This Women’s History Month, we catch up with Nichol Ng, a mumpreneur who wears multiple hats. She shares about co-founding Food Bank Singapore, the challenges of being a working mum, and who’s the cooler parent...
We can’t talk about successful women in Singapore without mentioning Nichol Ng. This multi-hyphenate has accomplished many things: co-founding Food Bank Singapore, being a mum to four kids, and even being featured in an upcoming campaign by MILO! Rather than just listing down all of these amazing achievements, we decided to sit down with Nichol to ask her to share everything with us – from juggling work and mummy duties, what she does to relax, and who’s the cooler parent. Here’s what she had to say…
Interview with Nichol Ng, co-founder of Food Bank Singapore and working mum of four
Hi Nichol! Tell us more about yourself.
Hello everyone! I am a wife to my life partner Eddy of 25 years; a daughter to my funky mum Katherine who lives with me; and a bold mother to my four children – Sascha, 9; Shaia, 7; Xander, 5; and Skylar, 2. Professionally, I am co-founder of Food Bank Singapore (FBSG) and president of One (Singapore). I also manage the X-Inc group of five companies, ranging from Foodxervices Inc, which supplies to more than 6,000 F&B establishments, to X-properties, which manages XPACE, a collab co-cooking co-working space for the F&B players.
Wow! That’s impressive! Can you share how Food Bank Singapore came about?
FBSG celebrates its 10th anniversary this year! It started in 2012 trying to match excess foods rampant in the supply chain to the NGOs that need food for the end beneficiaries. While managing my family business in food distribution, I get to see the ugly underbelly of what goes on in the supply chain world – excessive waste and mismatch in needs. Thus, my brother and I decided that we should motivate our industry peers to donate instead of dumping as food insecurity is still very much present in a first-world country like Singapore. Besides, we felt that if there’s any country that can effectively end hunger, it should be Singapore.
Speaking of food waste, what are Singapore’s common misconceptions about it?
“Out of sight, out of mind.” Many think food insecurity and wastage are minimal because we have a state-of-the-art incinerating plant and a very efficient waste management system. Plus, too few conversations about the ugly truth of hunger and waste also made awareness low on the issue. Until the founding of FBSG in 2012, very few charities took in excess food due to the lack of understanding of how to manage these shorter shelf-life products or where to get them. The truth is what FBSG gets is not food waste – but excess food that doesn’t get sold for myriad reasons. We are not distributing rubbish food. Food waste also lies in the supply chain before it reaches consumers like you and me. Thus, businesses also have parts to play.
What can be done to minimise food wastage in Singapore?
Firstly, change the term that we use. Excess food is not food wastage! We should not degrade food that is still good for consumption to rubbish. Secondly, address and acknowledge that there are mismatches in needs even at the NGO levels, and demand and supplies don’t always tally. If we can address the wants and needs better, there’s lesser wastage at the distribution end. Thirdly, consumers should never shop on an empty stomach. As I say – when the tummy is hungry, the eyes are bigger!
Your kids are involved in Food Bank as ambassadors of the Junior Club. What exactly do they do there?
All Junior Food Bankers are exposed to where food comes from. In pre-Covid times, they visit farms to learn more about food sources. They are also encouraged to volunteer alongside their parents from the tender age of five. Our wish is for the junior members to become our ambassadors within their schools. We must know that they are the ones who will inherit the future, and they have a part to play to make this change happen, no matter how young they are.
On top of managing your businesses, you’re also very hands-on with your kids. What do you do to relax during your spare time?
I love watching documentaries – they are about the only thing I watch on TV. I truly enjoy cooking, and I still knit from time to time. Relaxation can also be as simple as driving with my hubby to the supermarket to buy some bread and have that 10-minute chat. Honestly though? I truly unwind when thinking of new ideas for my business and charity. I’m trying to make more hours in the day!
What challenges do you face as a working mum, and how do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge for me is blocking out comments from the external world about doing what’s right for the kids and society’s labels on young children. I’m constantly challenging the current education system and fighting my inner voice to continue on my path to being a different mum. I want to celebrate each child for who they are and that it’s perfectly okay if they do not ace their exams or fit into the mould of being a perfect student/child. However, it can get really “noisy” because of the outside world. My biggest challenge is managing the world’s expectations of my children.
Everything else, like juggling time, work and all, is not a challenge because I made a choice to be a mum. No one forced me into this role, and therefore, I should enjoy everything that comes with it: the good and the ugly.
We heard that you want to add two more kids to your brood. How’s that going?
Wow, it’s amazing that you even know this! Well, two may be tough looking at my age. But we might have one final go, and if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I can focus on the four lovely bears that I have… plus my eldest child – my hubby. Ha!
Covid-19 has been a significant disruption to everyone. How has the pandemic affected Food Bank Singapore and your family, and what did you do to bypass it?
I’ve been blessed in many ways. There’s never a dull moment with ten people in my village – we have four generations living under one roof! Also, being in the essential business meant I get to go to work every day… I hardly know what working from home meant! Of course, with all the various safe management measures, I had to manage the business and the charity well to keep everyone safe and the food flowing.
From FBSG, it was most heart aching to see how many people are a paycheque away from potentially having no food. And with so many charities being ordered to shut during Phase 1, we had to step up. The F&B industry has taken a bad hit, and recovery is still far from sight. We also had to pivot by changing our main business in distribution as quickly as possible to survive and emerge stronger.
We’re so glad to hear that! What exciting things can we expect from you and Food Bank Singapore this year?
We’re heavily involved in CultivAte, a green project about supporting the local farms. You can watch the series on our YouTube channel. FBSG will also be releasing its second hunger report at the end of March, and in April, we’ll be launching our cryptocurrency platform and NFTs for fundraising. We’re very excited to pilot this for NGOs in Singapore.
Among all the roles you’ve accomplished, which one are you proudest of?
I’m proudest of my ability to stick around with my life partner. I’ve been with my hubby since 1997, dated for 13 years, and married for 12. Sustaining a relationship with someone as different as Eddy has been challenging. Regardless, I’m so proud and happy that we have come this far as a couple and tag team. I sincerely look forward to the next 50 years with my hubby. Every day can be a surprise day where we learn something new about each other.
Between you and your husband, who would you say is the cool parent?
Most definitely my hubby – simply because he uses way more hair gel and perfume than I do. Ha!
Thank you so much for your time, Nichol!