The Year That Was: Chang Sup Shin, CEO, 1004 Gourmet
"Community is one of the biggest factors for success, and we would not be where we are without it."
Chang Sup Shin is the CEO of 1004 Gourmet, an Asian specialty marketplace, which, besides distributing to some of the UAE’s top restaurants and retail chains like Nobu, Zuma, Carrefour, and others, also boasts of a fan following among many of the country’s residents, with its location having hosted everything from specialty coffee tastings to Asian cooking classes. As such, and much like any other business in the retail or hospitality domains, Sup Shin’s enterprise was also affected by the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, but looking back on all of it now, he’s happy with how he and his team reacted to the changes that came their way all the same.
“Obviously, COVID-19 hit everybody hard, and we had to make a lot of adjustments in the beginning,” Sup Shin says. “But one of our proudest moments was a sense of family and cooperation in our organization to work together during the tough period. The team’s ability to react and implement changes in operations and supporting one another was a great achievement. For instance, our restaurant supply team was assigned to support the online and shop divisions that saw an influx of orders in the first few months. Since our popular cooking classes could not be done in the shop, we started online cooking classes over Zoom by pre-portioning the ingredients and delivering it to their homes. We also worked with local chefs who were well-known in the community, as well as collaborated on live cooking classes with large organizations such as Korean Tourism.”
But that’s not all what Sup Shin got up to over the course of 2020- this South Korean native also used the year to launch an entirely new F&B concept in Dubai as well. “One silver lining of the COVID-19 crisis was the launch of Ugly Burger, a passion project I built with my friends and partners, Eric Lee and Young Rak Jung,” Sup Shin says. “The idea came about during the lockdown, and we decided to launch a delivery-only burger concept. We wanted to create a highquality burger joint that had unique options and was reasonable in price. With support from the food community here, we have managed to create a loyal cult following, and we are now hoping to open a brick-and-mortar shop in the next few months.”
Time for introspection: Chang Sup Shin, CEO, 1004 Gourmet
1/ Diversifying your business is something that will work in your favor in the long run “1004 Gourmet’s online sales saw a triple growth in the first few months into the pandemic, and I was very happy that we had been prepared by diversifying the business. However, it also allowed us to realize areas of improvement, whether it’s digital and social marketing, customer journey and scalability, and restructuring the back-end for scalability.”
2/ Give back to the community whenever you can “Community is one of the biggest factors for success, and we would not be where we are without it. As our business was less negatively affected through 2020, we provided food donations to people who lost their jobs and homes as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, and we also raised money with the cooking classes we ran for people in Beirut who were affected by the port explosion in August. And this is something we want to continue to do on a regular basis.”
Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.
Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.