Full-time CEO, Part-time Chef : Meet Serial Entrepreneur Federico Folcia

Ever wondered what it’s like to run several businesses at once? In the first of our series exploring the less-travelled career paths in Singapore, SGN chats with
Federico Folcia – full-time CEO & Founder of Crane, Managing Director at PowerHouse, and part-time Founder and Chef at Fork In The Jungle.

30 September 2020 / By SGN

Federico Folcia, an Italian who’s based in Singapore with his wife Teo Jia En and their three daughters, relishes being a full-time entrepreneur as it allows him to express his curiosity freely and “challenge the status quo”.

It is a motto he lives by and strongly believes in as a serial entrepreneur – a person who runs (at least) two business ventures at the same time. Or in Federico’s case, three business ventures; if you count his passion project, Fork In The Jungle, which he is currently pursuing as a hobby.

Besides being a foodie, Federico feels Singapore is a prime location for Fork In The Jungle as he can create “western recipes with local ingredients, while playing with local recipes that use western ingredients.”

It’s Federico’s passion for food that inspired him to set up Fork In The Jungle. He enthuses,“I love to cook out of inspiration, and I am a strong supporter of the “zero-km food” concept, which basically denotes food produced, sold and eaten locally.”

That said, he does have two priority business ventures. The first is Crane, a social space which aims to be an “ecosystem for lifelong learning”, offering an affordable means for people to bond over shared interests in an inclusive environment.

Then, there’s Powerhouse, a boutique business consultancy service helping companies – mainly brick and mortar brands – identify growth opportunities.

Even though each of the three businesses has distinct needs, Federico has not let that stop him from pursuing all three – and more importantly – derive success from them.

Work–Life (and Cultural) Balance

Federico finds our multiculturalism the most ‘intriguing aspect’ of life in Singapore.

It was a natural choice for Federico to move here after living in New York and Europe, for both professional and personal reasons as his partner-in-crime, wife and business partner, Jia En, is from Singapore.

Having called Singapore home for eight years, Federico says he has been enjoying life here. “It’s a country with an ideal climate for those who love the warm weather, a hub that cannot be compared to any other for short getaways, an infinite variety of ethnic and international dishes to try, outdoor sports… all in a safe environment – what more could you ask for?”

More importantly, he says Singapore is a country which is accepting of different cultures. “You’ll be able to live in Singapore as a Westerner, as an Asian, or whatever in between – all options are possible.”

He adds, “we (foreigners) often call Singapore the Switzerland by the sea, and the comparison is fair when you think about the efficiency, safety and far-sightedness of this system. But going a little further back in time I see Singapore as a modern Constantinople with traits of Asia as well as the Western culture.”

It is Singapore’s appreciation for maintaining a balance of various cultures which he hopes would rub off on his three children – giving them a deeper appreciation for multiculturalism.

A Day in the Life of Federico

We tagged along on a typical workday to see how this serial entrepreneur gets it all done in a day’s work.

Morning: First Order of Business – Coffee

Federico’s day usually starts at 7am with a cup of espresso, and then a second to savour its flavours. He jokes, “My morning activities line up entails meditation or exercise. However, I usually skip both and watch previous day sports highlights instead.”

After which, Federico spends his time getting his youngest daughter to school before reaching the office at Crane by about 9am.

Federico Folcia

The shared office space at Crane also doubles up and functions as his office for Powerhouse. When asked how he splits his time between the two businesses, Federico replies, “I am certainly more involved with Crane, time-wise. That said, I also communicate with my colleagues 24/7 via messaging apps too.”

The décor at Crane features an eclectic mix of homely and brightly coloured rugs, velvet sofas and rattan furniture, just like the variety of offerings they have – from a co-working space, to dining, a social club, podcasting studio, community activities and more.

Afternoon: Expect The Unexpected

Federico describes each workday as one that takes on a different shape and colour. Work meetings can be a time-consuming endeavour. Federico shares, “I usually set an agenda and a time duration before my meetings take place, but to be honest I also call colleagues in for impulse meetings – quite often – to share random thoughts or ideas.”

With three businesses running with competing needs, Federico knows he would need to rely on his management team to make a difference. To this end, Federico credits having collaborators and partners that have helped him to focus on one task at a time. “Without them, I would be totally lost!”

Federico spends any free time he has on his hands either hanging out with his family or participating in one of the many offline activities at Crane.

Evening: Eat, Sleep, Read, Repeat

“I also usually spend another hour or two before sleep to check emails and catch up with stuff that’s left behind.”

During the times when he’s able to tear himself away from work, Federico says, “to destress, I listen to music, or play and watch football. But I usually spend as much time as possible with my family watching Netflix, reading books and cooking.”

Federico’s Three Tips for the Aspiring Entrepreneur

Federico is a firm believer in offering training opportunities to his staff, describing his leadership philosophy as “working towards making himself dispensable”.

Indeed, the life of an entrepreneur isn’t easy but Federico notes that success is within your sight as long as one possesses the following qualities:

  • Be hungry because there’s nothing worse than a half-hearted piece of work.
  • Be curious – if you don’t stay up to date with what’s happening out there by reading the news and sharing ideas with other people, you will be bad or slow at making decisions.
  • Most critically, be kind because you’d never know which actions payoff in the long run, and which issues will come back to haunt your business in the future.

From Expat Entrepreneur to Your Local ‘Towkay

After eight years of experience living in Singapore, Federico enthuses that he has also devised a quick New York-style guide to help other expat self-made bosses with selecting a neighbourhood in Singapore.

“If you’ve lived in New York’s Lower East Side, you should stay around the Geylang and Katong area. For those from Tribeca, pick Bukit Timah. Residents from the Upper West Side should go for Tanglin or Grange Road area and for those who prefer the Soho district, you may like Tiong Bahru.”

Having said that, nothing beats “taking off your expat badge and immersing yourself as soon as possible in the local culture”, advises Federico.

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