June 19, 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.
It’s a space that’s hard to miss. Situated on the first level of The Cathay, The Assembly Ground is a warm inviting café furbished with chic wooden furniture and quirky inserts of yellow, green and turquoise, further adorned with soothing yellow lights. You might have even enjoyed a cuppa or two in there. Directly beside it, is the multi-label concept store otherwise known as The Assembly store. Contrary to its café space, The Assembly store sports a contrasting bright interior and its lifestyle collection the refreshing décor.
Nelson Yap, 34, is the proud owner of these two spaces. If the name sounds familiar, this well-dressed gentleman also happens to be the brainchild of Benjamin Barker, a men’s fashion label with eight stores nationwide and a growing presence in Melbourne. Just as you start to wonder if there’s anything more to him, Nelson is also a blissful father of two beautiful baby girls, Zoey Yap, 4, and Hayley Yap, 2.
“I always miss my kids when I’m overseas. I alternate between Melbourne and Singapore every other month. As I’ve just set up my first Benjamin Barker store in Melbourne last September, there are a lot of things I’d have to attend to personally,” shared Nelson. “But I’m thankful to have a very understanding partner and very involved parents.”
As both a businessman and father himself, we sat down with Nelson and asked how he keeps it all a well-balanced act.
1. What are your working hours like?
I have no fixed working hours, I’m working on things 24/7. But this year, I made the conscious decision to not work on weekends and also, no emails from 8pm onwards. For the sake of sanity *laughs* and also my family. But there are still times where I have to work on weekends over at Australia due to the size of the team there. It’s very small, and we’ve just entered the market so it’s important that I attend to situations myself.
2. What do you normally do when you have an off-day from work?
If I’m in Singapore, I try to spend my weekends with my family. On Saturdays we would head out. And if they’re well-behaved, I allow them to choose a place. They really enjoy attending events and being outdoors. Just last week we went for the Future World exhibition held at the ArtScience Museum. Then on Sundays we would go to church.
3. How much time in a day do you spend on average with your child?
Whenever when I’m back in Singapore, I try as much to send them to school in the morning.
4. Favourite place to hang out?
They’re still very young, so they don’t really have a favourite place yet. For now, I would say it’s the bedroom *laughs!*, where we’re most comfortable. That’s also where we get to be ourselves, in the privacy of our own home.
5. Favourite activity together?
Not really. But Zoey and Hayley really love being outdoors so as long as I bring them out, they’re usually already very happy. We recently went on a cruise together and it was really fun. We went swimming and did some other sports together as well. They can be very sporty so for me, doing any form of physical activities with them is always enjoyable.
6. Most memorable experience with your child?
I remember there was once I brought Zoey to Melbourne with me. I took her to a park and we were just sitting on the grass patch and eating strawberries together. It was a very nice moment, I’ll always remember that. Hayley’s still very young but for me, it would be how attentive she can be each time I discipline her. She can turn from mischievous to attentive and serious in an instant. She is young, yet mature at the same time. It’s situations like this where I’m angry with her yet she becomes all adorable that puts me in a dilemma!
7. What was the most embarrassing thing you’ve done to make your child happy?
Besides from my wife, they are probably the only ones who have seen me dancing to Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars. And they are the probably the only ones who will ever see me doing that. But I like to do it to make them laugh. Their favourite songs are “All About that Bass” by Meghan Trainor, “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”.
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. Zoey and Hayley both love junk food. *laughs!* All the snacks and fried-food. I love all that unhealthy stuff myself so I guess that’s where they picked it up.
9. What was the first Father’s Day gift you received from your child?
They’re still really young but I know Zoey loves to grab ang paos (red prosperity packets) and stuff random little things in them: tissue paper, stickers, sweets. She’d say, “Papa keep it.” And if she were to see me putting her ang paos aside, she would insist on having me to keep them. *laughs* But Zoey likes the idea of giving.
10. What type of father do you think you are?
I would like to think that I’m a fun dad, one who does silly things with them. I find that I play the disciplinary role a lot. But whenever I discipline them, I always make sure that they leave assured and not leave feeling afraid or thinking that it’s because I don’t love them.
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?
Having a very understanding partner and very involved parents. I’m very grateful for them. Being away from Singapore often also makes me put in the extra effort to spend more time with my family whenever I’m back. Technology helps too. When I’m in Australia, I use whatever little free time I have to connect with my family. It can be as simple as talking to them through Facetime while I’m walking to work.
12. What has being a father taught you?
Being able to understand my parents and why they do certain things. Having my two kids also taught me that discipline is very important. When you love someone, you’d want them to have the freedom to make decisions themselves. And not just any decisions, but right discerning decisions. Everything is cultivated from young, so teaching them right is very important to me.
13. If you had to describe your child using a tea flavour, what would it be and why?
Zoey would be a matcha. She’s very sweet, comforting, always curious and also cheeky. Hayley is more of a chamomile tea. She’s very mild and gentle.
The Assembly Ground Café
2 Handy Road #01-21
Monday to Friday: 11am to 10pm
Saturday to Sunday: 10am to 10pm
Kitchen closes from 4pm to 530pm on weekends.