Over the years, I’ve had my share of baked goods — cake and otherwise — but it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve started to notice more bakers offering customised goodies to consumers. Many of these businesses started out as personal projects, which means they don’t have the capital and resources to launch extravagant marketing campaigns to spread the word. So they turn to our next best bet — social media.
And one such baker is Jie Hui, the owner of bakery Goobycakes.
Visiting Goobycake’s Facebook page, it’s hard to not go all out and begin placing your orders for cake and macarons. The tiered cakes, in particular, happen to be Jie Hui’s favourite item to bake, and are a sight to behold:
You might assume, like I did, that Jie Hui must have had some sort of training in baking in order to create such elaborate confections. To my surprise, Jie Hui revealed that she is a self-taught baker, and in fact, only started baking three years ago. She explains how she got onto the path of baking:
“Ever since I was in school, I knew I wasn’t going to end up in a corporate environment…I was more of a hands-on person. After graduating from university, my traditional parents hoped for me to enter the corporate world and get a well-paying ‘office job’ but that was not what I wanted at all. I made a pact with my dad to let me pursue my interests before looking for a proper job.
I wanted to do something more creative…and turned to books and online resources to learn cake decorating. I experimented with recipes at home, baked for friends and family, and the response was unexpectedly good. Friends of friends started to ask about my cakes, and I started selling them to strangers. When orders increased and space ran out at home, I knew it was time to move. That was how the Goobycakes bakery started.”
Goobycake’s Namesake Is Who?
“Goobycakes was named after my miniature schnauzer, Gooby.”
You read that right: Goobycakes got its name from Jie Hui’s pet dog who, she says, “is like my child”. This decision came naturally to Jie Hui, since “[Goobycakes] is something I want to be attached to, something I want to be responsible for, just like how I am responsible for my dog.”
And it’s clear just how important Gooby — and therefore Goobycakes — is to Jie Hui. When asked what sacrifices she has had to make since she started her own bakery, Jie Hui lists Gooby as one of them:
“Sometimes I’d miss my dog so much I’d FaceTime him with my sister’s phone!”
The Power — And Problem — Of Social Media
As expected of someone who utilises Facebook and Instagram to market her business, Jie Hui is a big proponent of social media. But she did not start out posting pictures of her baked goods on Instagram. Quite far from it, in fact:
“Back in 2010-2011…I was posting up a lot of nail art photos that gained a bit of popularity, so I guess that was how I gained some followers. When I started posting photos of the things I bake, they were pretty well-received as well and things grew from there.”
The fact that Goobycakes is in the business of beautifully decorated confectionary helps as well, of course. Jie Hui’s masterpieces photograph well, and are made to appeal visually, so it’s almost a given that she would turn to Instagram to showcase her work.
That said, Jie Hui understands the constraints of using social media as a way to grow her business. “These days, people don’t only use Instagram to promote their businesses, they even use it to promote themselves. It’s very competitive out there now,” she quipped.
The Draw Of Customisable Goods & Services
Us humans have a strange fascination with, and inclination towards, customised items. The recent increase in the number of businesses offering exactly such products and services — such as the baker behind Creme Maison Bakery, and bag maker GSEWS — is testament to that fact. And Jie Hui was quick to point out why this might be so: “Making something customised is very special; there is that novelty factor that makes it a very unique experience even for the customer — from ordering, discussing details, to enjoying the final product.”
Perhaps this is why, over the past few months, there have been a slew of reports lamenting the decline in retail revenue in Singapore: with conventional retail enterprises continuing to push out mass-produced, unoriginal products, consumers are no longer interested — they’re starting to lust after more unique, made-to-order goods.
And if consumer behaviour is to be believed, then startups like Goobycakes might just be what us buyers are going after. This past Mother’s Day, for example, Jie Hui confessed to being so busy that she “bake[d] for everyone’s mothers except [her] own.”
Goobybread In The Works?
Speaking about her future plans for Goobycakes, Jie Hui admits that she would like to try her hand at baking bread: “I am a huge fan of breads but to make sure people come back, I’d have to offer a whole range of flavors and that scares me. Don’t think I can cope with that on top of our current cake orders for now! Want to try making donuts too but that requires frying and I am terrified of oil. So it’s off the list too, haha!”
On a more serious note, Jie Hui says that she’ll be on the lookout for a bigger space should her business continue to grow at the rate it has. “Currently, we work in a really small kitchen and things get difficult sometimes. More space to move around would be great,” she elaborates.
For now, lovers of Goobycakes’ products can rest assured that they will be able to have their (customised) cakes — and eat them too: Jie Hui’s focus will remain on baked goods, and as she professes, “I love how my food is the glue that bonds family and friends, completing special moments and occasions…It makes me feel like I am part of every celebration, and that feeling is amazing.”