Jessica “Hutch” Hutchinson and Yi Jun Juan
Co-founders of No Sleep Club, Singapore

How did you meet?
Jun: There was an industry party during Singapore Cocktail Festival and I was trying to escape what looked like a night of debauchery. I couldn’t get a cab for the longest time, and spotted Hutch who’d had a drink too many and had secured a taxi. I misheard Hutch’s address as one that was near mine so we shared the ride.

When the taxi came, we got in, and the first thing that I heard Hutch say was “I need to puke”. The driver freaked out but I assured him that she was fine and for some drunk crazy reason, I wound the car windows down, reached my hands out and told her to puke into them, and then threw it out the car window. I don’t know why the driver continued to take us but it worked, I ended up on the other side of Singapore because it turned out Hutch does NOT live near me. When we reached her place I rolled her out of the taxi, and continued on what turned out to be the most expensive cab ride I’ve ever taken in my life. The next day, Hutch felt bad about what happened and asked for my number to text me an apology, and that’s how we started talking. It’s a great story for the grandkids.

What made you decide to open a bar together?
Jun: When you open something on your own, you want the best people around you, and Hutch is the best. She’s the best at what she does, and I’d say the same whether we were together or not. I was confident of running an operation, putting out a product but I know for a fact that without a strong floor team and hospitality, there was no way a venue would work. I needed her there. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do something on my own as I tried it out when I started No Sleep Club on Club Street with Maxi Coffee Bar, just to have a feel of what it’s like and see if what I know how to do would actually take. 

Hutch was working for Proof & Company at the time and loved her job, but at the same time was looking for something new and something that could potentially let her travel or work overseas. We spoke about working overseas together a lot mainly because we couldn’t quite find anything in Singapore that felt like a good fit for us. It was these conversations that drove me to think about creating a space and category for ourselves. I wanted that for both of us and I’m definitely more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda person, and trying it out first before getting Hutch involved was something that was important for both of us. Hutch is definitely the executor and the more organised of the both of us, but change is also a big thing for her. It took a while before one day I just told her I’m going to print her a name card and declare her a part of it whether she wanted to or not – and then it was born. 

What has been the hardest part about working together?
Hutch: For me, the hardest part is that sometimes I do tend to take advantage of the fact that because Jun knows me and my faults and my temper, I sometimes snap back at her faster than I would a regular colleague. I think also, on the flip side, I compartmentalise and I can separate work and partner so at times I can zoom in too closely to focus on a work problem and not realise I might be hurting her feelings or not take her opinions as seriously as I should. 

Jun: There are many difficult points about working together as a couple. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody. The most difficult part is definitely when there is conflict as we have very different styles and strong personalities. Separating work and emotional conflicts is difficult, but we have found ways to work with it and it has definitely made us a stronger couple. 

What has been the greatest part about working together?
Hutch: The fact that Jun immediately has my back when there’s a tough situation. Previously, if I had a shit day or horrible experience with a customer, I’ve had to mull on it all day and then whine to her at home, hours later. Now, she can immediately see when shit is about to go down and because we are aligned on things, she can calm me down and help me reset so that the whole day doesn’t go downhill and put me in a bad headspace. I also get to watch her work all day – she won’t realise it but I’ll catch her being inspired by something or an idea forming while reading and I get this intimate sneak peak at this new idea she’s curating in her head. It’s fantastic. 

Jun: Working with someone who knows you inside out – the best and worst of you – is not something that happens every day. I’m able to completely be myself working with her. When you put your whole self into a venue, you need someone in your corner.

How do you separate work and your relationship both while at work and at home?
Hutch: We have a safe word for when there is an issue that we feel one of us won’t understand the gravity of,  and we know once that’s used, it’s time to listen to the other person 100 percent. That definitely helps. I’m also a strong believer of not talking about work on our days off together. I do set those boundaries, and it’s harder for Jun, but she is getting some sort of balance now.

Jun: Other couples take off days to spend time together, but we make time to be away from each other so we can get some downtime, some space alone and reset. The safe word technique is probably the best thing we have for each other, as it means to shut up and listen and you can’t speak or react til the other person is done. Sometimes in close proximity, people react to tones and words rather than what’s really happening, and this really allows us to push all the triggers aside and get to the root of the issue. It’s not entirely possible to separate work and our relationship, but I don’t think it’s necessary that we do so either. Our work is personal to us – we met through work, and we share the same passion for work. It’s something that also keeps us together. 

What’s one piece of solid advice you’d give to couples looking to go into business together?
Hutch: Don’t be a brat about it. Realise each other’s strengths and utilise those to each other’s advantage. Listen to each other and – I don’t know if this is something I’d encouraged but – Jun and I will randomly give each other a hug or two in the middle of a shift, just to reconnect in the middle of the rush. 

Jun: Respect. Speak kindly, think before you react. Also, DON’T DO IT!