Julie Tan knows she is privileged (and is grateful for it)

The actress-entrepreneur admitted that she used to be ashamed of people pointing out that her risk-taking tendencies were because of her family background

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Photos: 1Wolf Entertainment

Julie Tan, at all of 26 years old, is one who’s hardly consistent – she took a gamble in 2017 and decided against renewing her contract with Mediacorp, and has since taken on projects in China, established her own management agency, and more recently, opened her first restaurant.

“I would say that I’m constantly unpredictable,” the actress-entrepreneur chuckled during a phone interview with Toggle. “The media knows me for so many years, I’m not afraid to take the leap of faith. I’m always out there trying new things. People know that Julie is a risk taker, and that I’ll do the unexpected.”

Her latest venture, however, wasn’t taken on a whim. Botany is a labour of love that she and her friend, Serene Tan, have dreamed of since they were children. They roped in Julie’s cousin, Cassandra Riene, and the three women are determined to give their first F&B outlet their best shot.

“The menu is inspired by us, because we’re quite fussy eaters. We want a place where we have everything. Sometimes when you go out with your friends, you can’t agree on whether to have Western or Asian food, because everyone has a different definition of what comfort food is,” Julie mused.

She continued, “Or sometimes, you’re out with friends with kids and have difficulties finding a place that has food for both the adults and the kids. That’s why we have a little bit of everything on our menu, and I’m proud to say that we’re fussy eater-friendly, kid-friendly and pet-friendly.”

Although Julie once declared that she would never do business with her friends nor family, here she is today, as she shared, “We have very good chemistry and sometimes when we talk about female empowerment, we lift each other up and support one another. That’s why we decided that we wanted to work together.”

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Julie with some of the celebrity fans she invited for Botany's soft opening

Female empowerment has also showed itself in subtle ways, as Julie had her soft launch on March 8, International Women’s Day.

“We chose that date for a reason, and we also invited female entrepreneurs down to make it meaningful. People might think that we can’t support each other just because we’re all in F&B, but it’s not about that. We empower each other, and that’s even more important.”

Speaking of family, we asked Julie about the words of wisdom her businessman father imparted to her ahead of her restaurant’s opening, to which she said, “He doesn’t really agree with me opening a café because the economy is bad. His friends have restaurants and many of them have closed. There’s a lot of things going on but I told him, if I don’t try I will never know. Not all businesses will succeed the first time, so we’re prepared if anything bad happens.”

We then mentioned that naysayers might – and probably are – saying that her bravery comes from her privileged background.

Always the straight-talker, Julie explained, “I used to be ashamed of it because I didn’t want people to say that I’m relying on my family background, but when I grew older, I realised that if I have a platform to learn and to make mistakes, it should be considered a blessing because not many people have the opportunity and chance to do so.”

“Many people are afraid because they might lose everything, but I can try and I’ll have to bear the consequences for whatever mistakes I make. I will pick myself up and won’t run back to my family if anything happens.”

She continued, “There are other success stories, like Cheryl Wee. The two of us have talked about this before, and how it seems to the outside world that we can do whatever we want. What they don’t see is that we have our own form of stress as well because we need to prove ourselves to our families.”

“We don’t want to lose face for our family because our parents are respectable. We don’t want to have people saying that we’re failures and can’t live up to our parents’ legacies. People might talk bad about us; I can’t stop them and I have to acknowledge that we’re privileged. I’m truly grateful for that.”

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