Cupcake business hones recipe for overseas success

Ms Syaira and Mr Ashraf, who started Fluff Bakery four years ago, hope to open a store in Malaysia in May. The potential for Singapore businesses like theirs in the region was highlighted by Mr Iswaran yesterday.
Ms Syaira and Mr Ashraf, who started Fluff Bakery four years ago, hope to open a store in Malaysia in May. The potential for Singapore businesses like theirs in the region was highlighted by Mr Iswaran yesterday.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Four years ago, a young couple left their jobs to set up Fluff Bakery, a small cupcake shop in Kampong Glam. They already had a loyal following on Instagram, where Ms Nursyazanna Syaira Mohammad Suhimi, 29, would post pictures of her homemade cupcakes.

So when she and her husband Ashraf Alami, 35, opened a bricks-and-mortar store in 2013, long queues would snake outside their shophouse in Jalan Pisang.

From 600 cupcakes a day, they now sell double that, and are setting their sights on starting franchises in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The potential for Singapore businesses like theirs in the region was highlighted by Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran in Parliament yesterday, when he pointed to bright spots in Asean.

A rising middle class has created demand in sectors such as retail and food and beverage, he said. The digital economy also presents unprecedented opportunities that allow companies - no matter how small - to reach out, he added.

Fluff Bakery's social media presence has nabbed the brand fans even in Malaysia.

It has held some pop-up stores there this year, and demand has been hot: For their first event, all 500 cupcakes were snapped up in half an hour. The second time around, they sold 1,000 cupcakes in just over an hour.

Mr Ashraf hopes to open a physical store in Kuala Lumpur in May.

This year's Budget sees the Government setting up a $600 million International Partnership Fund, which will co-invest with Singapore-based firms to help them scale up and internationalise.

Mr Ashraf hopes to hear more details of the fund. He said: "As an SME, expanding overseas is very daunting, because you don't have many resources. Any assistance or guidance - financial, networking - is more than welcome."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Cupcake business hones recipe for overseas success'. Print Edition | Subscribe