself.

David Gan: I have a deep passion for exploring different cities and immersing myself in their vibrant cultures. I find joy in discovering the unique party scenes and gastronomy of each place I visit. It’s a thrilling adventure that allows me to expand my horizons and gain inspiration.

In my role at Tipsy Collective, these experiences become wellsprings of inspiration, infusing fresh perspectives and excitement into our projects. The goal is to craft unforgettable moments for our guests, and to achieve this, I always try to incorporate the best of what I’ve encountered during my travels to create something truly special.

Embracing different cultures has been a transformative journey, continually shaping me in wonderful ways. I can’t wait to see where my next exploration takes me!

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