YOLO Founder Alexis Bauduin on Leaving the Corporate Life for a Start-Up Adventure

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Alexis Bauduin, YOLO founder

At 32 years young, Alexis Bauduin is a man with many accomplishments. From being the Director for Asia Pacific at LVMH’s Grand Marnier to finishing third at The Apprentice Asia, Bauduin’s latest gig finds him in the stunning tropical city of Singapore. Looking back, Bauduin recalls how his life could have turned out rather differently. The table tennis prodigy was only 14 when he was given an opportunity to sign a contract with one of Europe’s top table tennis teams.

“Thankfully, my parents put a stop to it,” he muses. “They said, table tennis… Really? Do you think there’s any money there?”

Bauduin never looked back then. His recently launched takeaway outlet at Icon Village, titled YOLO, encourages nutritious yet incredibly tasty food no matter what dietary needs and restrictions you may have.

"Each milestone in my life has been fuelled by the desire to learn, grow, and become a better version of myself.”

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Build your own meals with YOLO

“The beauty of YOLO is that there is no typical customer,” he explains. “We cater to everyone, from youngsters who come for the experience, food and great music to local and expatriate white collars. We also get the aunties who come to eat their healthy cauliflower fried rice!”

Driven and competitive, Bauduin confesses that he has always been this way, pushing himself from a very young age because he always felt like he wanted to find out what he was made of. “I am very competitive so each milestone in my life has been fuelled by the desire to learn, grow, and become a better version of myself.”

"We are still in a situation where half of the so-called “healthy eating options” are not healthy.”

Even his vision is always directed at the future. “I am proud of my journey so far, but I prefer to look forward into the future, eye my next goals and try to find out how far it will all go!”

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Lamb Shoulder with Sweet Potato Mash

“SINGAPORE IS QUITE BEHIND”

When Bauduin first arrived in Singapore three years ago, he was taken aback by Singapore’s healthy eating habits.

“I would say that Singapore is quite behind other markets when it comes to healthy eating,” he tells me. “It is getting better as the Health Promotion Board is running aggressive campaigns to promote healthy eating, but we are still in a situation where half of the so-called “healthy eating options” are not healthy.”

“If you compare it to Europe and France, I wouldn’t say there are a lot more healthy concepts there, but culturally, the cooking methods used like baking and steaming are healthier than the popular ones in Asian/Singaporean cuisine such as deep frying,” he says, and that’s where his latest start-up, YOLO comes in.

“I think entrepreneurship is very trendy at the moment, but I see many businesses and young entrepreneurs fail because of a lack of preparation and commitment to the new life they have."

Where most people associate healthy eating with salads and vegetarian meals, YOLO offers the comfort of good meals with the benefit of healthy eating. “YOLO’s mission is to make healthy food available to everyone as we are halal-certified and have gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free options.”

He adds, “We take all your favourite dishes, both Western and Asian, and we put our YOLO twist on it to make them healthy and super tasty! We even offer lifestyle-oriented menus; we make nutrition easy for everybody!”

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Goal-oriented meals are designed by their own nutritionist

NOT FOR EVERYONE

The YOLO idea happened while Bauduin was working at LVMH, but he put his dreams on hold while he competed at the Apprentice Asia. Working with the host, Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, Bauduin was increasingly inspired by not just the business magnate’s drive and grit on a daily basis, but also Fernandes’ story.

He explains, “Knowing that I had an idea that I believed in more than anything else in my life, I was like ‘Okay, I have to do this. It is time to bet on myself.’ At that point, it was really a no brainer for me. I just knew that it was my calling.”

“Are you ready to give up that peace of mind, that moment of relaxation you feel before you go to bed? Are you ready to feel like you are stuck in a pressure cooker for the next few years?"

When Bauduin first made the big switch, he saw first-hand how difficult it was to find staff in an F&B industry with a big problem in human resources. His also underestimated the aspect of company culture, which he admits taking for granted especially in larger corporations. “I spent a lot of effort to develop our employer branding to set the right foundations,” he shares.

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Arnie's Meatballs

Of course, the life of an entrepreneur is not for everyone, and the madness behind-the-scenes might be enough to extinguish just a shadow of a dream.

Bauduin cautions budding millennial entrepreneurs who want to make the big switch from the corporate life to the start-up world. “Are you ready to give up that peace of mind, that moment of relaxation you feel before you go to bed? Are you ready to feel like you are stuck in a pressure cooker for the next few years? As a business owner, it is just you and your business, 24/7. When you wake up, when you eat and when you dream, the pressure is there all the time because it is so personal.”

Zero ego, he warns, is also incredibly important. 

He adds, “I think entrepreneurship is very trendy at the moment, but I see many businesses and young entrepreneurs fail because of a lack of preparation and commitment to the new life they have. I believe in being well prepared and having at least a few years of experience to build some a strong business foundation.”

And what does it really take to survive in such a business? Bauduin believes that a good energy fuels the business, and an undying resilience is needed to keep pushing, no matter how tough it gets. Zero ego, he warns, is also incredibly important. “Entrepreneurship is a learning curve and if your ego gets in the way, you won’t be able to make the changes you need to make to grow and evolve your business”

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