SINGAPORE – While still taking a job at the company, she worked a home baker “24-hour shifts”, baking side by side until one day she decided to turn her passion into a full-time venture.
Ariel Tang, a local baker, opened The Fat Kid Bakery in Flora Vista in Ang Mo Kio two years ago to sell her pastries, éclairs, brownies, and pompoloni, an Italian muffin-like pie.
Now the 26-year-old is looking to expand the store, and with the end of the lease approaching, Tang is looking for a place with potential seating.
I told Yahoo Finance Singapore About her decision to start her own business at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges she faced.
Tang started baking at the age of 14, when her friend invited her to her house to bake “for fun”. Tang recalls that her first product was a New York cheesecake, which turned out to be “just fine.”
But that was the pivotal moment that launched Tang’s career.
Hooked on baking, Tang bought a hand mixer and started making the recipes she’d seen online, watching videos to teach herself. Soon, she started selling small baked goods such as cupcakes and cookies on the side to friends during Chinese New Year and Christmas. Brownies are one of their best-selling products, and they haven’t changed the recipe since they started.
While Tang’s career has always been associated with food, she has not always been a business owner. After graduating from culinary sciences at Polytechnic, she took a two-year sabbatical to work in various kitchens and bakeries before studying media communications.
Her first post-graduation job was in public relations in the food and beverage industry for about a year. She was still in the role when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Bambinos? It’s Bomboloni
Although she was still at her PR job during the pandemic, Tang started baking bomboloni (or bombo for short) on the side as she had “a lot of free time” during the partial lockdown in April 2020.
Bomboloni is an Italian pastry that resembles a stuffed bun. Bombo Tang comes in sweet and savory flavors and is sold in boxes of four, eight, 10 or 12. A relatively unknown pastry then, Tang will have customers calling the bakery to mistakenly order “bambinos,” which actually refers to children or toddlers in Italian.
While Tang initially baked donuts for fun, things changed after her boyfriend caught wind of urging her to sell them.
“I thought OK, nobody really does this yet, so I thought why not? That’s how I started. I gave it to a group of my friends and they ate and posted on the internet, and customers (live) started texting us asking for it,” Tang said.
“It was intense,” Tang said, recalling with a chuckle how she had to get up so early just to fry donuts before work.
“I took (left) and sent my own deliveries, so it was like a 24 hour shift a day,” said Tang, who ran a one-man bakery at the time.
When Tang quit her job at the PR firm in July 2020 due to some issues at work, she decided to focus on the improvised bakery. By then, she was rolling out of bed at five in the morning just to make ends meet. Her early hours were also due to her lack of equipment, which meant she could only prepare her bombs in small batches.
With one refrigerator and a pot that could fry up to three grenades at the same time, I was able to make up to 60 grenades a day, frying for hours on end. The afternoon was mostly spent delivering the bomb.
Once the deliveries were completed, Tang had to prepare the dough and cream for the next batch of bombo. She worked until 10pm when she stopped to take a break. But while her dough rested for six hours, Tang didn’t get much rest. She had to get up at two in the morning to put her dough in the fridge before she went back to bed. At five in the morning, I got up to repeat the cycle.
While Tang could still handle orders, the breaking point came when the bomb unexpectedly appeared in the Straits Times.
Overnight, Tang’s orders “exploded.”
“I fell asleep and the next day when I woke up, Instagram showed that I had 500 unread messages. I felt the shock of my life,” Tang said sarcastically. Soon her father pushed her to rent a place for her project.
Fat Kid Bakery moved to Flora Vista in January 2021, where it remains until now. She invested S$150,000—mostly money from her extended family—to rent space in Flora Vista, excluding equipment. She also earns a salary that ranges from four figures, low to medium.
While it now gets a regular influx of customers buying its bombs, high prices for ingredients like flour, butter and oil posed challenges for Tang, which had no choice but to increase the prices of its pastries in May.
But Tang has been in it for a long time. Even if The Fat Kid Bakery doesn’t work out, Tang doesn’t see her life any other way – she’ll still be in the kitchen doing what she enjoys most for a living.
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