This S’porean Quit Banking To Be A Home Baker

During the breaker, Singaporeans came out in force, swarming supermarkets and candy stores for their home baking efforts.

Social media was also buzzing with home bakers posting images of their latest pastries or pastry enthusiasts setting up micro-businesses, sparking the trend of “ circuit bakers ” in Singapore.

For a home baker, her baked goods became so popular that she ended up quitting her job at United Overseas Bank (UOB) to run her baking business full time.

Whiskdom’s Fiona Loh made waves online for her waiting list of 750 in July.

According to Fiona, more than two months later, her waiting list jumped to 3,000, which would take “more than two and a half years to be eliminated.”

An idea ahead of its time

Whiskdom cooking box
A Whiskdom Cooking Box / Image Credit: Whiskdom via Instagram

The 28-year-old self-taught baker didn’t become a success overnight.

Fiona told Vulcan Post in an interview that she started cooking when she was 14 to raise money for back-to-school guides, which piqued her interest.

She then began to learn how to cook, kicking off a series of try and troubleshooting on YouTube whenever her preparations didn’t quite work out.

While studying at the National University of Singapore, she also took odd jobs at bakeries to gain more hands-on experience.

Whiskdom started as a passionate project six years ago in 2014, where it sold “completely random deals” to “friends, family and occasional strangers.”

Interestingly, Whiskdom was actually my pitch idea when I applied for a NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) entrepreneurship program.

At the time, there were people who told me that there would be little demand for online bakery shopping as bakeries were plentiful and easily accessible. Perhaps, an idea ahead of its time.

Fiona Loh, founder of Whiskdom

After starting her full-time job as a Technology Product Manager at UOB, Whiskdom took the form of a “pastry diary” instead, where she wrote up her baking experiences.

From the bank to the baker

whisk brownies
Image Credit: Whiskdom via Instagram

Fresh out of school and caught between the road less traveled, high F&B failure rates and the promise of a stable business life, the latter was easy to choose.

When home working was instituted in all industries, Whiskdom received an increasing number of queries daily.

Between her daytime job and her nighttime restlessness, Fiona said she does work more than 16 hours a day. She knew it was “not going to be sustainable in the long run.”

When it came to choosing between one or the other, the decision was “inextricably difficult”. Fiona loved her day job and was progressing well, but she was “in love” with her nighttime restlessness.

It was then that she said to herself: “What would I regret the most if I did not continue?” It was then that she decided to take the leap and quit her job to work full time at Whiskdom.

I realized that when normalcy was restored, my newfound fulfillment meant that it would be impossible to return to corporate life without feeling a void. Now I live for the hustle and bustle and enjoy every moment of rushing adrenaline.

Fiona Loh, founder of Whiskdom

Not a penny was spent on marketing

Businesses typically spend a ton on marketing, especially when they are just starting out.

Interestingly, despite Whiskdom’s popularity, Fiona hasn’t spent a single dime on marketing.

The brand has grown completely through word of mouth and Fiona said she has her online community of followers, also known as Whiskdom whiskeys, thank.

Of course, Whiskdom’s baked goods inevitably also have a role to play in its popularity.

whiskdom cookies singapore
Image Credit: Whiskdom via Instagram

Fiona uses only the best ingredients, from French butter to imported European chocolate. What also keeps customers coming back is the different rotation of flavors each week, which surprises people every time.

Whiskdom’s cookies are also “huge and substantial,” at 135g each, and the brand’s brownies are like a melted cake with a gooey interior.

According to the Whiskdom website, a typical baking tin consists of three cookies and three brownies, and will set you back S $ 42.

A father-daughter team

whiskdom founder fiona
Jackie and Fiona / Image credit: Whiskdom

Before Fiona urged her father to help her, they were a one-woman team.

Jackie Loh, 61, also quit her 40-year-old job to join Fiona, working with her ‘towards the great unknown’.

It was a very humbling and inspiring experience to watch my 61 year old dad leave his 40 year old job to work with me towards the great unknown. At the same time, he’s living proof that it’s never too late.

Fiona Loh, founder of Whiskdom

The duo also recently joined a co-founder who has a wealth of experience in catering and hospitality.

In an interview with TODAY, Fiona said she was opening a central kitchen in mid-September, hoping to increase production.

Currently, Whiskdom opens for orders every Monday between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. However, as all items are handmade, only a limited batch can be produced each time.

With the new central kitchen, Fiona can hire additional help to speed up her production. Previously, she could not do this as a home business due to regulations set by the Singapore Food Agency.

Fiona’s dream for Whiskdom is to become a local brand that will put Singapore in the global spotlight.

“We will continue to reinvent ourselves, develop our digital infrastructure and continuously design innovative flavors while staying in tune with the ever-changing demands of the market,” she said.

Featured Image Credit: Wonderwall and Jordereatdrinkrepeat via Instagram

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Jothi Venkat

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