2022 IOTM YUSMA'S interview podcast
Written by: 21B0002, Wan Mohammad Safwan Bin Wan Mohammad Ishak (Public Relations Officer, Executive of Media and Public Relation Officer)
Initially going for the Study Abroad Programme (SAP) for his Discovery Year in 2020, Huzaimi was supposed to leave for Korea. However, to his disappointment, it was cancelled at the last minute - just as he was about to board his flight. As a result, he felt stressed in the beginning, but decided to enter the incubation programme and this was where his journey as a studentpreneur started, with his first intentions being to simply showcase his baking talent to the public as well as sharing special memories with his customers. Huzaimi started his business with $100 as the capital, and mentioned that it took the first two months for his business to reach the break-even point. Only after a few months did he start gaining profit from his business in the incubation programme.
When asked about his greatest strength in overcoming his challenges, he mentioned that the people around him acted as his support system. His loved ones such as his parents, his late mother, siblings, relatives, friends, and even his lecturers, encouraged him to continue running his business by giving him love and support. Huzaimi stated that he considers them his greatest strengths, which motivate him to learn other things and to improve his baking skills as well. He sees them as his inspiration in how they manage their own lives; he believes that as humans, we want to be good humans and the good servants of Allah.
Apart from baking, Huzaimi usually cooks for the family. Besides that, he prefers reading books or watching K-Dramas in his free time. In order to manage his time between academics, running his business, and his hobbies, Huzaimi limits his order by only receiving them for Saturday and Sunday. During the weekdays, he would focus more on his academic work. Moreover, he would only start preparing the ingredients on weekdays so that he can start baking on the weekends.
Due to the current situation, he emphasised on how important it is to be active in using social media, especially Instagram, in trying to promote his brand and gain in the number of followers. Putting advertisements in social media is highly impactful as people nowadays use social media more often than before, because of the emergence of COVID-19.
Huzaimi considers himself to be a perfectionist and is strict with his work, something that not many people know about him. He tends to be punctual with his deadlines and is thorough whenever he is involved in group work. According to Huzaimi, the qualities of a good entrepreneur would be believing in yourself and considering your competitors as your friends, and not rivals. This can help the entrepreneur to learn from them as examples, get the skills and improvise it. A few role models that he cited were Shaikh Fadilah of Dil Coffee Trail, Ben Sia of Ben Sia Pastry, and Chef Alex Chua of Le Apple. When Huzaimi first met Shaikh Fadilah, he emphasised that he should network with the people in the same industry - by identifying others’ products, both businesses can benefit from each other without clashing ideas and obtain individual profits.
His bestsellers are his cakes and macarons. He narrated that he produced macarons for a charity held at Yayasan, which ended up being his biggest sale. The sale during that period lasted for a month. He found the journey to be tough, yet fun. Huzaimi’s personal favourite item on his menu are the macarons. This is because he took 10 years learning how to make macarons starting from when he was in middle school. During his period of study at Pusat Tingkatan Enam Meragang (PTEM), he took food studies as one of his subjects. Despite that, he still finds macarons to be demanding even after his years of learning, as the production is often affected by the environment as well as the ingredients.
In light of COVID-19, Huzaimi faced the biggest challenges in order to improve and run his business. For instance, the baking ingredients are hard to obtain, especially now that the prices of goods such as eggs, butter, and cream cheese have increased; stocks of certain ingredients are low, such as flour, as well as the early restrictions, which have impacted his business - leaving him with no option other than to try to obtain resources online or find a substitute, as advised by his friends. However, he is thankful that he got to meet other people in the industry and with their guidance, told himself to be patient, as patience is the most important aspect of running a business - he believes that after a few months, you will see the light at the end of the dark alley.
In terms of cake production, Huzaimi prefers to use buttercream instead of fondant and gum paste because he finds that fondant tends to melt easily in Brunei’s weather. Thus, cakes that involve fondant and gum paste are his most challenging orders. Aside from that, another challenge is trying to figure out different cake designs. This requires him to keep up with the trends in cake designing in order to meet or even exceed customers’ expectations, which was his greatest challenge. When customers requested a design for him to create, Huzaimi must first check his proficiency whether he is able to attempt the design or not, or when the customer does not have sufficient budget for the design, he would discuss with them for alternative options.
Huzaimi also shared a few tips to make great macarons. He stated how difficult it may be to make macarons, due to the specific circumstances needed as well as the consistency required. Nonetheless, he advised to be a perfectionist; to stay focused and precise, and also to ensure that the surroundings are in good condition and try not to give up.
Huzaimi described a moment of failure that he has experienced recently, regarding a specific order requested by his friend. The design was in such a way that the cake was cut in half, and the cake top was to be put forward. However, due to weather conditions, the attempt on the cake design was short-lived as the buttercream and chocolate decorations were starting to melt. He found a compromise and came up with an alternative method, which is to cut the cake in half and decorate the flowers in between the cake.
Source: Cakesbylynz, Google
Regarding Huzaimi’s personal goals, just like an ordinary student, he wishes to pursue Masters after graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration, while continuing to maintain his business. He also plans to attend several baking classes, either locally or internationally and hopefully obtain a chef’s license in pastry or culinary arts.
Lastly, an advice from Huzaimi to the readers and listeners is that,
"When one door closes, another door is open."
Believing in yourself is important, and do not feel demotivated by your competitors. If you are actually brave enough, talk to them and ask how they actually manage to get to that point. Do not forget the people around you, talk to them when you have a problem, and do not keep it all to yourself or it is actually going to be quite stressful to you.
Our Business Inspirasee for April 2022 is Ahmad Huzaimi bin Johari, a 25-year-old who started a business called @theboywhobakes.bn which was established in March 2020. Ever since he was young, Huzaimi has had passions not only towards baking, but cooking as well. Growing up, he was inspired by his parents; always seeing them cook together in the kitchen for lunch or dinner, or making snacks for fun for the family to enjoy. The name of the business itself was inspired by a YouTuber based in London, UK, who has a channel called 'The Boy Who Bakes'.
One of the most fulfilling moments in running his business is receiving positive reactions or feedback from his customers and being able to join pop-up stores or bake sales. He also mentioned that he got to experience serving his macarons to Sashi Cheliah, winner of Masterchef Australia Season 10, during the Taste of Australia in Brunei (Source: @aj2696 on Instagram) in 2019. Furthermore, he had shared that the most memorable event for him throughout his journey is recently celebrating his business’ second-year anniversary, and held its first giveaway. Additionally, he had achieved a milestone in producing thousands of macaron shells and hundreds of cakes and cupcakes. Apart from that, he used the skills that his late mother has taught him in making a flower bouquet, for which, one of his end-products are macaron bouquets. The uncles and aunties from a flower shop also assisted him with floral arrangement skills.