By Chelsea Ong
SINGAPORE — Setting up a business is scary, and many people are too afraid of the possibility of failure to even start. Nicole*, 22, a student, took a leap of faith by quitting her part-time job and investing some money from her student grant into starting a home baking business with her sister during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here's her story.
"I have always liked baking, but never saw it as anything more than a hobby that I occasionally did together with my sister. Then COVID-19 hit and with nothing else to do, I ended up spending my circuit breaker time baking with my sister. We passed our finished goods to family and neighbours to taste and received very good feedback from everyone, which led to us thinking: why not set up a home bakery? My parents don’t give me an allowance, so it was a good way to earn a side income while studying.
I spent about S$500, which was almost a quarter of my grant, to start my bakery. I bought baking equipment, boxes, stickers, and props for photos such as a camera stand and backdrop, then waited for orders to come in. I was hoping to earn about S$500 a month at this point of time. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
It was a very slow start, and I began to think it wouldn’t end well. My only customers were friends and family, which wasn’t enough to be profitable as I had spent about S$100 on the ingredients. I realised how steep the competition is, as there are so many other home bakeries — some people even wait for months to buy from popular shops.
Luckily, one month in, an auntie in charge of a group order, decided to try my bakes. She was my lucky break. This group order kick-started my business. I earned about S$1000 that month, which was a large sum of money for someone who thought her business was going to fail. The news of my home bakery gradually spread through word-of-mouth, and I have three regular group orders now.
I was hence motivated to increase exposure of my business to strangers using Instagram and Facebook advertisements. I spent S$50 per day on advertisements in the week leading up to Teacher’s Day, and I could really see the number of interactions from strangers shoot up.
About seven months in, I receive about five to eight orders weekly, and earn a profit of about S$600-S$700 monthly. I do feel satisfied with my earnings right now because the rate of return in the business so far isn’t bad, considering I haven’t really put in my full effort into marketing.
One of the hardest things I have to deal with is time management. It’s very hard to balance school and my bakery, because I’m also the one that manages all the marketing. On one hand, I want to post on social platforms regularly, but I don’t want to spend too much time on it as well because I’m busy with schoolwork. I also have to make time to research for new recipes and experimentation. I have to sacrifice time I usually spend on social activities to bake on weekends, so that can be very tiring.
Overall though, I’ve learnt a lot from starting a business. The going isn’t always good, but most importantly you have to stay positive and motivated. One driving factor for me is knowing I can earn more during festive occasions, so I spend more time coming up with new recipes and promoting it. Sometimes I do feel discouraged that I don’t have as many followers as other home bakeries, but I remind myself that having more followers does not equate to having more orders.
At the end of they day, if you’re passionate about starting something, then just go for it. But of course, you must also face reality. Before you even start investing in it, ask yourself if you have the time and money to grow your business. Most importantly, you must be focused on your goals. I was a mess when I first started, as my time was split between school, my business, and my part-time job. Two months after I started, I quit my part-time job to focus on my business. It freed up so much time and allowed me to focus on things that were important to me. If I could, I would definitely do it all over again."
*Name has been changed as the interviewee prefers to remain anonymous.