People over the past 4 years always ask me at each stage of the business, “So what if Moustache doesn’t work, then what’s Plan B?” “What if the crowdfund doesn’t work, what then?” “So what if the Cookie Bus doesn’t work? What if K Road doesn’t work? Do you have a Plan B?”
Plan B? What do you mean Plan B? There is no Plan B, there is only Plan A. If there is a Plan B, that would already be admitting that Plan A is going to fail. Plus you should be so busy hustling to make Plan A work that there’s no time to concoct Plan B.
Growing up, we had very little. Mum was a solo mother with 3 children to feed. She did a terrific job with us. But we couldn’t, and we still can’t, afford to stop the grind because the difference is not between having more or having less, it’s about survival.
In an essay written by David Tran titled “The Hardest Part About Growing Up Poor Was Knowing I Couldn’t Mess Up. Not Even Once.” he writes,
“Many others who’ve tried to escape poverty — are motivated by survival instinct. Being poor, you cannot afford to fuck up the opportunity that comes along.
You don’t take it for granted because you understand you’re playing by someone else’s rules. Given the long odds we beat to get here, sometimes in our heads, our world feels very fragile; at any moment, the clock could strike midnight.
In the face of adversity, you have far fewer chances, a much smaller margin for error.”
And this is where the sleepless nights & the anxiety mostly stems from for me.
I have invested literally every single cent I own & every fibre of my being has been poured into this business.
It’s been 4 years and despite having been mentioned in almost every media outlet possible in NZ, & with over 30,000 fans, banks still think I’m going to be “a flop” (their words, not mine). My bank sponsored this big party once (where they paid for my Milk & Cookie Bus to come & supply unlimited cookies at) which must’ve cost $30-40,000 for that one night. Big party where my Cookie Bus is good enough to provide unlimited cookies for = Hell to the Yes. But lending a similiar amount of money to my small business that I will pay back within 2 years with interest? = Uh HELL NO sistah, who do you think you are gurl? You’re just a flop…a big delicious flop that we want unlimited amounts of at our party HAHAHAHAHA. Oh gosh. Tis unfortunate but tis also very humorous to me. The world is an upside down place. It’s all a big game but as frustrating as it can be, we must relish the challenge.
This is why I’m even more grateful to those who contributed to our crowdfund – you believed in me when others did not; resulting in a humbling $91,000 raised in just 4 weeks. And I think those 1277 backers speak volumes above the opinions of some old farty banking big shots in their safe corporate chairs.
We have worked tirelessly to make you all proud. The new K Road store looks amazing. Whilst our neighbours have a bar counter that cost them $100,000 alone (which is beautiful and genuine kudos & admiration for it) we have to bring beauty in our own way because we must do it at a fraction of the cost. That one counter alone is almost double the price of our entire fitout. Coming from different worlds means we have to work in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to get from Point A to Point B; some routes are more direct, some are winding and hilly. My journey has been crooked & not exactly perfect but what we lack in money and resources, we make up for in love, grit & pure hard work.
A design firm upstairs asked “Who fabricated your steel bulk head? We want one just like it but the quote came back as $20,000!” to which Justin replied that he had welded it himself, in the home garage for two weeks straight.
People won’t truly understand my feelings towards K Road because K Road is a symbol of survival. Every nook & cranny, every tear shed, every frustration with that shop was us sitting in that damn shop often until 5am in the morning, barely sleeping, barely eating, to make sure we got that bloody place open in time to compete with everybody else’s actual real life builders unlike us phony make-believe builders.
So thank you to mimo inc (the amazing brains behind our design), Justin Yang (my big brother with whom Moustache would not have survived without his incredible aptitude for creating magic out of nothing) & Paul, Nick & Jacky for enduring those long nights & cold mornings when you owed me nothing.
Survival is a very sweet taste. Getting that damn shop open was one thing. But whilst others could hang up their hammers & know that the shop was done, the battle had only just begun for me. And that’s where the ensuing anxiety and meltdown started. Fuck, people would never know because I must be the most high-functioning mess of a human being ever.
