I am Sasha Conlan, Founder and CEO of The Barbie Girls based in Singapore, but first and foremost, I’m a mum who has a huge passion for good quality food and what I feed my family. I founded The Barbie Girls in October 2011 after I was disappointed with the quality of meat and seafood in Singapore. If I managed to find meat/seafood that tasted good, I had no idea what was in it and where it was from. I began a journey of sourcing and importing premium quality, ethically sourced and fully traceable meat and seafood, and delivering it directly to customers in Singapore.
I was a lawyer…
Originally from the North East of England, I practiced as a lawyer for 12 years before taking time off to look after my young family. I moved to Singapore, along with my husband and children, in 2008.
Understanding where the produce comes from and how it has been farmed is essential for me. Even though I don’t like spending time away from my children, my passion and drive to find good quality food is what spurs me to travel to Australia, New Zealand and Europe in search of new suppliers. I visit new farms and organisations as often as possible, experiencing their sustainable techniques first-hand, and sampling produce. I only commit to the farm or organisation as a supplier for The Barbie Girls when I am completely satisfied that they care about their animals/fish, their environment, the purity of the produce and the food supply chain across the globe.
From BBQ to Barbie
“The Barbie Girls” name was the idea of my children who quickly saw a link between me being a girl and some of my products, such as sausages and burgers, being for BBQs!
Initially I sourced, packed and delivered the products once a week in my car, now deliveries are made Monday to Saturday throughout Singapore in our custom-fitted cool trucks.
The business has rapidly evolved over the last four years and The Barbie Girls has matured into a purveyor of fine foods providing an extensive, and growing range, of top quality fresh and frozen meat and seafood. Our best sellers include our free-range pork from a family-run farm in Essex, UK, and our grass-fed beef from the East Coast of Australia. I recently introduced a line of delicious oak-smoked fish products, direct from a family-run smokehouse on the shores of Loch Etive in Scotland, which is selling very well, especially as these products are hard to get hold of in Singapore.
Setting up a business in Singapore
Setting up and managing a business in Singapore is relatively painless. The Singapore Government is fully supportive of entrepreneurial activity even from expatriates. There are challenges to importing meat and seafood into the country, one being that our pork from the UK has to be brought in frozen, the authorities will not allow it to be imported fresh. However, this is easily worked around to ensure we are still able to offer our customers the best quality products available.
The biggest advantage of running my own business is that I am able to choose the hours I work so I can still spend quality time with my children. It is essential to me that I am able to pick them up from school after their sporting activities and sit with them whilst they have their dinner to talk about their days. Work is of great importance to me, but my family will always come first.
My family and I love living in Singapore
We love the Asian culture and cuisine, so life here is easy. I am also lucky that I have the flexibility with my job so I can spend quality time with my children. This is a big advantage of being an entrepreneurial expat. If I could do it all again, I don’t think I would do anything differently. Setting up my business has been a big learning curve but I think the mistakes and challenges I have made have actually made me stronger.
My top tips
If I could give advice to others thinking of setting up a business in a foreign country I would say go with your passion. If it is something you believe in then go for it. My passion for finding top quality food is still my driver in my business. Also, networking. This is essential to a successful business. I have found many of my suppliers via people I know and have met along my food journey in establishing The Barbie Girls.
I am so grateful to have this opportunity to be able to spread the word about eating top quality meat and seafood.