In the past week, our Client Success Manager, Alta caught up with Iza of Baked KL during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period which is affecting local business owners in Malaysia. Amidst the challenging period, we reached out to Iza to see how she is doing and how she is managing her business.
Iza is the founder of Baked KL and one of the trailblazers in the Vegan and Gluten-Free desserts business in Kuala Lumpur. Now, offering an eclectic mix of desserts ranging from the staples like brownies and cookies to the indulgent Dark Chocolate Truffle cake. The best bit is you could have them completely dairy and gluten free.
In this first interview of our MCO Zoom Series where we reach out and talk to our clients during these testing times, we found out the following:
How the idea of using all vegan and gluten free ingredients to bake brownies and
cookies came into fruition
How did Iza transit from the fashion industry into starting her own business
How does she focus on her business while raising a toddler of 18 months old (Aww...)
What did she struggle with running the business by herself
And, how did we ultimately help her to overcome the challenge
Now, you can sit back, relax and find out about Iza.
Hey Iza! How is your business going in this crazy pandemic period?
It’s going fine so far. The business was actually slower in February. People are craving for cookies and cakes when they are stuck at home so I guess that’s why. As a business owner, I am expecting the worst during this period so just trying to push as hard as I could.
That’s good to hear. Let’s start from the beginning, do you remember when it was the first time you’ve ever baked?
No, I don’t (Giggling at her own answer). I guess it was 2011 when I really started.
How did you get into baking though? How did the interest grow?
I enjoy baking but I wouldn’t say it’s my passion. It's more of a hobby.
I remember in uni, when you would live with a group of friends, we would come up with some desserts during the weekends.To be honest, it was quite accidental how I started making baking a business. My sister and I were baking some cookies for Raya and this was in 2011. On the next day, my mum’s friends were asking if I was selling them.
I was working in a full time job and thought why not just sell them if someone is interested in my cookies. It was more like a side hustle. I wasn’t too happy with my full time job so I quit my job a year after that. I told my boss that I plan to leave and asked her if I could come back if this didn’t work out. She was actually supportive of me trying out a different career.
My background is in marketing. I was in the fashion industry and the job was fine. But, I wasn’t happy with the hours I had to put in. And I didn’t have any creative control. So, I thought about baking and I know I’ll have creative control over it. And, you get to experiment a little. It keeps you on your toes because you have to do a little bit of everything.
How did you come up with the idea of the Vegan and Gluten-Free option? I think that’s really cool!
Essentially in the beginning, we started with just normal cookies. My sister made some brownies with almond flour. And, the idea came to her. She said to me, “No one is doing gluten free cakes. Have you heard about it?”
I started doing research about it and I didn’t see any other home bakers selling gluten free products on Instagram so I thought it would set us apart at least, to make gluten free brownies.
I started promoting our gluten free products to our followers. Although, this was in 2012, when not many people knew about gluten free dietary. But I just rolled with it.
Yea. I could imagine how difficult that might have been.
Also, my neighbour was diabetic and he asked for diabetic friendly brownies so we made some for him. Then, we have a few customers requesting [for diabetic friendly cookies]. That’s when I realized nobody was catering for them.
My nephew couldn’t have eggs, my brother-in-law is allergic to pistachio and my mum is diabetic as well. So these few things inspired us to use gluten free ingredients to bake,
even for normal desserts. We told our customers that we’ll try our best to cater for them based on their dietary preference and allergies.
Are you vegan yourself? Are you strict on eating gluten free products as well?
No, I actually don’t follow the gluten free rule strictly. I consume plant-based products myself. And, I’m not fully vegan as well. But, hopefully I’ll be. I’m working on it.
We have normal, gluten free and vegan treat options but I am figuring out how to make all of them vegan. It’s going to take a while but I am trying. I hope that the vegan products we come up with would improve the awareness of others too who are not able to take eggs or dairy.
Have you worked with other digital marketing firms before? Or did you do the marketing by yourself? Including managing your social media channels.
I tried doing Facebook Ads a few times myself. But, I wasn’t able to analyse and translate the data and I wasn’t sure if the ads were performing well or not.
Before this, it was more of a word of mouth thing to promote our products and also some articles on magazines.
I only started outsourcing the digital marketing bit at the end of last December. After January and February, I started working with Carliff (our beloved Founder and Strategy Director) from around the end of February or early March.
“You have to be consistent with the ads but I just couldn’t commit to it.”
How was the overall experience with doing all the marketing yourself?
It was a little difficult in terms of time. Especially with a toddler around.
And that’s never easy, isn’t it?
Yes, I couldn't keep up with the campaign or have time to plan out the next ad. It was always like coming up with an ad then another one only a few months after. It wasn’t continuous. You have to be consistent with the ads but I just couldn’t commit to it.
What's the main difference in the experience with us compared to previously when you had to do everything yourself?
