Delectable by Su was created out of passion by Su Yin.
Lots of people love the idea of turning a passion into a business. Most realise that it’s very hard to monetise your hobby. But what very few realise is the amount of sacrifices that have to be made as well when you turn your pastime into a business.
Five years ago, a former student of Construction Management and Property Development, Huen Su Yin, decided to create a business out of her passion for baking. Today, Delectable by Su is a thriving business. But it came with a lot of trial and error, hard work and sacrifices.
Like many Malaysian students abroad, Su learned cooking by force of necessity. But unlike many students, Su not only learned to cook and bake, she documented her culinary adventures online through a blog.
As she experimented a lot with baking, she would often have plenty of leftovers and would bring them to university to share with her classmates. “The reaction I’d get from my classmates each time I brought something sweet, like a pie, or cookies or cupcakes, was always encouraging,” she recalls. “They even loved eating my failed attempts as long as they were filled with chocolate!”
The popularity of her cakes made her wonder whether she could make some money out of it. One day, she posted on her blog that she had custom cakes for sale. And the rest, as they say, is history.
“Being in the cake business means we’re in the business of celebrations and happy occasions,” she says. “What a wonderful business to be in, no? Seeing happy faces and excited kids when we reveal a cake is priceless.”
But having no experience in retail or in the food and beverages industry meant that she had to learn how to build a business through trial and error. “There was so much to learn and the F&B industry is constantly evolving, with new trends and new competitors emerging all the time,” she says.
One of the biggest mistakes Su made was trying to expand too fast early on. “I was very young and enthusiastic when I started out, and I was often affected by random comments people would make,” she says. “Listening to these casual remarks made me jump to conclusions too quickly. There really should be a decision making process involving thorough research when it comes to new investments and business growth.”
As for challenges, building up a team is the hardest and most important thing, according to Su. “It would not be an exaggeration to say that the business is at the mercy of my excellent team,” she says. “Without them, Delectable By Su would be nothing. Making them stay and keeping them motivated to want to be a part of the growth of my little business is the hardest and most fragile part of managing my business.”
It’s also a big responsibility when you have a team to take care of. “It’s always disappointing when something you do turns out to be a mistake but disappointing 25 people is quite another thing,” she says. “The onus is on me to always show positivity even through the toughest times. I would say the love of baking cakes is still very profound but of course handling it with loads of pressure and daily financial stress makes it a bit of a juggling act.”
Fortunately for Su, the company has not just survived but is thriving. “We’re setting up a new HQ, which will have a cafe front,” she says. “The concept is sort of like a dessert bar in the middle of an actual running production kitchen. We will have freshly baked cookies, a spread of all sorts of cakes and tarts and even plated desserts with ice cream, etc. It’s going to be fun place that will also have weekly activities and little classes for people to learn about baking and decorating.”
Su’s advice for those who want to turn their passion into a business is to ask themselves if they are willing to make the sacrifices. “Financial stability, time for family, holidays, friendships, youth, great skin… are you willing to give those up?” she asks, rhetorically. “Ha…ha… I’m not trying to be a wet blanket here but starting a business based on your passion is not exactly a piece of cake. There are ways to get into business without risking it all. It could be in the form of compromise, perhaps doing it part-time at first or forming a partnership so you can share the burden.”
Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.