Coming from a very humble background, and with a family & mother to support, unlike other people, I literally have no margin for error and I fucking know it. The pressure on me to provide & make the right decisions for 15+ staff and for my family felt so much it rendered me unable to sleep, eat or drink the last couple weeks. Last week, there was a day I came home from work at midnight & realised “Hey…it has been over 2 days since I last ate a meal”. Two entire days since I last ate a meal & I didn’t even realise….but don’t worry peepz, I’m doing a lot better now and a comment I said tonight exemplifies that, “OH MY GOOOOSH I AM SOOOOO DEHYDRATED” which is good news because it means my anxiety has come down enough to have human feelings again. Feelings such as hunger and thirst.
To end Tran’s essay, he writes, “To everyone who has experienced this— who has felt like they don’t belong or aren’t good enough — the world needs to hear your story. Only then can it begin to give current and future underdogs a better chance at a better life. And just remember: You are good enough. You do belong.”
These blogs are always hard for me to write as it forces me to commonly practise the art of humility. Exposing all my weaknesses and mistakes (that ultimately make me, me) in such an open forum is hard but necessary (I can’t exactly pinpoint why it is necessary, but something inside me tells me it is).
Good enough? Belonging?
Growing up those were common themes of my childhood. I guess everyone at some point feels they aren’t good enough or they don’t belong.
In the 90’s, there were very few kids of Asian descent in my school, Arahoe Primary school out in West Auckland. I used to be called an “alien”, a “dog eater” or a “ching chong” on a more regular basis than I would like to admit. It’s been almost 2 decades since then but I still remember every single name. I would always wish that I was white. And being bullied for my ethnicity from so young & having so little to our name meant for the next 10 years of my life, I would continue to believe that I was inferior & would wish that I was a “Kiwi” too. Naive as I was, I didn’t realise, that I already was one; believing all the names that the world called me. Luckily, I have since grown up (but only a bit) & have immense pride in my heritage & unique place in New Zealand…whether or not some New Zealanders like to admit that I “belong” here or not. Apparently the shape of my eyes makes me an evil alien or something. It’s great though, I don’t even have to dress up when it comes to Halloween because I could just appear with my yellow skin at an Auckland house auction & people will be scared of me hahahaha. Yes in New Zealand, our worst fear isn’t ISIS…no, our worst fears are ASIANZ.
Just because my life is different now, doesn’t mean I just leave behind where I came from. A lot of my upbringing resides in me today.
The humble beginnings, the feeling of unworthiness sparking a desire to be more. But still, the warm comforts of my mothers home baking, the simplicity and happiness that a mere cookie dunked in milk could bring me. Those are all the things that brought Moustache to life.
Because as an 8 year old I knew that I was made for more, that whilst people didn’t like the colour of my skin or the shape of my eyes, or whether people believed I’d be a flop or because I came from nothing that I’d amount to nothing, I always knew that as long as I was the best version of me possible, then I knew I would be destined for more.
That’s why cookies is #1 on my childhood bucket list because dunking my cookie in milk as a kid told me that it is not the grandiose things in life that make people happy but it is the simple things that are good & good things are simple.
Moustache is an expression of my childhood.Moustache is an ode to my mothers baking. Moustache is an expression of every struggle I once had. And Moustache continues to be an expression of the struggles we will continue to have in perpetuity. And those new struggles will reveal new layers & depths of Moustache.
And this year has been the most revealing of character.
Never have I doubted myself so much. Never have I questioned whether or not I should quit now. Never have I hated myself so much. Never have I been so scared shitless.
To be writing here to you today, going from nothing in January when we closed Moustache, to building & launching the Bus in Wellington, to opening a store on Auckland Uni Campus & to finally…oh so finally…rebuilding our flagship store on K Road…to have been nothing, to have no backing, to be told constantly that I had made a mistake closing Wellesley…to be told my new stores were going to be a flop…to have nothing except for our own wits & a bit of creativity…and to have survived….
These are the struggles that will create the foundation for the next era of Moustache.
It has been a year of great weakness. But as Chinese philosophy believes, yin & yang is when seemingly contrary forces may actually be interdependent. So great weakness can only mean one thing: that you have had to procure great strength to endure it.
Thank you to our loyal fans for sticking through this year with us.
It is in your worst of times that you realise who your true friends are.
Thank you for your loyalty & belief even when others didn’t.
We hope to see you again at our new home on 309 Karangahape Road, Auckland City.
Chief Cookie Officer // Moustache Milk & Cookie Bar & Bus Operator at Moustache Milk & Cookie Bus (haha)