I think, one, is [we get to] bounce some ideas around. When you’re alone, you’re not sure if your own idea is a good one.
So having you guys and Carliff, we can always talk about it. Especially, he could look at things from an outsider’s perspective so he can make some rational thinking and decide if the idea is a good one.
And also having someone to run the ads for me without putting too much effort myself. It allows me to concentrate on other areas like creating Instagram lives and things like that. It helps me to balance my time and energy better.
How does that make you feel?
I think... I would say I feel relieved (And, we bursted into laughter).
For any ideas that popped into my mind, I can just talk to Carliff about them. And, I feel assured that someone is taking care of marketing and I can concentrate on something else.
If not, I would have to delegate all my work. And I don’t think I would be able to perform well as I would be doing everything just halfway through.
“It allows me to concentrate on other areas like creating Instagram lives and things like that. It helps me to balance
my time and energy better.”
Why is success in your business important to you?
One, currently it’s my one-and-only bread and butter so I gotta make it work.
Well, that’s the best kind of motivation, right?
Yea, it’s the truth. I have been self-employed for a while. It wouldn’t be easy for me to work for a company again.
I wouldn’t say you have flexibility when you’re working for yourself because I’m putting more hours compared to a regular 9 to 5. But, at least you could call your own shot. Let’s say if you want to take a day off you could arrange it. And whenever you choose to spend more time with your family you could do that.
I think having that sort of balance and authority makes my life better. And, I prefer it that way. So, I’m just trying to keep afloat and hope my business grows bigger.
And we hope that it will happen while you get to spend more time with your family.
For me, apart from the time with my family, it’s also about upskilling myself. Because baking is more of a hobby. The bits and pieces of the business are really interesting areas. Upskilling myself while managing a business is an added advantage.
How do you balance your time with the business and your family?
I tried to clock into work during regular hours from 9 to 6. But most of the time, I couldn’t. I try to manage the orders during the day. I spend time with my family after lunch. And, I continue to work at night. I could do my job better at night.
So, do your best ideas come at night?
Well, ideas come at all times. Especially on social media, where you’re constantly browsing. Whenever I browse, I just save everything that interests me.
Which social media platform do you use the most?
Definitely Instagram. Facebook is ok. But I think the market of Facebook is for the older market.
What was the main concern at work that caused the time constraint?
I think being a mum takes a lot of time. She’s super active and she needs constant supervision.
But, ultimately, just have to juggle in between.
How old is she?
She’s 1 year and 6 months old. She has always been active. And, now that she could run, her activeness just doubles. My parents were saying she’s the most active among all my nieces and nephews, even compared to the boys.
How have we helped you in having more time to spend with your family? How does that make you feel?
I think you guys helped me by providing an assurance that you could get the job done on time and you’ll keep me updated. For example, Carliff always motivates me to post more content so he could help me by promoting those content to gain more followings.
He always explains the flow and goes through the process [with me]. Like, if I gain more followings, which other projects could I do next which could lead to conversion and more customers supporting my products.
Having that gives me the confidence to move forward and work with you guys.
And we’re happy to hear that. Why do you think you've been able to achieve the degree of success you've achieved so far?
I guess I wouldn’t say I have reached success yet. It’s still in progress. But, for these couple months, I just feel like I have more time with your help.
“It gets lonely being a business owner when you’re the only person running the company. Having more brains, talking through things, having someone working with you are all the advantages.”
So, how has our collaboration helped you to take a step forward?
Because I’m working alone most of the time. Not having a team could be a disadvantage.
So far, the suggestions made by Carliff are working. I can see that the suggestions are well thought out and they will be fruitful later on in the marketing funnel. Also, the fact that he always keeps me updated is a plus.
Outsourcing [the marketing part] helps as I have more time. It helps to brainstorm ideas together. It gets lonely being a business owner when you’re the only person running the company. Having more brains, talking through things, having someone working with you are all the advantages.
What are your future plans? Any plans after the MCO is lifted?
I’m just preparing for the worst. I’m taking a vegan baking course just to learn more about it.
Hoping to teach in some online classes on vegan baking. I’ll see how it goes [with the plan to teach]. That’s my plan after Covid-19. I think it will add revenue to my business to provide online classes without investing in too much effort and expenses.
On the other note, I can’t wait to try your cakes. Do you have anything in store for us? Any new cakes?
I’m thinking about Ferrero Roche cakes. But I’m waiting for a certain supply [of ingredients]. Because most of the vegan ingredients required are imported so it can be difficult at times.
How difficult it is to get the vegan ingredients you need in KL?
It’s not as difficult anymore. But, it can be if you want to bake a specific vegan dessert. For example, if you want to make vegan white chocolate, you would need things like cocoa butter, then it is difficult to get it here. If you just want to do some simple baking like brownies then it’s easy.
That’s all for now. Thank you so much, Iza! For your time and agreeing to talk to us. It's been our pleasure to work with you.
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