Entrepreneur

It Only Took These M'sian Sisters RM500 Each To Start Baking A Homegrown F&B Startup

When sisters Iza and Izi Sallehuddin founded Baked KL in late 2011, it stemmed from a deep-rooted desire to break away from the monotony of the 9 to 5 routine they found themselves growing weary of.

“We wanted to work on something that gave us the freedom to set our own goals, to add value to our work, and to do something that would satisfy us both,” said Iza.

“We both came to the realisation that simply doing something just for the money would never be fulfilling enough.”

Coming from vastly different backgrounds, the two sisters found a shared passion for baking that originated from their childhood years when their mother constantly and lovingly served up treats fresh from her oven.

“I remember sitting on the floor, helping her with Raya cookies and licking the frosting off the bowl,” Iza recalled fondly.

There’s a treat for everyone.

Image Credit: Baked KL

Today, Baked KL goes beyond the trappings of the typical baked-goods purveyor, offering up specially crafted treats that cater to those with specific intolerances and dietary restrictions (gluten-free, low-sugar, vegan, etc.) in addition to the decadent sweets on hand.

It first started in 2011 with the Madagascar Brownie, a gluten-free offering that has become wildly popular and is now one of their best-sellers.

“We started selling gluten-free products during a time where the term had not yet become the trendy marketing spiel it is today; a time where people either didn’t know what it was or misunderstood it,” she elaborated.

“Weirdly enough, we created demand for a product instead of crafting a product to serve demand.”

It was through discovering how different allergies and intolerances affected people differently that both Iza and Izi decided to cater to both those who wanted to indulge and those who were limited in their dietary choices.

“We understand that people want sinful desserts, but some can’t have those due to reasons beyond their control. We just want to be as inclusive as we can.”

And inclusive is exactly what they are.

In addition to their wholesome selection of baked goods, Baked KL also reaches out to charities and causes on a bi-monthly basis.

Beginning in 2012, the sisters first made a donation of cookies to ReachOut, and then later donating 10% of sales to the Malaysian Independent Animal Rescue (MIAR).

Feeling humbled and inspired by the great feedback, they then had an idea to start “baking for a cause”.

“We officially incorporated this idea into our business model in 2013, first by donating 10% of dessert sales to a different charity every two months, and now beginning in 2017 we have decided to give larger sum donations to different charities each year.”

Image Credit: Baked KL

This year’s donation will go to Women of Will, to whom they also aim to sponsor free baking classes for single mothers. In 2018, their charity will go towards aiding the Rohingya people.

How they decide on which causes to aid is based off their personal experiences as well as suggestions from customers.

“They can be big charities, or they can be small charities. What’s important is humanising the issue at hand,” said Iza.

“There are so many issues out there that people are unaware of. I feel that the more aware we are of our own behaviour towards the people around us, the better,” she enthused.

“Any change we can make, no matter how little, is still significant.”

Besides monetary donations, Baked KL also raises awareness for various causes through social media, printed materials, and pop-up booths; always encouraging the people they meet to donate and join in shelter visits and volunteer trips.

“We notice our efforts taking effect, and we are truly grateful that our humble community is growing!”

The journey is fun, and also not-so-fun.

Image Credit: Baked KL

From first forking out RM500 each and using their mom’s oven, to slowly growing to using their own mixers, fridges and equipment; the sisters have faced their share of ups and downs.

In the beginning, the sisters wanted to be viewed as more than just bakers.

“It was fun when we launched our website, to moving on to writing our own press releases, and then to becoming guest speakers and empowering people to start their own businesses,” Iza fondly recalled.

“And not to mention the chance to donate to charities, and the positive feedback we receive. Those have always been rewarding.”

But it’s not all roses for Baked KL.

“The times when we sought funding and where doors were closed on us were some of the low points of our journey. But those moments taught us valuable lessons in growing our business; when to accept advice and when not to,”

Today however, Baked KL faces different kinds of challenges.

One of the biggest obstacles they face is matching clients’ expectations (2 to 4-hour demands) with reasonable timeframes (the next day).

“The best way we deal with this is educating customers on our process; how substituting ingredients for our baked goods needs time and experimentation. Thankfully, over the years they have become more agreeable to waiting until the next day,”

And as per the usual, the rising cost of raw ingredients is of help to no one.

“It’s typical but it’s true. Prices rise and the consumers suffer most heavily, and we understand that being consumers ourselves. But we try to always add value to our products and service.”

Image Credit: Baked KL

Despite the challenges, Baked KL aims to stay true to their values.

Striving to sell products that they themselves love to eat, to share real stories and issues with their customers, and to always be honest about life and about running a business is the at the core of the Baked KL identity.

“Being an online business, the human touch can get lost. But we always try to relate with our customers as friends, so they’ll feel like they’re meeting us face to face. Customer relationships are priceless!”

Moving forward, Baked KL has plenty planned for the future, and it will be exciting to see which direction the sisters will take their venture to next.

Feature Image Credit: Baked KL

 

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