Since he was 14, Roger Yip has been taking on part-time jobs in the F&B industry.
He worked as a banquet server, restaurant assistant and barback at various establishments before finally stepping into the bar as a bartender.
The transition into the bartending world was no surprise. Roger has always had an interest in bartending – he was even the programs director of his school’s (Singapore Management University) bartending club.
My interest in bartending started close to the point where I was legal for drinking. Initially it was just the parties, but then I got exposed to cocktails and the sophistication behind it.
I started visiting cocktail bars and trying out different cocktails and eventually found myself making drinks at home for friends quite often. I eventually found myself a job at a cocktail bar and fell in love with it.
When the 29-year-old was a rookie bartender, he often had conversations over drinks with his friends to set up their own bar together.
That was just a dream at that point of time. When he was doing his National Service, he was introduced to a local craft cocktail bar called Bar Stories. He fell in love with the place and immediately asked for a job there.
Little did he know, that very place was where he met his future business partners.
On one occasion, his manager asked him to bartend at a friend’s private party.
Roger roped in his friend Mike, and together they wowed the party guests with their skills in crafting bespoke drinks.
Guests were so impressed that they even asked for their contact details, opening up doors to more bartending gig opportunities.
Realising the demand and the lack of mobile bartending companies in Singapore, the duo decided to form one in 2013 called Mixes from Mars.
The quirky name highlighted their ambition to create drinks that are “out of this world”, and it also incorporated the acronym of their names (Mike and Roger, hence Mars).
He was only 22 when he set up the business, so how did Roger acquire the capital?
A mobile bar business does not require much money. We already had the bartending tools and equipment to begin with as I was a bartender, and the only cost to us back then was the alcohol and fresh ingredients, which was still quite manageable cost-wise even as a student.
To save money, we designed the website on our own and did as many things on our own as possible.
They invested around S$5,000 to get Mixes from Mars off the ground, and operated it right out of Roger’s bedroom.
When asked about business challenges, Roger said that craft cocktails require “intricate preparation” such as juicing fresh fruits, preparing herbs, fruits and garnishes. A lot of manual labour goes into it, and they have to be prepared in advance so that they can serve the drinks faster.
Setting up a mobile bar also requires a lot of logistics like tables, glasses, a range of spirits, ice and plenty of fresh ingredients. In the early days, the duo often prepared and stored all these from Roger’s house and his parents often complained about all the “mess”.
Despite these difficulties, the company quickly took flight as they began landing more bookings.
At this point in time, both Roger and Mike were just starting school at Singapore Management University (SMU) so they had to rope in another business partner to help cope with operations.
However, even in school, Roger’s passion for bartending is clear to see. He joined a bartending club at SMU, where he took up the role of a programs director.
Towards the end of 2013, the trio stumbled upon yet another business opportunity.
One of their event clients, who is the owner of the now-defunct Duxton Hotel, offered them a chance to run a pop-up physical bar.
“(He) wanted more activity going on within his hotel before it was renovated, and offered us a low share-based rent that was too hard to pass on,” said Roger, recounting their business meeting with the hotel owner.
“We (also) didn’t have to renovate at all as the bar was already existent. We simply had to move in.”
With little overhead costs, they saw no reason to decline the offer.
Moreover, the cocktail scene w…
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