• Sat. May 20th, 2023

Melbourne friends open Tickled Pink cafe in Bali

When two Aussie mates embarked on a hospitality venture just before Covid hit, they had no idea it would lead to a multimillion-dollar global expansion.

Rashid Alshak, 33 and Aydin Devel, 31, decided to take a leap of faith and enter an industry they had no idea about.

Mr Alshak, who comes from a sales and marketing background and Mr Devel who hails from banking, are the brains behind Tickled Pink, a cafe built on ethos “good food, good drinks and good vibes”.

The pair opened their first cafe in Elwood, in the inner suburbs of Melbourne before expanding to Thornbury and Richmond.

And now they’re taking on Bali.

“Indonesia is a beautiful country with a rich culture, and we’re thrilled to be able to bring Melbourne’s unique epicurean culture, especially its coffee, to this stunning island,” Mr Alshak said.

While the duo, who also share a digital marketing agency, have seen great success, it hasn’t come without its challenges.

“We got initial help understanding how the hospitality industry works and tried to find ways how to operate better margins than what the industry is used to,” Mr Alshak told news.com.au. “It was scary, but we also had a lot of adrenaline because we were stepping into unknown territory.”

A few months after they opened, they were faced with the biggest challenge of all – the pandemic.

“Like many other small businesses, we had to decide whether to close or adapt – so we adapted and began doing takeaway,” Mr Alshak told news.com.au.

Mr Alshak focused on the brand’s socials while Mr Devel got familiar with a coffee machine.

“It was difficult. We did burn through a lot of cash but we also wanted to keep people employed,” Mr Alshak said.

“I was (also) at the door taking orders and in between that I was on the phone with my marketing team because I also had that business to run.”

Mr Alshak quit his “cushy” corporate job eight years ago to open Bespoke Marketing Solutions with Mr Devel, with offices in Melbourne, Dubai and Singapore. The bold move came at the great shock of Mr Alshak’s parents – as did his hospitality venture – but given the boys’ great success, he joked that his folks have finally come around.

After surviving the pandemic, the pair went on to open two more Tickled Pink cafes before setting their sights on a global expansion.

While Tickled Pink is known for its quality food and embodying the best of Melbourne’s urban culture, its success is also due to collaborations with content creators in the food, art, fashion and music industries.

“We started from zero with our first business trying to scrape $15,000 and with all the businesses between us, we’re turning over nine figures – it’s a ridiculous amount,” Mr Alshak said, adding he’s still in shock by how far they’ve come as a duo.

Mr Alshak said neither he nor Mr Devel had much to begin with but focused on slowly building their marketing agency before deciding to enter into “unknown territory” together.

“Like any business, we were so grateful to have survived Covid especially when we had people telling us it’s not an industry you make money in. But we had a vision,” he said.

The success of their several business ventures meant the boys were able to expand abroad, opening Tickled Pink in Canggu Bali – a multimillion-dollar move.

“It was a no-brainer for us given its easy access to Aussies and great and friendly culture,” Mr Alshak said.

The venue will seat roughly 200 people both inside and in the pool area outside that overlooks the rice fields.

Mr Alshak said the opportunity came about after striking up a friendship with Jason Gunawan, co-founder of the popular Potato Head Beach Club.

The boys were then invited to collaborate at the Canggu site and establish the first Tickled Pink in Southeast Asia.

“We wanted to create something that reflects all the good things Melbourne’s urban culture is known for and incorporate it with Balinese culture — to have the best of both worlds,” Mr Alshak said.

He said the fusion of these two hospitality worlds will deliver a unique experience for tourists and the local community.

Following a soft launch opening earlier this month, the 33-year-old said the response has been “amazing”.

“People from Australia say it feels like home and that it’s good to find something in Bali that’s of the Melbourne quality and vibe,” he said, adding the duo are humbled by the response given Bali’s competitive food scene.

The venue will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner and a chilled night atmosphere with private cabanas by a pool

The site is also home to Gunawan’s Le Bajo, which is a popular Melbourne brand that has its roots derived from Labuan Bajo, one of the world’s heritage sites and home to the Komodo dragons.

It is only the start of their global domination with the boys also planning to open in Labuan Bajo and Jakarta, as well as Vietnam and the Philippines.

There’s no denying Tickled Pink is quickly establishing itself as the official flag bearer for bringing Melbourne’s unique culture to the world.

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