By Shaan Bajaj
I am drawn to strong successful women, and I try to learn as much as I can from just being in their company. Oftentimes I find their passion, dedication, and grace to be addictive, making me feel like I, too, am invincible if I just keep a band of ‘boss babes’ around me. One such inspiring woman is Premika ‘Pam’ Srichawla, founder of plant-based community space EKM6. Located in Ekkamai, the two-storey structure with both indoor and outdoor spaces has just recently opened its doors to the public – while you may have visited some of their outdoor markets before, they now have a café, Kynd Kulture, and the Plenti grocer, stocked with the best plant-based items in the city.
When I first stepped foot on to the property, I spotted Pam dressed in a green power suit and a warm smile. She gave me a tour of the space, showing me the yoga room and workshop space, and she informed me that two spaces were still open for rent. Afterwards, we sat at the café and I sipped on a refreshing green smoothie, while she had a glass of kombucha as she told me her story.
Born and bred in Bangkok, Pam studied here for most of her life before completing her education in England. She went on to major in marketing and advertising, completing her undergraduate degree in Bangkok and then a Master’s degree from the University of Leeds in the UK. Since then, she’s worked with her family’s real-estate business, before starting popular plant-based ice cream brand, Beyond Pops, in 2018, which ultimately served as a catalyst for EKM6.
“I started Beyond Pops because my elder son wanted a Magnum but he couldn’t have a regular one as he’s dairy-intolerant. So I went to buy a mould and started making ice cream. Both my kids are dairy intolerant, which is what got me interested in non-dairy products and veganism,” Pam says with a fond smile. Although her son told her to start selling the ice cream after his fi rst bite, she did not start selling the pops until she believed in the product herself and followed the lifestyle. Having learnt from her parents’ work ethic, she says, “It is about the integrity behind the brand.” As she attended more weekend markets and events with Beyond Pops, she thought to herself, “Why is there no space like this every day, where even small vendors like me can grow, and people can try plant-based food?” Thus, EKM6 was born.
The space came to Pam by chance, she tells me. “My husband pitched to the owner,
wanting to make serviced appartments, but somehow the project fell through,” she
recalls. “I had a gut feeling that I should talk to the owner and suggest a two-fl oor
plant-based community space, and somehow she agreed. We signed a 20-year contract
in Feb 2020, the beginning of COVID.”
Masala dives a little deeper into the process of opening EKM6 and the purpose behind it.
What challenges did you face when opening this community space, and how did you overcome them?
The moment we were ready to construct, COVID hit Thailand hard, making us postpone. At the same time, my husband and I were preparing to fund EKM6 on our own, but the investment I was preparing went away. It was just gone. It took me time to get a bank loan, which was especially difficult to do during COVID for a leasehold property. Of course, the loan did not cover all our costs but we were able to find the money to get the project done.
I would not be here without my family: my dad, mum, mum-in-law, and my kids; they have been the best support. My husband has also always been there; even when I used to worry about money, he would say, “just work, it will come.”
Additionally, I have an amazing team, and we are growing together. It has been a lot of prayers and faith, but I am a firm believer that I am doing a good thing; I want people to experience eating good food while making the plant-based lifestyle more approachable.
Now that EKM6 is open, what can customers expect and how do you plan to make use of it? How do you hope the Thai-Indian community will interact with this space?
I want the space to be for everyone; even if you are not plant-based, you are very welcome here. Just come and have a look, that is more than enough. We would love to have our Thai-Indian community come and participate in workshops, and understand more about being plant-based, or shop and enjoy the cafe.
Can you tell us a little about your plant-based journey? What would you say to anyone who is thinking of going plant-based?
As my son is allergic to dairy, I stopped eating dairy when I was feeding him. My body reacted negatively after having dairy again, so I had to cut it out. I loved cheese, so it was really hard, but my body would have a reaction and I slowly cut it out from my diet too. I became a gluten-free vegan; I have more energy, and my recovery after exercising is faster now. I am strong, energetic, and very happy. I am doing it for myself; I do not force anyone, not even my family.
If you are thinking of going plant-based, just eat more plants; that’s it. Don’t think, “I am going to be 100 percent plant-based,” but just keep trying. It takes time to find what you like, and a lot of effort. Moreover, look at your diet and make sure you eat protein.
What advice would you give community members starting their own business?
Test out the market fi rst. Go meet and talk to your customers, and understand them. If you are going to start a business, it is okay to start small and learn your market before slowly growing bigger. Come to think of it, the journey is what got me here today; without selling Beyond Pops, I would not have the idea of EKM6!