Delcie, was inspired by her mother to create healthy, guilt-free cakes.
What’s your story?
My passion for confectionery artistry was ignited when I won a cake mixer from a lucky draw during a community dinner event. My late grandfather was a committed RC member and he would always bring me to dinner events in our local community. I was eleven back then.
Since then, I have become obsessed with baking while experimenting in the kitchen, always giving away most of my baked Pineapple Tarts and Christmas fruitcakes to friends and family. When I was 13, my dad told me I should start selling my cakes to my neighbours but that did not happen because I had no confidence to approach my neighbours. This idea sunk into my subconscious and I never thought about it since.
Immediately after graduation, I was employed as a Junior Art Director in Doyle Dane and Bernbach (DDB) Singapore. During the next 2 years, I was so committed to my day job, I hardly had time to bake anymore. Finally, I quit my highly loved job in September 2008 to pursue my childhood desire – baking.
However, my mother strongly opposed the idea of giving up my day job to start a business and both my parents declined to support me financially. Determined to prove that I was committed to this business, I invested all my own savings and embarked on my three month action plan. First on the list was to find a space, but with my limited capital, renting an entire kitchen space is impossible. Thinking out of the box, I went around speaking to owners who closed their shop once a week and finally, I negotiated a $400 a month rental with a bubble tea stall owner to use her kitchen when she closed every Thursday. There, I began my baking business with a focus on healthier baking, a website, one oven and a cake mixer in a humble shop at a quiet Bishan neighborhood.
In December 2008, the opportunity to take over the entire shop came as the bubble tea owner needed to return to Malaysia immediately. She left me an empty shop and 6 months remaining lease term to commit to. I was plunged into committing full time into the business.
Unfortunately, my mother was diagnosed with cancer 30 days after I took over the store. I had to balance my time between hospital and managing my shop single-handedly. Finally, I decided to close my shop temporarily and spend my time with my mother. She passed away on 1st April 2009 and I went into depression for the longest time I could remember. Like me, my business was going downhill.
In 2010, I recovered from my depression and snapped back into focusing on the business. I realised food can either be your medicine or your poison. Recalling my mother’s battle with cancer, my mission to create healthy cakes was once again aligned. I began to focus on pioneering the technique in baking guilt-free cakes.
Going egg free and dairy free was not by chance, it was shaped by my personal lifestyle and my responsibility to my customers. My husband first initiated to turn vegetarian (eggless) for religious reasons and needed moral support from me to encourage his diet. Following this, I received an order from a customer whose child had a severe dairy allergy and wanted a cake for his birthday. Both situations eventually led me to remove both egg and dairy from all my baking so that people with allergies could have a cake on their birthday.
I started testing my own recipes without eggs and dairy on my customers. I remember throwing away so many unsuccessful cakes. I hid in the kitchen for a good 6 months, fearing to face unhappy and nasty customers who might not be satisfied with my initial products because this is not how cakes should be baked.
Finally, a positive review and many touching testimonials from parents with allergic children motivated me to try harder. In the end, I pioneered the technique of baking egg free, dairy free, gluten free and diabetic friendly cakes by using organic ingredients in Singapore. This business became known as, Delcie’s Desserts and Cakes.
What excites you most about your industry?
The ability to re-create and develop new recipes for customers who appreciate my effort in choosing the right ingredients for them.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a Singaporean and having travelled to most parts of Asia, I still love Singapore’s multi-racial culture, it’s variety of great food, clean and safe environment. Even with 5.6 million people living in our small island, our road traffic is not as congested as other major Southeast Asian cities.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I still feel that Singapore is the most ideal place for business given its economic stability, safe yet open and free environment, its corruption free status, and advanced technology.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
When I was travelling in Israel, I met an ex military soldier on the plane. He shared with me how he had gotten his 4 year old son to jump off the cliff into the sea. His son was afraid to jump off the cliff even though he was a very good swimmer at his age and this dad was very confident in that. When his son refused to do it, he said “Never say no out of fear. You have to at least attempt it once before you have the right to say no to the choice you are making.”
His words have given me a lot of strength to try new things.
Who inspires you?
All my colleagues who have stood by me to fight every fire, cheer every victory and who crazy dance with me in the bakery. They inspire me to be a better leader.
All my customers who have given my business words of encouragement. They inspire me to bake better.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My grandfather who brought me up, fed me, schooled me and gave me many words of wisdom. When I noticed his breathlessness on Good Friday this year, I admitted him to the hospital and since then, I had been his primary caregiver with the help of my maid. I felt it was my duty to nurse him for he had given me so much when I was younger. He became my responsibility and I am really happy to have been given the opportunity to look after his needs.
When he passed away, I thought I would be depressed but those depressing feelings I had when my mother passed away did not surface this time with his death. I realised I had done a lot of things with him which I did not get to do with my mother. There was a lot of unspoken words with my mother but not with my grandfather. I had dedicated all my free time and sleepless nights to him for months. Staying by his bedside, nursing him, holding his hand, letting him know I was here for him so he wouldn’t feel alone. These are the things I regretted not doing for my mother. For my grandfather, I had the ability, maturity and knowledge to do it all for him. During his last days, he pulled me closed to his mouth and whispered “thank you.” He held my hand and gave me 2 kisses. This gesture is one I would never expect from him as he is a traditional Chinese man and showing affection is very rare. I found closure at the same time, for both my mother’s and my grandfather’s death when he died.. They are now together.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Every experience, good and bad, have groomed me for who I am today. I would not change anything.
How do you unwind?
Travel. It’s the only time I get to go offline and have no responsibilities to worry.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Definitely Taiwan. It is a beautiful country, with the friendliest and most sincere people. I feel like I am at home every time I travel there. It is the only country which I never want to leave after being there.
Everyone in business should read this book:
One of the first books I read when I first started out was, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Having a positive mindset is an important criteria for anyone who leads. You will influence those who follow you.
Shameless plug for your business:
For people who are health conscious, cake is one of the top 10 lists of food to avoid, especially when one is on a diet. This is mainly due to the content of an ordinary cake – lots of eggs, butter and sugar. All these ingredients are definitely harmful to our bodies because they are high in calories, high in fat, high in sugar and high in cholesterol. This fact has put everyone on a diet.
Many people with egg allergies, a dairy intolerance or a diabetic condition may have to avoid cakes forever. Eating even a tiny piece of a normal cake could create huge health hazards for these people. There are also people who put themselves on a specific gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan diet due to their religious beliefs or other health reasons and have to avoid these sweet treats altogether.
Luckily at Delcie’s, we bring joy to these people who have been depriving themselves from indulging in cakes for a very long time. By innovating our own natural cake recipes. They do not contain any form of eggs, dairy products, chemicals or egg-aiding agents such as commercial egg-replacer or whey protein, most commonly used in vegetarian bakeries. We bring to the world our amazing cake recipes that change the way you perceive cakes. Our cakes taste equally sinful in your mouth (as a regular cake) but are guilt-free for your body.
Since September 2008, Delcie’s has been the leading healthy bakery in Singapore serving cakes to health conscious customers, ladies on diets, people with egg, dairy, soy, wheat and/or nut allergies, diabetics, vegans and vegetarians.
Equipped with a Specialist Diploma in Nutrition and Health Promotion, Delcie and her team aspire to spread healthy eating choices to all their customers. At Delcie’s, cakes and desserts can now be sinlessly good too!
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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