The Business Times

A model of new masculinity

Respect and honesty make both business and marriage work, says F&B entrepreneur Ryan Pang

Helmi Yusof
Published Fri, Apr 16, 2021 · 05:50 AM
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THE CONCEPT OF MODERN MASCULINITY is undergoing seismic changes - and for good reason. As society tackles the pervasive issues of gender inequality and sexual misconduct, quiet revolutions are taking place in homes and marriages across the world.

The best of men have always respected women as equal partners at home and in the workplace. The social and political climate has only led them to finetune their perspectives of other people. These men build relationships with others on a foundation of trust, respect, dialogue, openness, generosity and love.

For Ryan Pang, owner and founder of the Habitat Coffee, there is nothing he wants to impart more to his two young sons than the concept of respect: ''I always tell my sons to respect anyone, regardless of gender, age or race. I tell them that when they meet someone who's different from them in any way - be it their size, looks, behaviour or anything else - they must remain gracious, kind and considerate.''

He adds, ''I haven't talked to my sons about girls and women yet. They're still too young (aged seven and two). But when the time comes, I expect my advice on respecting differences to temper the way they behave around the opposite sex.''

Ryan, 36, runs Habitat Coffee as a family business together with his wife and mother. For 10 years, the cafe has stood as a familiar sight in the popular stretch of eateries along Upper Thomson Road - no small feat in Singapore's competitive F&B industry. Its relaxed and friendly vibe continues to attract families, groups of friends and singletons, who go there certain they'll be treated with warmth and respect.

His wife, Esther Pang, says: ''Running a family business means family dinners often involve business discussions as well. So we have to be fairly disciplined in scheduling time for the kids as well as time for just the two of us. Ultimately that's the challenge of modern living - juggling all the crucial aspects of your life so that everything gets taken care of and nothing gets neglected.''

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On March 1, 2021, Ryan officially opened a coffee bar called Equate Coffee at Tanjong Pagar Plaza with a new partner. Ryan says: ''Throughout my entire journey in F&B business, I've always struggled to find the balance between work, family and personal space. So this new venture for me is conceptually derived from the idea of trying to regain one's equilibrium through a perfectly balanced cup of coffee. Hence the name 'Equate'.''

The coffee bar serves artisanal coffee and pastries, and has generated good buzz despite being barely seven-weeks-old. Equate Coffee's logo is made up of the ''+'', ''-'', ''x'' and ''÷'' symbols placed in a diamond arrangement. Ryan tells people that Equate coffees ''add comfort, minus distraction, multiply rest and divide stress.''

Like many couples, Ryan and Esther say they work hard at keeping their marriage alive. Having been friends for 16 years and spouses for 11 of them, Esther says Ryan has evolved tremendously as a husband and father. ''In his younger days,'' she says, ''he had a short temper'', a point that Ryan wholeheartedly agrees with. ''But over the years, he's learnt to control it and channel that energy constructively. He continues to pour his energy into the things he's passionate about, such as his family and business.''

Ryan says: ''The good thing about our marriage is that both of us choose to stay the course. We give each other space to be alone, recalibrate and come back again. We never give up on each other.''

The couple live with Ryan's mother and grandmother, their two sons and domestic helper. ''So the house is pretty rowdy,'' says Ryan, with a laugh.

To find equilibrium in his hectic schedule, he sometimes seeks permission from his family to spend a few days alone in nature. One of his favourite getaways is the Bukhansan in Seoul, a magnificent 836 metre mountain which he's trekked three times on his own.

He says: ''I remember going up the mountain to get away from everything. I enjoyed the cold, the natural scenery, the absolute quiet - things that are hard to come by in a crowded city like Singapore. By the time I reached the peak, I felt completely rejuvenated.  I'd regained my sense of self and I felt I could take on the world again... Nothing heals like nature.''

When it comes to his personal style, Ryan knows how to look sharp in an all-black street ensemble, a tiki Cuban shirt or a wellfitted suit. His Instagram account (@startwithryan) is filled with photos of him in a broad range of outfits, as well as beautiful latte art. Ryan used to model in his spare time, but with two cafés to manage now, that's taken a backseat.

He says: ''With everything that I do, I try to be honest, respectful and authentic. With the food that I serve or the coffee that I make, I want it to be honest and authentic. That's what keeps my family together, and that's what keeps people coming back to Habitat Coffee and Equate Coffee.''

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