The home baking scene has always been thriving, but the industry has seen a heightened growth in the last two years, much thanks to the pandemic.
During the circuit breaker, those stuck at home turned to the kitchen as a way to pass time, to keep the family entertained and to step away from their make-shift home offices and pile of work that never seemed to end. As a result, many hobbyists also turned to selling their bakes as a side hustle.
After all, owning a home-based business takes away the high operational costs of setting up a brick-and-mortar store, and selling online often allows the baker to work around their own schedule. According to Julie Ng of Browned Butter Bakehouse, “our customers usually have to place their order at least 3 days in advance. This helps us to prepare for the week, and even the month.”
Yet, as businesses scale up, many home bakers are stuck at a crossroad — do they continue to operate from home or move towards setting up a physical store?
Here’s where real estate developer, Far East Organization’s latest initiative, Baker X, comes in.
Nestled on the fourth floor of Orchard Central, Baker X features a line-up of home-based bakers who will take up residency at the locale for a minimum of two weeks to a maximum of six weeks each. The baking studio and café is also operated in tandem with social enterprise, Foreword Coffee Roasters.
Running a business is like a marathon. We hope that by providing a helping hand, we would be able to get these budding baking entrepreneurs off the starting block and encourage them to begin the race with a physical outlet. It is an opportunity for them to experiment blending their baking skills with the necessary business skills to manage an outlet and scale up their operations.
Deputy Director, Retail Business Group, Far East Organization
In a nutshell, Baker X is a fully-fitted baking studio for home bakers to concentrate on what they do best — with Far East Organization taking zero profit from the sales. The real estate developer also fully sponsors the space and utilities for the home bakers at Baker X during their residency.
The appeal is obvious. “(It’s) having the full support of Far East Organization when running this physical store – from a fully functioning kitchen to the provision of necessary equipment and seating areas for the café,” says Tan Hui Yi of White’s Bakery.
Julie also echoes similar sentiments: “(It’s) definitely the low to no risk aspect (that appealed to me). Operating a full-fledged baking studio/ cafe comes with lots of risks but here at Baker X, we are able to do it all, while only needing to fork out the cost of raw ingredients. That takes away finance-related worries, letting us focus on our bakes! The location at Orchard Central is appealing too. Many of my followers have told me that they stay too far for self-collection, so they love that our pop-up at Baker X is in town.”
Hui Yi ran the first leg of the initiative from 20 December 2021 to 9 January 2022, introducing the bakery’s signature Basque Cheesecake and Fat Maracons to customers browsing around at Orchard Central. The 23-year old is full-time business management undergraduate student who started out her online business in 2018, and runs weekly bake sales on Saturdays via her Instagram page.
As the first baker in residency and her first foray operating a physical outlet, she recognised the challenges faced while adapting her business model to Baker X. “As a home-based baker, I only sell whole cakes and manage my own schedule. In a retail environment, I had to alter my whole cake recipe with lava centres to cater to sliced cakes for dine-in customers. I also had to juggle baking, serving and cleaning while adhering to the operating hours of the café with the café partner – Foreword Coffee Roasters.”
Needless to say, this learning curve is an important aspect for both the home bakers and Far East Organization as well. “For budding home-baking entrepreneurs, who are mostly digital natives, moving from a purely digital environment to a physical location is not an easy undertaking. Baker X is also opportune for them to scale up their production and gain experience managing the operations of a physical outlet. Through this journey, it offers home-based bakers a chance to reach out to new demographics, test product assortments, and increase their brand exposure,” adds Deborah Tan, Deputy Director, Retail Business Group, Far East Organization.
Julie, who is currently serving a variety of treats like tarts and cookies till the end of the month, agrees that having a walk-in store requires a lot more planning, but notes the positive differences as well: “The atmosphere at Baker X is quite vibrant. Interacting with customers, be it mall patrons or Instagram followers, has been one of the highlights so far. To be able to share the love and passion with my customers so that they can appreciate and savour the effort that goes behind each dessert. This is something a home business does not necessarily allow when it’s just me, myself and my bakes.”
Baker X also came at a well-timed moment for the full-time baker, who has been actively looking for a space to rent for baking and production. “The experience at Baker X just catapulted us into a glimpse of the (hopefully) near future, on what it’d be like to open and run a cafe – which definitely would be something we have in mind.”
There’s a confirmed line-up at Baker X till June 2022, including home bakers like Frosted by Fang and Mon Cerise Patisserie.
Baker X is located at 181 Orchard Road, Orchard Central #04-29, Singapore 238896, from 11am to 10pm daily. Home-based bakers who are interested in the program can register their interest here or go visit the Far East Malls website here.
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