Interview with Cynthia Chua: How the founder of Spa Esprit Group keeps an active mind

Cynthia Chua


Cynthia Chua, founder and managing director of the Spa Esprit Group, has a knack for trendspotting unique lifestyle, beauty and F&B concepts, such as Browhaus, Strip, Tippling Club, House and Tiong Bahru Bakery. Her latest venture, Open Farm Community, is an ode to urban farming and farm-to-table dining. With an on-site farm and a menu by chef Ryan Clift focusing on locally sourced, seasonal and innovative dishes, she hopes to impart an appreciation for the natural environment and inspire a deeper connection to food in ultramodern Singapore.

People love food
and want to be close to the origin of what they eat. There is something powerful about a community garden, which encourages people to become more connected to the environment. At Open Farm Community, diners can walk around the farm to see, smell and be inspired by the crops that are growing. Singapore needs this reminder, and who knows how this could inspire the future generation?

For every business I get involved in, it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at it. When I opened House (a multiconcept dining, entertainment, beauty and wellness space), I spent three years doing everything from being the food controller to the service staff. I even had customers trying to poach me, and I had to tell them: ‘Sorry you can’t poach me, you can’t afford me’ (laughs).

I am not afraid of ageing
, I’m afraid of my mind dying. I intentionally look out for creative people to inspire me. The rarer their trade, the more I am attracted to them. It’s esoteric craftspeople like the pencil makers, paper makers, butchers and handicraft artists who inspire me. I admire the emotional aspect of their work and the honesty of what they create with their hands.

Passion, momentum and tenacity – these are what an entrepreneur needs to succeed. You start with an idea you love, then you will need to find a rhythm to keep going. Finally, tenacity is needed when the going gets tough, when partners leave or when you can’t find staff, to stick to your vision and see it through.