Interview by: Nicole Friets | Images provided by: Jia Jia Ng
Jia Jia Ng has done what many others only dream about - starting a successful home business doing what she loves at the mere age of 24. Looking at Jia Jia's wonderfully crafted cakes, you would never guess that this home baker has no professional training and also bakes as a part-time hobby. In this article, we talk to Jia Jia about how she got into baking, and the initial and ongoing challenges of having a business. She also shares advice for aspiring home bakers, as well as how her philosophy as a nutritionist influences her approach to baking.
How did you get into baking?
From a young age, I was exposed to baking as my mum used to work as a manager in a bakery. Therefore, baking was never a foreign concept to me.
As I started posting my baked goods on social media, more people started asking if I sold these items. From there, it became a profession (more serious in nature) as there were certain standards that had to be met.
What were some initial challenges?
For me, one initial challenge was finding the “right” recipe for every baked good (e.g. cakes, cookies, macarons).
There are so many recipes out there and it was difficult choosing the right ones. There were many instances of trial and error.
Another initial challenge was taking negative feedback because I often got discouraged. I thank God for my family and friends who were and are always there to support me during tough times.
Do you still bake for fun? What is your favourite thing to bake?
Yes, definitely! I find time to bake for fun and experiment with different things.
I don’t have a single favourite as it changes depending on what I am craving for. However, I have always enjoyed making layered mousse cakes (entremets) as they allow me to mix and match different flavours and textures into one single dessert.
What advice would you give to individuals who are looking into setting up a home business?
Never give up! Even though things may seem tough, keep pressing on.
Time management is definitely important especially if you have other commitments (e.g. full time work, studies).
Also, be realistic and humble. Don’t be overly idealistic as some things are not achievable without industrial tools. Just do your best and be proud of your achievements.
Many hold the perception that home businesses mean late working hours and no time for “play” - is this true? How do you strike a work/life balance?
For me, baking is actually “play time” or leisure time. It is the time where I get to rest mentally because I enjoy it. I believe your home business can be your passion.
At the same time, there is a need to take breaks from it at times so you won’t burn out.
As I mentioned above, time management is important so plan other activities in your schedule such as spending time with friends/families, exploring the neighbourhood and trying new things.
How does your profession as a Nutritionist help you as a baker?
My profession as a Nutritionist doesn’t really overlap with my passion as a baker.
At the same time, as a Nutritionist, I know that it is important to have everything in moderation. In other words, the concept of “80% healthy and 20% unhealthy”.
With unhealthy food being the smaller part of the diet, I figure that people will want to enjoy that part to the fullest. This then motivates me further to come up with great treats for people to enjoy.
Personally, I don't believe in forbidden food or foods that should never be eaten. Instead, I believe it is about making sure that these “unhealthy” foods are not eaten in excess and that people consume ample amounts of other healthy food as well. :)
Share one lesson you have learnt so far in your journey as a baker
I’ve learnt so much through this journey but I guess if there’s one lesson that I would share… it would be to never give up, even after failed baked goods or discouraging comments. Once you’ve given up, there will be no chance of success. As long as one keeps trying, there’s still hope.
How do you expand your network and market your products?
I usually share my products on social media such as Facebook and Instagram.