KOTTULABS officially began trading in February 2018. It was a start-up and dream come true for four friends, known as Yatta (runs the kitchen), Don (the marketer), AR (the finance guy) and Waitforit (the operations person).
But let’s, back track a little….
The basic idea for KOTTULABS was sitting in the minds of two of its partners for nearly three years. Not as a complete idea, but as a dream or a thought, that they wanted to enter the food industry in Colombo, Sri Lanka. This topic was discussed on and off between them, especially when they were tired and fed up after a particularly hard day at their day jobs. But one day at the end of 2017, things came to a head and enough was enough; they started actively moving on making the dream a reality. One of the two, went so far as to quit his day job, and therefore had the time to put in to researching and checking out all the ‘official’ matters that go in to opening an eatery. But they were to soon realise that this is not always as easy as one would imagine, as there are a lot of very important information that is just not accessible to entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka; but more on that later.
It's now December 2017 and the first two partners join forces with two more and become the 4 co-founders of KOTTULABS. They started planning and actively working on their idea for a restaurant and sat through many brainstorming sessions and discarded ideas left, right and centre. For examples, the original idea was to open a burger joint. However quickly realising that this was a highly saturated market they moved on; and so, went on the elimination process until they settled on everyone's favourite - Kottu. But seeing as this was a local favourite and was available from nearly every roadside 'kade' (food/retail outlet), it was going to be an uphill battle to stand out from the crowd. But our fearless (and somewhat clueless) friends were game to take up the challenge.
The four partners themselves are big Kottu fans, but with their own likes and dislikes on how they wanted their Kottu made. They also realised that Kottu was either only ever available from the lower end of the restaurant spectrum at ‘night kades’/street food joints or at five start hotels with small potions and pretentiously high prices - specifically targeted at foreign guests, but nothing in between. Putting these two facts together they realised that there was a gaping need for a Kottu restaurant somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. A restaurant that provided hygienically prepared, tasty Kottu dishes that were affordable, and a need for a place that would let the customer create their own dish according to their likes and needs. The 4 partners drew inspiration from their own favourite street food outlet 'Ape Rasa' in Colombo and the idea solidified further. The original Kottu products were tested out of the home kitchen of one of the partners and by February 2018, KOTTULABS had a soft launch; making the product available to friends and family. However, one month on in March of 2018 KOTTULABS was fully launched and began serving the public.
The 4 partners of KOTTULABS came with different work experiences and knowledge - from finance, to marketing, to education, logistics and FMG. Non with a background in the food industry and certainly no qualifications or experience in actually cooking. All they had was a dream and a passion that this is what they wanted to do and they were going to find a way to do it. One partner being from the education backdrop, used all possible theoretical tools, tables and graphs to do market analyses, feasibility studies and so on. Every possible risk they could think of was considered and possible solutions applied. They also spoke with industry veterans and other chefs and got all the advice and tips they could. Finally all that was left was to actually open. So taking a big risk and a deep breath the four partners of KOTTULABS jumped in to make their dream a reality.
They naively thought it was going to be easier than their stressful day jobs. The reality however was quite different. At this point they didn’t know what they didn’t know, which meant that down the line the partners would have many ‘learning’ opportunities and steep learning curves. Timelines, late deliveries, disgruntled customers, stiff competition, the list goes on and on. But at this point in time they were blissfully unaware of any of this and only full of optimism; this was their dream and so even the hardest day was worth it because it was their own and they could deal with it. They were working for themselves. They were making a dream a reality – and no one ever said that was going to be easy.
Written by Shali Jayasuriya
Shali is a freelance writer and blogger. She has written articles for clients from various fields, as well as developing content for websites and social media as well as copy writing for press releases, collateral and internal marketing. She has extensive marketing experience and has worked in various industries including aviation and hospitality, education and e-commerce. Read her blog at http://wellwornhushpupps.com/