Food for thought at AskST@NLB talk on home-based businesses

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

Mr Xavier Lee, who runs Flourcrafts from his home, welcomes the competition, which he sees as healthy. But just as important is uplifting one another, he said.

"A lot of us say #SupportLocal but I'd add the hashtag #SupportOneAnother," said Mr Lee, who is known for his caneles.

He was speaking at an askST @ NLB session hosted by The Straits Times' food editor Tan Hsueh Yun that was streamed on the ST Facebook page yesterday.

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

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

Those who missed the talk can find a video recording of it at str.sg/askstnlb, where videos of previous askST @ NLB sessions can also be found.

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 declining.

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

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

For his pastries, Mr Lee sources 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.

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

MAKING CUSTOMERS HAPPY

Interacting with happy 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, within hours of collecting it from her home. "They would send me a message to say (they've) finished everything, it's so good. That makes me so happy," she said.

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

STARTING A HOME-BASED FOOD BUSINESS

In response to an ST reader's question, both speakers held up social media marketing as an important platform.

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

Ms Yuen pointed to food delivery as a challenge as it can be difficult to ensure a dish still looks good after it arrives at the customer's home.

The next askST @ NLB session will be on Jan 25, with English/ Malay/Tamil Media group video creative director Jonathan Roberts, who will share tips on making movies with a smartphone. Questions on the topic can be submitted at https://str.sg/JaLa by Jan 21.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2020, with the headline 'Food for thought at AskST@NLB talk on home-based businesses'. Print Edition | Subscribe