INSPIRASEE OF THE MONTH:
NUR FARZANAH BINTI HAJI SHUFIAN
Written by: Angelina Lee
Nur Farzanah binti Haji Shufian, who goes by Farah is a 4th year Faculty of Science student. She is the owner of sweetcheesebyfrznh, a home-based Instagram business that specialises in cheese desserts.
Sweetcheesebyfrznh began its operation in late June 2019. The events that led to the foundation of the business can be traced back to Farah's secondary school days. While she was in high school, Farah learnt to make cheese pudding from her mother and she later refined it by tweaking the recipe. Baking was something she only did for family events or potlucks.
Her cheese pudding garnered praise from fellow UBD students during its appearance in social functions; and from there personal requests for orders started to pour in. With strong encouragement from family and friends, she finally considered opening her own business and she credits her experience of working at I Say Yatta and assisting at her aunt’s catering business for giving her first-hand insight into the basics of running a business. Furthermore, one of her previous modules required her to interview local food businesses so she was able to apply the knowledge she acquired from the entrepreneurs.
Farah mainly advertises her business through Instagram. In order to engage more customers to her business, she also pays for Instagram sponsored posts. Moreover, her friends and family also help by promoting her business through the word of mouth and Whatsapp.
Farah is undoubtedly a busy woman as she is involved in various extracurricular activities besides running her baking business and pursuing her degree. She has been an active member of the Faculty of Science Student Body (FOSSB) since her first year of studies and she is currently the Vice Chairperson of the UBD Dodgeball Club. Juggling her time between being a final year student and running her business, she has had to discontinue some of the activities she used to do such as playing hockey and her role in Executive of Media and Public Relations (EMPRO) due to increasing responsibilities.
Prioritizing is a key aspect in ensuring that her time is organized effectively. She recounted the days when she had her internship for six days a week during her Discovery Year semester. Initially, she had difficulties finding the time to manage her business. However, with thorough planning she was able to work around her schedule. She also stressed that she limits the orders to a maximum of 10 per day and closes on certain days. This allows her to find a balance in her life as well as to spend time with her family.
Running a business comes with its unique sets of challenges. Farah is a self-taught baker and mainly learns from YouTube tutorials, trial and error, and experience. She recalls when she first made a large 8 inch burnt cheesecake, it was not successful as the cake did not set properly and overflowed. With more trials and experience, she managed to figure out the recipe for success. When the pandemic hit and more people took up baking at home, the shortage of cream cheese in stores affected her business. Ultimately, Farah informed her customers that they could either postpone or cancel their orders. She also encountered problems with the runner entrusted with delivering her desserts ; as a result she had to look for a more reputable one.
There is a large number of online bakeries in Brunei and competition can be stiff. Farah believes that her focus on cheese desserts sets her apart from other businesses. She has expanded the menu from her original cheese pudding to include other desserts such as no-bake cheesecakes, burnt cheesecakes and tarts that come in a multitude of flavours. Farah’s no-bake cheesecake is her top-selling item and she recently introduced a “cutie size” for the cheesecake. The 5 inch wide cheesecakes have been very successful. “Many customers just want to order a small cake to satisfy their own cravings,” she said. Other customers’ favourite include the trendy Biscoff cheese pudding and burnt cheesecake. Recently, Farah introduced Kek Batik Meleleh in her menu after receiving a few requests to do so and learnt that it is very popular with the older generation.
Farah credits her family and close friends who helped when her business was still at its infancy as her biggest supporters. From purchasing the unsold bakes, to upgrading her equipment and storage space, and even assisting with deliveries, there is no doubt that her strong support system paved the way for sweetcheesebyfrznh’s success.
Farah looks up to @supernutellarollcakes, a fellow Instagram baker as her major inspiration. “I really look up to her because her business has really grown since 2013 and I’m awed by how she manages to balance between her work life, family life and her business,” she says discerningly. Besides that, positive feedback about her cheese desserts from customers really warm her heart and inspire her to keep going.
Currently, Farah has no definite long-term goals for her business yet as her main priorities now are her studies and extracurricular activities. However, she has hopes that her baking business will continue to be in her life even after she has found her career. For now, her goal is to achieve 10K followers on her Instagram page.
“In order to be successful, your desire to be successful has to be bigger than your fear of failure, and remember all big things start small,” advises Farah to anyone who is keen to start their own business and to entrepreneurs who feel like giving up.
Follow @sweetcheesebyfrznh on Instagram to learn more. You can also reach her directly on Whatsapp at +673 8373388.