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Having garnered millions of views, there’s a chance you might have come across Claire Tan Zhy Sin’s videos before.

To refresh your memory, she makes content on being a budding business owner of a new cafe in KL called Grumpy Bagels.

Before starting Grumpy Bagels, though, Claire had worked as a flight attendant with Emirates for five years. It was through this job that she first discovered her love for bagels.

“Bagels were always my priority whenever I went to New York,” she expressed. Coming back to Malaysia, she would always crave bagels and bagel sandwiches, but noticed there weren’t many options here.

It was during MCO, when she was grounded in Dubai, that she began doing something about it.

Spending her free time reading and watching baking content, Claire began experimenting with her own recipes and then started a home-based business to sell cakes and pastries.

“Baking has always been my passion since I was young, but I never considered it as a career path until then,” Claire shared.

Image Credit: Grumpy Bagels

Following said passion, she decided to continue the home-based business after returning from Dubai. After running it for a while, she took it a step further by pursuing a diploma course in patisserie.

One thing led to another, and finally, her passion and expertise culminated in the formation creation of Grumpy Bagels.

Everything’s bagel

As its name suggests, Grumpy Bagels is a bakery cafe that specialises in selling different types of bagels and bagel sandwiches.

Featured on the menu are mainly Claire’s own creations. With self-taught bagel skills, the recipes were refined by the founder herself through months of trial and error.

“I even sent bagels to my friends for blind taste tests,” she recalled. “My husband was having bagels almost every day, and our fridge was full of different types of bagels made with various recipes and ingredients.”

It might’ve been tedious, but she was determined to find the perfect texture and taste for the local market.

Today, Claire uses that refined recipe to offer freshly baked bagels every day that are hand-rolled and made with premium ingredients. Aside from the bagels, the cafe also offers a diverse range of authentic and classic bagel sandwiches.

Image Credit: Grumpy Bagels

Still, even with a great recipe, it’s daunting to start a business, especially in a competitive market like KL.

This is especially true given that Claire didn’t have any formal entrepreneurial experience before starting Grumpy Bagels. Yet, her experience with her home-based business as well as her background in hospitality management encouraged her take the leap.

Plus, the baker felt emboldened by the positive feedback from friends and family, especially her husband Ivan. She expressed, “He is the one who always encourages me to pursue my dream.”  

From abandoned house to aesthetic cafe

On top of the menu, what Claire believes makes Grumpy Bagels different is the concept and ambience itself.

“Our cafe was an abandoned house before,” Claire revealed. “We renovated and transformed it into a bakery cafe.”

Image Credit: Grumpy Bagels

Renovating an abandoned home and starting a business in the city don’t come cheap, though.

Claire shared that the capital to start Grumpy Bagels primarily came from a combination of personal savings, investments from herself and her husband, and funding from friends.

Although new, the team is already made up of 22 to 25 dedicated individuals.

Leveraging accidental virality

Grumpy Bagels has steadily grown to a following of 18.3K, while Claire herself boasts 67.7K followers.

But the virality of the posts was unexpected, the founder revealed. She began posting about the business’ journey online as a way to connect with customers and friends.

Sharing behind-the-scenes insights of the renovation also helped showcase the passion and dedication that have gone into building the Grumpy Bagels.

“We began the ‘Reno Sitecheck’ series because our location lacks foot traffic and isn’t in a commercial area,” Claire elaborated. “We needed to gain awareness about Grumpy Bagels before opening our shop.”

Without any budget or capacity to hire food bloggers or marketing agencies when they first opened, the team resorted to making videos and marketing themselves.

The intention has always been to create authentic and relatable insights and contents that resonated with and inspired their audience.

“We are proud to say that we have not spent a single dollar on marketing thus far,” she revealed. “We are so grateful to have this incredible support and feedback from our community since day one.”

Slowly and mindfully

There’s the saying “strike while the iron is hot”. Although the brand is still young, it might seem appropriate for Claire to take advantage of Grumpy Bagels’ current relevance.

Image Credit: Grumpy Bagels

“While we have received many expansion offers since we opened, we currently do not have any expansion plans for Grumpy Bagels,” Claire said. “We believe in taking a careful and considered approach to expansion, rather than rushing into it.”

Instead of chasing rapid expansion, her focus is on improving Grumpy Bagel’s systems, operations, and team. This also involves maintaining the cafe’s standards of food quality and service.

“We do not want to compromise on these principles just to earn more money,” Claire added. “We are very clear about our goals, and we will take every step carefully before making any decisions regarding expansion.”

  • Learn more about Grumpy Bagels here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about F&B businesses here.

Featured Image Credit: Grumpy Bagels

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)