“Ka-ching!” That’s the sound Lee Chee Leong’s phone makes when someone orders nut butter. And because that someone is likely to be a mum breastfeeding around the clock, that sweet jingle can come in at 2.30am, 4.30am or 6am. Not that the two cheerful and amiable entrepreneurs behind 2NutGuys mind as more orders doesn’t just mean more business, it’s also an indication that more lactating mothers are discovering how this local start-up’s nutty products can help increase breast milk supply and provide nutrition for their little ones.
That’s right, 2NutGuys isn’t your regular F&B business that sprouted up during the pandemic — it’s one that aims to problem-solve. While lactation cookies, supplements and even ice cream aren’t new, Chee Leong and David believe they’re the first and only lactation nut butter business in Singapore and beyond.
“Many mummies tell us that they take lactation cookies, but those contain a lot of calories,” Chee Leong tells A Magazine. “They say it’s already hard to slim down after having a baby and eating a lot of cookies doesn’t help. But our signature Mummy’s Nutmond Butter has fewer calories, and you can spread it on bread or eat it with yoghurt or overnight oats. Many mums told us they’ve had good outcomes after taking it and that it boosted their milk supply. It contains almond which, in itself, is a lactation-boosting food. We also put in organic cold-pressed almond oil, organic chia seeds and other milk-boosting ingredients.”
Their Nutmond Butter is so popular among breastfeeding mothers on Instagram and Facebook — who are spreading the word about how the spread has boosted their breast milk production — that Chee Leong and David’s phones are pinging off the hook with orders; it also means the guys spend their weekends roasting nuts, turning them into spreads and sending out orders from their homes.
“There was an increase in orders probably about five to six weeks ago [in September 2021] when there was a turning point in mummies sharing about our Nutmond Butter via word of mouth or on social media. I think it went a little bit viral,” says Chee Leong with a smile.
“The orders have steadily increased since then. I’d say almost half the mums who’ve tried it would tell us it increased or at least enhanced their milk supply. There was a mum who said it boosted her milk production by 100ml. Yes, it’s quite amazing!”
2NutGuys was birthed about a year ago when Chee Leong, 37, who used to work in a human resource tech company and is currently with a fintech company, and David, 34, who runs his own human resource benefits broker business, decided they wanted to do something together during the circuit breaker. The duo connected on LinkedIn as they were both in the HR space. David, a serial entrepreneur, was looking for his next project, and a friend actually suggested a product for breastfeeding mums. Coincidentally, Chee Leong’s wife experienced milk supply challenges when she had their baby about three years ago, so he knew all about lactation issues and products.
“I was the useless and helpless man in the living room walking around,” he says. “Even now, when I talk to my wife about breastfeeding, she would sometimes tear up, because it was such a tough time and there was so much pressure.”
Put two and two together, plus the fact that Chee Leong is an expert nut roaster (“I love nuts and roast my own nuts at home”) and the idea for a lactation nut butter turned into a business venture.
“At first, we were like, would the mummies trust us? After all, we were two hairy guys in a very feminine space,” laughs Chee Leong.
“But many, many mums wanted to be on our testing platform to try out the product.”
Undoubtedly, their catchy name 2NutGuys, which David came up with, is a marketing win. It’s fun and easy to remember. And nuts are, after all, a snack food associated with good times.
“Yes, it’s two crazy guys launching a business after lockdown, and nuts being nuts, figuratively, and also cos we’re dealing with nuts,” says David. “But we also want to balance that with making sure our audience trusts us and know that we are reliable and safe, and have good and healthy products.”
The guys came up with a capital outlay of $5,000, and spent most of it on R&D. “All the ‘ka-ching!’ is funded back to doing more testing and developing for our products,” says Chee Leong. “We have an almond milk coming soon, and we’ve been testing that with some mummies. Some of them told us that they’ve finished their supply and asked when they can start ordering the milk! It’s great because when they’re thirsty, they can drink it. Our Mummy’s Walnut is also popular. Walnuts are known to be good for brain development and are a great source of Omega-3 fats. If breastfeeding mums eat our walnuts, the benefits will be passed on to their kids.”
All entrepreneurs look forward to the day when their side hustle can become their main business. As David tells us: “When can we quit our day jobs? When every mummy buys our products the moment she delivers her baby.” Chee Leong adds: “Our mission is to see 2NutGuys become the go-to brand when it comes to lactation-boosting products. Right now, our products are only available on our website, but eventually, we want lactation consultants, mummy shops and hospitals such as Thomson Medical to carry our products. I believe they sell lactation cookies in hospital pharmacies, so why not lactation nut butter?”
They may be a lean and mean team right now, churning out their preservative-free nut spreads and testing each batch as it comes out of their kitchens, but their dreams are definitely not peanuts. And they don’t see big brands like Camel and Tong Garden as competitors, at least not just yet.
“These brands are selling to the general audience, meaning consumers who are eating nuts while watching Netflix or Premier League at home,” says David. “They’re not exactly our target audience at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we won’t consider that audience in the future.”
While mums and kids are their primary customers, they do have some products for the general nut-loving public.
“We have standard products like caramelised pecans, and our spicy cashews are also a bestseller,” says Chee Leong. “Our Naked Nutmond Butter is also popular — there’s no sugar, no flavouring, it’s kosong except for almonds. It’s great for mums with diabetes and for kids and adults who want the spread but not the calories.”
If you’ve ever wondered if your playful ambitions and personal passions can turn into a moneymaker, look no further than Chee Leong and David for inspiration. The former is a foodie who loves to roast things while the latter has been hustling and cooking up schemes since he was a kid. Chee Leong shares: “I started roasting my own pecans, macadamias and hazelnuts when I couldn’t find what I wanted on the market. I was also very into roasting sio bak (roast pork) and char siew, and I roasted so much meat that I had to give it away for free. I sort of mastered sio bak and started selling it to my neighbours; there were so many orders I couldn’t handle it. I’d also roast chicken, lamb and now, I roast a lot of nuts!”
Meanwhile, David tells us: “When I was a kid, I’d burn CDs to sell to my friends. That’s when I discovered I had an entrepreneurial streak. And I used to play with my mum’s wok after she had finished cooking. While the heat was still on, I’d throw in all the ingredients that she had discarded, just to experiment and see what happens. I’d get scolded, but when I look back at it, it was my inquisitive and creative nature that allowed me to try, experiment, fail and try again.”
What will the 2NutGuys experiment with next? One thing’s for sure — it will not disappoint.