June 17, 2016
By Jovita Ang
Running a business is no easy feat, but ask any parent and they’ll tell you the world’s toughest job would be raising an individual. This Father’s Day, we speak to three café owners who double as father figures themselves. With a café to build and a child to raise, we learn how these three individuals make fatherhood and running a business work.
“I opened Paulinni because my daughter loves ice-cream and I love coffee.”
I arrived at Paulinni to see owner Polih Guo, 37, seated comfortably with his two children, Helga Guo and Hagen Guo, while they interacted over the colourful graphic books laid out on the table. Paulinni is a relaxed cafe with a full menu selection of mains, salads, ice-cream and coffee. His wife, Linny Chua, was helping out at the cashier as we spoke. A typical day for the family looks very much like that.
“Being in this line adds a lot of flexibility to my schedule. There are days where I get really busy, but then there are also days where I get to enjoy some time off with my family,” shared Polih. “My wife has been a great help too.”
Soon after, Linny came by to join us, at the same time also ensuring that her kids are kept in check during the interview. At 6 and 4 years old respectively, both Helga and Hagen are vastly different in character. While Helga sat quietly throughout the entire interview, Hagen was an active ball of energy. One moment he’s seated, then off the chair he goes.
“Hagen’s definitely the more active and outgoing of them two,” Polih added with a laugh.
It has only been a few months into opening, with plenty of things Polih would need to see to himself to ensure that everything falls into place. With two little ones by his side, we ask just how he manages it all.
1. What are your working hours like?
It’s never fixed. I come in to work at about 12pm on most days and at times I work till really late, then there are also times where I head off in the afternoon to meet with my suppliers. But when a problem arises, you just have to see to it no matter the timing.
2. What do you normally do when you have an off-day from work?
I’d bring my family out and just enjoy some time together!
3. How much time in a day do you spend on average with your child?
It’s really hard to say. But there’s one thing that we would engage in everyday together, and that’s the bedtime storytelling session. [Helga and Hagen] both really enjoy it. I would read a story in Mandarin, while my wife would read one to them in English.
4. Favourite place to hang out?
We love the beach. We live in East Coast so we’d often head to East Coast Park to visit the beach or just to cycle. Helga and Hagen love animals as well, so sometimes we’d visit the zoo.
5. Favourite activity together?
Wow, there’s just so many. *laugh* I make it a point to attend a variety of workshops together. My wife and I would bring them to the community center to sign up for a couple of workshops, to engage in activities that we could all do together. We did art class once and it was fun.
6. Most memorable experience with your child?
This is so hard to answer. I would say it’s the moment they were born. It was such a magical and overwhelming moment. There were just so many emotions within me, I can’t put it into words. At that moment where I became a father.. wow.
7. What was the most embarrassing thing you’ve done to make your child happy?
There was this time when my wife wasn’t free so I had to bring both of them to a fitness class. It was slightly weird because I was the only dad in the group. *laughs!*
8. Do you cook? If yes, what do you most enjoy making for your child? If no, what do you most enjoy having together?
I don’t cook myself. We always enjoy waffles and ice-cream together. Helga loves it so much. Hagen’s not so much an ice-cream fan, so he eats just the waffles.
9. What was the first Father’s Day gift you received from your child?
A wallet and a card. I was really excited when I received them! Helga loves to write and do arts and craft.
10. What type of father do you think you are?
Polih: Oh wow, I really don’t know how to answer that! *laughs!*
Me: Shall I ask your wife then? *laughs!*
Polie: I think that would be better.
Me: turns to Linny who was busy attending the children
Linny: He is a very loving father, the type who doesn’t scold his children. So I’m the one who is stricter with them, I have to!
11. Having to juggle with work and family is no easy task and it can get overwhelming at times. How do you make it work?
My wife is handling it all really well. She helps me out with the children whenever I have something to attend to and vice versa. But more importantly, we make a great team.
12. What has being a father taught you?
To be more patient. With kids you sometimes have to explain something a few more times, or think of ways that can help them understand things better.
13. If you had to describe your child using a tea flavour, what would it be and why?
Helga would be a chamomile. Everytime I’m with her, I feel very relaxed. And also because she has a very mild and gentle character. Hagen on the other hand, would be a chai. He is definitely the more outgoing and chatty one. He talks from morning till night, never stops. *laughs!*
133 New Bridge Road
Daily 10am to 10pm