SINGAPORE — Freelance photographer Muhammad Adhwa Hasif works from home, but that's not the only thing he does. He also brews and sells coffee from the window of his ground floor Housing & Development Board (HDB) flat in Pasir Ris.
Aptly named Ground Floor Coffee, the home-based business has become a popular place to get a caffeine fix since going viral on TikTok, with pre-orders often selling out within half an hour of announcement on its 12,700 followers on Instagram page as of 23 August.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance Singapore, Hasif, 31, shared that he was inspired after seeing a group of young adults hanging out at the loading bay behind his block into the wee hours in the morning.
“They will just park their cars, bring out their foldable camping chairs, and a few bottles of green tea and potato chips and just sit and chill until 3am or 4am,” he said.
“I told my wife the next day that if we can open our unit window and sell my coffee, it'd be a cool idea. She just laughed it off, but we experimented with the idea and that was how Ground Floor Coffee came about.”
A coffee lover and self-taught barista, Hasif turned coffee-making into a hobby to ease his eyes after long hours of screentime editing photos. In June this year, he spent close to S$4,000 to register Ground Floor Coffee as a home-based business, purchase a new barista-grade coffee machine and ingredients, such as coffee beans sourced from a roastery in Victoria, Australia.
He shared that when the venture first started, they only had a small following — most neighbours as he didn't do much social media marketing.
"Through word of mouth, more people came, and they made TikTok videos, so that’s how we went viral," he said.
Each item of the six-drink menu comes in both hot and iced versions, including favourites like lavender latte and dark mocha, which is priced at S$6. Add a dollar more for an extra shot. For light bites, Hasif’s mother-in-law bakes kek gula hangus (caramalised cakes) which goes for S$2.50 each.
Ground Floor Coffee strictly accepts pre-orders only, and Hasif says he sells an average of 40 to 50 cups a day. Customers are encouraged to snap a shot of their coffee against the unique shop window backdrop and post it on social media, which he actively reposts on the Ground Floor Coffee Instagram page.
As Hasif continues to expand his menu and work on offering coffee delivery services, he still intends to freelance as a photographer, which he calls his “number one passion” and his main source of income.
"I didn't expect the coffee hobby to become a business, so for now, I have to adjust my calendar whenever I can," he said, adding he would squeeze a few hours to work on coffee orders. His wife also helped out during her days off and they sacrifice some precious family time to do run the business.
Nonetheless, he feels that Ground Floor Coffee has contributed to fostering a sense of togetherness in Pasir Ris town, keeping true to his original vision of relaxing with good coffee. He remembers serving a group of young Pasir Ris residents who chose to meet up and try his coffee, which warmed his heart.
“I think it gives off kampung vibes like the old days when people just meet for coffee in the neighbourhood,” he said.
Hasif shares some thoughts about his entrepreneurial journey and his plans for Ground Floor Coffee.
How long have you lived in Pasir Ris?
This is my mother-in-law’s house. My father-in-law passed away, so when I got married to my wife, my mother-in-law asked us to live with her. In 2017, we moved in, and that’s how we landed up in this ground floor unit.
How and when did you learn how to make coffee?
I was always a coffee fan, so I taught myself how to make it by watching a lot for YouTube videos. I also experimented with my coffee machine and got better with it as I use it daily. Me and my wife often head out and try different types of coffee like their signature drinks from local cafes to support local businesses.
Your coffee prices are similar to that of well-known coffee brands. How do you price your coffee?
F&B is all about volume — big brands like Starbucks have dedicated farms and processes so their cost per cup is very low. For us, we try to cut costs as much as we can by hitting bulk order quantities for discounts. I feel that the pricing that I chose is reasonable because I use specialty coffee beans imported from Australia — to give context, for the price that I buy 1kg of these coffee beans, I can get 3kg of normal-grade arabica beans. I understand that we may not have a seating area, but considering the price of the machine that we use to produce the shots, and that we grind our beans on the spot — the price is fair for the quality we give.
Why are you selling cakes as well?
The cakes we sell are baked by my mother-in-law. She loves to bake but is very shy. Selling cakes is a way of trying to get her involved in the business and she can also hone her skills too. When customers praise the cakes, we can see that she really feels happy with the compliments. Another reason for selling kek gula hangus is because the cake goes well with coffee.
Any future plans?
We are now mainly focusing on transitioning online, so we can control the amount of orders and make delivery available those around Singapore. We don't intend to open a cafe yet because I think the brand is still based on a home-based business – our brand name comes from our ground floor unit location. If I were to open a café, I think it would be a challenging, but it’s possible maybe five years or 10 years down the road.
We also have new flavours coming up, but we are still at the experimental stage. We will also introduce different cup sizes, different coffee beans and milk alternatives like oat milk.
What is your favourite cup of coffee?
For me and my wife, our favourites are vanilla latte and dark mocha. Our customers love our caramel latte and kek gula hangus.