askST@NLB: Home-based food businesses thriving amid Covid-19

(From left) ST Food Editor Tan Hsueh Yun, Xavier Lee of Flourcrafts Patisserie and Karen Yuen of Munch-Kins discuss home-based businesses. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

SINGAPORE - More home-based food businesses are opening amid the coronavirus pandemic as more Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted.

Mr Xavier Lee, who runs Flourcrafts from his home, welcomes this friendly competition which he sees as healthy but said uplifting each other is also important.

"A lot of us say #SupportLocal but I think I would have to add this hashtag #SupportOneAnother," said Mr Lee, who is known for his canalés.

He was speaking at an askST @ NLB session hosted by The Straits Times' Food Editor Tan Hsueh Yun that was broadcast on Friday (Dec 18).

Together with Ms Karen Yuen, who is the founder of Munch-Kins, they discussed how home-based food businesses can support each other and do well.

During the talk, both speakers also recommended other home-based businesses they regularly buy from, such as shellfish specialist Eat Hum and home bakery Three Bears Bake.

For those who missed the talk, they can find a video recording of it here. Previous askST @ NLB sessions can be found there as well. The talks are a collaboration between The Straits Times and National Library Board.

Standing out from the crowd

With restaurants and cafes back in business, Mr Lee said home bakers and cooks may see their orders decreasing.

But he noted that home-based food businesses are also nimbler and and can switch their offerings easily, unlike bigger players who often buy their ingredients in bulk.

To stand out from the crowd, both Mr Lee and Ms Yuen are innovative with the ingredients they use.

For his pastries, Mr Lee sources his matcha from Kyoto, Japan, so that he can secure higher-grade matcha for his customers.

"It's a tad more expensive but at least I give them what they want," he said .

Caneles, pound cake, marshmallows and scones from Flourcrafts. PHOTO: FLOURCRAFTS

For Ms Yuen, whose signature offering is her steamed daikon cake, she uses Korean and Japanese radishes, Jinhua ham and dried sakura ebi among her ingredients.

Making customers happy

Interacting with satisfied customers is one of the most satisfying parts of running a home-based food business, said Ms Yuen.

Some of her customers finish her daikon cake at one go, hours after collecting it from her home.

"They would send me a message and say (they've) finished everything, it's so good. That makes me so happy," she said.

Mr Lee also puts great store to building a deeper connection with customers as this gives home-based food businesses an edge.

Starting your home-based food business

Steamed radish cake from Munch-Kins. PHOTO: MUNCH-KINS

Responding to an ST reader's question on how to start a home-based food business, both speakers held up social media marketing as an important platform.

Said Mr Lee: "Most importantly, it's whether (the food) is Instagrammable or photo-worthy... can you make it look elegant or inviting?"

Ms Yuen pointed to food delivery as a challenge as it can be difficult to ensure that a dish still looks good after it arrives at customers' homes.

Those looking to start their home-based food businesses can refer to resources from ProQuest Central, a database subscribed by the NLB.

Find them at this website using these keywords: "Starting home business" and "Singapore entrepreneurs".

A myLibraryID is required to access this database.

If you do not have a myLibraryID, you can go to this website and sign up for one using your SingPass or NRIC/FIN.

What to read

Starting a business from home

This book by Colin Barrow is available at various public and regional libraries.

Whatever it takes: Entrepreneur stories of grit, courage & unyielding spirit

This book can be found at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library.

The next askST @ NLB session will be on Jan 25, and will be streamed on ST's Facebook page on Jan 29.

Listen to English/Malay/Tamil Media group (EMTM) video creative director Jonathan Roberts share his tips for making movies on a smartphone.

Have a question for ST's Jonathan Roberts on the topic?

Send it to this link by Jan 21.

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