She Turned Her Pregnancy Cravings Into A Business - Now Sells About 2,000 Takoyaki Balls A Day

I chanced upon this Buzzfeed article last year which talked about weird pregnancy cravings.

Believe it or not, there are some pregnant women who crave to eat dirt, pizza dripped in icing, and even dish soap on a cheeseburger!

To be craving for inedible food or quirky food combinations is rather peculiar, but what’s probably weirder is to crave to do, rather than eat, something.

For 36-year-old Suryanie Ismail (or better known as Yanie), she actually craved to cook takoyaki, a flour-based Japanese snack that is shaped in balls and filled with minced octopus.

Orders for Yanie’s takoyaki / Image Credit: Yummy Takoyaki

“When I don’t cook it, I will feel grumpy and moody. So despite being so tired after work, I would be seen in the kitchen cooking takoyaki – but not eating it!”

After cooking up several batches of homemade takoyaki, she would give them away to families and friends.

They loved it so much that the requests to take in small orders started pouring in, but she turned them down because she no longer had the interest.

The urge to cook takoyaki stopped after she gave birth (which is why she is so convinced that it was a pregnancy craving).

But as people urged her to start cooking again, she gave in and accepted small orders from close family and friends.

Thanks to word-of-mouth, the order requests soon snowballed, prompting her to start up a home-based business called Yummy Takoyaki in 2014.

Quitting Her 10-Year Job 

It was a tough decision for her to quit her decade-long job as a project manager, but she figured that being an entrepreneur would allow her a better work-life balance as the hours are more flexible, and she will also get to enjoy the luxury of working from home.

She didn’t have any significant experience working in the food industry other than helping out at her parents’ stall during her teenage days, but she deep-dived into it anyway.

As she made her foray into a new industry, Yanie admitted that “the early days was a learning curve” for her but she was undaunted and took baby steps instead.

Despite being an accidental entrepreneur, she emphasised that she makes an effort to carefully plan out the business processes and operations.

She reviews this every month, and works on making improvements where necessary, including innovating their menu.

Beyond the typical octopus filling, Yanie has ventured into introducing more unique flavours to give a novel twist to the traditional snack.

I feel that selling a product and not venturing into experimenting with other new options is a waste. So I spend a lot of time doing R&D with my sister trying to come up with new and complementary fillings for the takoyaki.

“Not every ingredient is suitable, so there were many times when the new flavour didn’t get launched.”

Cheesy Banjir Dingdong / Image Credit: Yummy Takoyaki

“Cheese Banjir Dingdong is our very first creation, and it remains our best-selling premium flavour and the pride of our menu.”

Following this, they added many other new flavours such as Wasabi, Tako Tella, Chilli Tuna, Sotong Gedebab; and most recently, the Chuka Idako Takayoki.

Image Credit: Yummy Takoyaki

On average, a box of 5 pieces costs $4, and a box of 10 pieces costs $8. Premium flavours, on the other hand, are sold at $15.

They also have platters that cater to birthday and corporate events, ranging from $28 to $44.

From Online To Offline

As a home-based business, she actively taps on the power of social media such as Facebook and Instagram, to raise brand awareness.

In the current technology-driven era, we cannot run away from social media. It’s one of the best platforms right now to market our products as it provides a good reach.

To date, Yummy Takoyaki has a strong following of over 24,000 followers on Instagram and over 7,000 fans on Facebook.

With such a huge fan base, it’s no surprise that Yummy Takoyaki sells about 2,000 to 4,000 takoyaki balls a day.

Yanie is also proud to have a growing number of both local and overseas customers.

Yummy Takoyaki enjoyed by a customer in Germany / Image Credit: Yummy Takoyaki

“We had a parent who brought back our takoyaki from Singapore to Germany because her daughter, who is studying there, was badly craving for it.”

Spurred by the good response, Yanie decided to participate in pop-up events as well as perform live stations for corporate events and weddings so as to expand the business reach.

Yummy Takoyaki has regularly participated in a string of pop-up events over the past three years.

Yummy Takoyaki at CelebFest 2016 / Image Credit: Yummy Takoyaki

“The first event we participated in was CelebFest. We were still relatively new then, so it was a learning curve for us,” said Yanie.

She added that it was very challenging for them because they couldn’t cope with the demand.

A long queue had formed at their stall, but they only had four people manning the booth at that time.

Moreover, the event was held during the fasting month, so they felt the urgency to serve their customers faster so they could break their fast on time.

Despite the stressful period, Yanie recalled a touching gesture from her customers.

“They noticed that we were too busy to even spare time to break our fast, so they gave us food and drinks, which really touched our hearts!”

Their long queue isn’t a one-off thing. In fact, their booth draws a very long queue each time and I can vouch for it from personal experience!

As their business boomed, Yanie figured that it was a natural progression to open a brick-and-mortar store and opened an outlet at East Village in August 2017.

“We are open for walk-ins, but it’s more of a takeaway concept for now. We also currently do delivery islandwide,” said Yanie.

She added that response for the new outlet has been “overwhelming” so far.

Refusing to disclose the investment figures, she only revealed that the launch of the shop meant that they have to spend more on operating expenses than their home-based business.

Future Plans 

Suryanie Ismail, founder of Yummy Takoyaki / Image Credit: Suryanie Ismail

Yanie said that the startup journey so far has been “relatively smooth”.

The greatest challenge I faced was during the pre-planning and preparing for the shop, which took up almost all my hours in a day and drained a lot of my energy.

She is also glad that she has successfully reviewed the logistics and business processes to better manage the daily orders.

When asked how she intends to last in the cut-throat F&B industry, she said that it’s imperative to be innovative and constantly offer new products to consumers.

While keeping up with trends is one way to stay relevant, hard work and perseverance is also essential to keep a business going.

Moving forward, Yanie intends to introduce more variety to the existing menu, and said that expansion plans are already in the pipeline.

Featured Image Credit: Suryanie Ismail 

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