Daniel Lam had graduated with an accounting degree from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2012. After graduation, he set foot into the corporate world, ready to dive headfirst into the auditing and banking industries.
He spent slightly over a year in Thailand, where he first discovered a passion and interest for a career in entrepreneurship and the F&B industry.
During his time there back in 2015, Daniel got a taste of running a business when he decided to help his friend in expanding his brownie bakery business.
“The sense of accomplishment in successfully helping him to set up a store in a large mall and exporting overseas was the beginning of my curiosity in running a business,” said Daniel.
After returning to Singapore after a wonderful adventure, Daniel spent a few more years working in the corporate world until he could not shake the feeling of curiosity and accomplishment he felt during his time in Thailand.
“The experience and excitement of making a business work never faded and adding on to the feeling of being trapped in a never-ending corporate rat race was the reason why I decided to take a leap of faith in 2019,” said the 32-year-old.
He went on to tender his resignation and forego his six-figure annual salary to start up his very own snack company, Dan’s Bites.
The business idea was simple — he wanted to create a unique and exciting gourmet snack that was not already available in Singapore. That was it however, and Daniel admitted that he might have needed to plan more seriously before making the bold move to simply quit his corporate job.
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How they managed to hit six figures despite Covid-19
In the early days, Dan’s Bites were fraught with many challenges, trials and errors. The snack company eventually picked up its pace, learned, improvised and evolved from the hurdles faced.
Since it was an unknown brand in the market, Daniel resorted to selling his products at roadshows and events such as Carouselland, Orchard Road Christmas Market and many other corporate events.
It was a good strategy to begin with, but the snack company soon realised that the strategy was not going to be ideal in the long run. When Covid-19 hit, events came to a standstill and they were forced to establish online presence.
A thorough plan was set in place by Daniel, which included upgrading their website, allocating more resources into digital marketing and advertising, as well as partnering with more e-commerce platforms and partners.
Today, Dan’s Bites is available on most major e-commerce platforms such Redmart, FairPrice Online, Shopee Supermarket and Gourmet Supermarket chains.
Although they were new to the market, Dan’s Bites had a way with its consumers. By analysing the consumer market, Dan’s Bites was able to keep themselves abreast of the latest consumer spending behaviour. Hence, when Covid-19 emerged, they were quick to acknowledge the surging gifting trend.
Dan’s Bites grabbed this opportunity to launch their gift boxes, festive boxes and customised gift pack service, which garnered the right attention from consumers and corporates.
Besides seizing opportunities and understanding the consumer market, Dan’s Bites placed more attention towards the market segment.
By allocating more marketing resources targeted at corporate consumers and partnering with large B2B platforms, Dan’s Bites was able to shift from the B2C market segment. A large sum of orders was carried out from government agencies, hotels, MNCs and more.
“These quick shifts in our business strategy and focus eventually helped us in scaling up more efficiently and effectively, thus leading to better revenues compared to pre-Covid,” said Daniel.
Although it had a slow start in 2019 due to lack of awareness and the pandemic, it gained enough traction to hit the six-figure benchmark with earnings of more than S$150,000. At the same time, it managed to break even and gained back its initial investment, all within a year.
Cruising through 2021, Dan’s Bites is optimistic in reaching the six-figure revenue mark again, with the help of large orders coming in from the corporate world and the increasing point of sales.
When brownies meet cookies
Dan’s Bites takes pride in being the first brand to launch a brownie-cookie concept in Singapore. Taking the taste buds of local consumers into consideration, Daniel created an exclusive milk tea flavour Brownie Crisp, specially formulated for the Singapore market.
The Brownie Crisp is made from imported Belgian dark chocolate and actual milk tea, thus producing a much greater flavour intensity.
Instead of using automated machines, Dan’s Bites makes use of manual labour to produce the snacks in order to provide that extra edge in terms of taste and texture.
Besides being the first brand to launch a brownie-cookie concept, Dan’s Bites also takes pride in ensuring their snacks are a healthier option compared to other snacks in the market.
Due to Covid-19, many consumers have become health conscious and would prefer it if their snacks did not contain preservatives, added sugar, artificial flavourings, is trans-fat-free and vegetarian friendly — all of which is taken into consideration by Dan’s Bites.
Daniel also realised that consumers also prefer if their snacks were non-perishable. During his stay in Thailand, Daniel found that although consumers were fairly satisfied with the fresh brownies produced, they wished for it to be non-perishable.
Daniel decided that he needed to find a solution to this problem if he was ever to going to launch Dan’s Bites.
“I started seeking around for ideas locally and regionally that can be used as inspirations. I have always believed in the notion of being innovative is equally as important as being creative,” said Daniel.
He went on to collaborate with his friend from Thailand and together they experimented with the concept of combining brownies and cookies together. Through trial and error, the creation of Brownie Crisp was finally developed.
Thanks to its long perishable period, it can be enjoyed over a long period of time.
All in all, it took Dan’s Bites a total of six months to develop the product.
Daniel also finds achievement in the smallest of things, such as receiving positive feedback and reviews, acknowledging returning consumers, and receiving export orders to Hong Kong and Indonesia in 2020.
This “serves as an approval and acknowledgement of what I have been enjoying doing so far,” he quipped.
Turning a crisis into an opportunity
“Even though it (has been) only a short journey so far, there are definitely no shortages of challenges for us,” said Daniel.
The set of challenges faced by Dan’s Bites include selling at roadshows without much marketing budget and resources. They were the best alternatives to mass market the brand without a huge cost and to be able to generate cash flow that could be used to pump back into the business.
Besides roadshows struggles, Daniel also faced the challenge of dealing with the day-to-day management hustle, covering event operations such as setting up events and retail selling consecutively. His day is long on most days — he would wake up at seven in the morning, and end work as late as midnight.
As soon as the business gained traction, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and Daniel was forced to shift his focus online to boost sales.
“It was quite nerve wrecking and it hit us pretty hard as we were relying substantially on roadshows and events to generate enough cashflow in order to sustain the business,” said Daniel.
In the span of a few months, Dan’s Bites launched an enhanced website that provided seamless consumer experience, and resources were allocated for digital marketing and advertising. This includes the setting up of social media platforms, Facebook livestreams, and the expansion of online channels to multiple e-commerce platforms.
Despite being a small local business, Dan’s Bites was constant in pushing themselves in growing and adapting, identifying niche trends and seeking to fulfil the latest consumer preferences in order to differentiate themselves and stay ahead of the curve.
Their hard work eventually paid off and Dan’s Bites has managed to generate better revenues ever since. This is all due to the timely strategic shift of focus and allocation of resources.
Moving forward, Dan’s Bites intends to launch its Brownie Crisp in smaller packaging sizes and expand its selection of product flavours to include Red Velvet and Nasi Lemak.
As the world prepares itself for the post-Covid life, Dan’s Bites is paving the path for the expansion of its brand across the overseas market particularly within the Asean region. It’s currently eyeing Malaysia, as the brand is already in midst of initial discussions with potential local partners.
One thing that Daniel has learnt from his journey of leaving the corporate world and starting his own business is that there will always be ups and downs. However, “nothing beats hard work,” he stressed.
“As the saying goes, there is an opportunity in every crisis”. He believes that it is up to an individual to turn any obstacles faced into opportunities and keep moving forward.
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Featured Image Credit: Dan’s Bites