Ever had a robot craft honey drinks for you? While it may have been unheard of 10 years ago, it is now available in Singapore thanks to Sophia Lim.
Sophia, the founder of Honeymill, has been in the business of honey distribution for almost two decades, distributing honey products to pharmacies in Singapore – including Guardian, Watsons, Giant, NHG and Unity.
Impacted by the retail crunch, she felt the need to revitalize her business. She dreamt of starting a cafe and after many years, Honeymill was born.
“To ensure consistency in every honey drink, I developed the world’s first robot – the Honeybot – that can create 300 types of honey drinks,” she explains.
The store, located at the basement of Marina One, targets consumers who seek healthy food and beverages.
Sophia shares: “As we try to use healthy and natural ingredients for our toppings and ingredients for our cakes and Swiss roll, we bring (goodies that are) relatively guilt-free to them. At Honeymill, consumers can also come by for honey cakes and honey creme treats. We want to continue to invent new drinks and foods using honey.”
Then And Now
Looking back on the early days of the business, Sophia shares that her honey business has grown tremendously over the years.
“In the past, it was just me being stationed at various retail fairs peddling honey products. I made honey deliveries myself by lugging a luggage to and fro.”
“Today, we have a good and strong team to bring the business forward.”
It is clear that Sophia sees the strength of the team as one of her strongest assets, as she reiterates this several times in the interview. To her, success is a team effort – she tells me that one cannot do things alone – the team needs to sit down and prioritize what needs to be fixed when issues crop up.
“For example, when developing something so complex like Honeybot, there were many challenges and revisions we needed to make to the robot so that it would serve quality honey drinks efficiently.”
As part of running a honey business, Sophia and her team get to educate consumers on the various types of honey in the world, which she considers a source of joy.
“More people are unaware that there’s many different types of honey other than Manuka Honey. I am happy to be the person to introduce honey from all over the world to consumers in Singapore.
To me, it’s like bringing a piece of the world’s goodness closer to our consumers,” she says.
Nonetheless, the challenges of running a honey business takes the form of sharing her knowledge and understanding of honey and bee products, in order to educate her consumers on the value of these.
Sophia explains: “Consumers often do not understand the true value of honey products that they purchase. Many have this misconception of Manuka (honey and) its grading. (The same goes for) other (types of) monoflora honey too.”
Honeybot: The Benefits
The Honeybot was originally intended to look like a life-sized human being.
However, after extensive R&D, the team realised that the function, cost and maintenance of this type of robot would not be as practical, given their needs. Thus, they decided to go with the Honeybot that they have today – a robot arm – which provides efficiency and precision.
At the same time, it is also more cost effective in terms of development and maintenance of the robot.
The development of the Honeybot came with many hiccups along the way, “especially on the honey dispenser, topping dispenser as well as the Honeybot arm itself.” Nonetheless, Sophia and the team managed to overcome these and make the first Honeybot a success.
“I’m very happy with the current honey dispenser now that it looks more professional and is more precise in the dispensing of honey,” Sophia says.
Although the development of the Honeybot was a time-intensive and research-intensive pursuit, Sophia and the team persisted in it.
“Honeybot is very productive and precise. Honey requires extensive effort in stirring in order to completely dissolve. It’s almost impossible to ensure such consistency when you employ manpower to craft honey drinks.”
Instead of having manpower to craft honey drinks, they can dedicate the manpower to educating consumers about honey and bringing more value added service to their consumers.
“Unlike physical manpower, Honeybot would not tire out and would not complain about overworking.”
Honeybot Success? Too Early To Tell
With the aid of the Honeybot, one might expect that this would help to bump up production, and hence, increase the amount of sales for the store significantly. However, Sophia begs to differ on this.
Instead, she tells me that it is too early to gauge the success of the Honeybot towards increasing the sales and production for the business. Even so, she plans to “franchise and bring the goodness of honey to more people.”
Moving forward, Sophia plans to bring Honeymill to more locations in Singapore, allowing more people to “enjoy the goodness and benefits of honey.” Additionally, they are also focusing on transiting the business from offline to online through their e-commerce store.
“With the boom of e-commerce, buying a product was never as easy as it is now. Purchases can be made easily with a click now,” she explains.
You can get your share of honey drinks from the Honeymill online store, here.