SATIRA Diana Borhanuddin is the co-founder of Kek & Co, a popular home-based custom cake business formed in 2015 that has a strong Instagram presence (over 115,000 followers).
Since the movement control order (MCO) started, Satira has had to think very quickly on her feet and do a 360° shift on her business model.
“My business was focused on custom cakes and corporate orders but when the MCO was announced, everyone cancelled their orders overnight and asked for full refunds, so that was a shock for us in the beginning.
“So then, we started testing out products and did a major business pivot. Now we have completely taken custom cakes out of our menu and are making dessert sets, smaller cakes and cookies that are affordable and easy to transport on motorbikes.
“So while the business has been doing OK since we changed direction, the difference is we have to work non-stop because our previous price range for custom cakes was RM400 and now we are selling dessert sets at around RM40, so we need more fixed sales i.e. volume, ” she says.
Aside from working round-the-clock, Satira has also had to face a rapidly shrinking workforce and the added hassle of trying to find qualified cake artists during a period of extreme turmoil.
“Typically, I have five staff and a few part-timers. But some staff haven’t been coming to work because their families are uncomfortable with them working during this period and some live more than 10km away, so they can’t make it. And it’s been really hard finding people willing to work during this uncertain time, so I feel so stretched and stressed out, ” she laments.
Although Satira says having a strong online presence and being able to adapt quickly to consumer demands (she developed the dessert boxes in response to a growing Zoom party trend she saw) has helped keep her business afloat, she is anxious about the future.
“I do worry about when the MCO ends and my fixed costs return to normal, because right now, a lot of my employees are relying on government relief, which we have applied for. But I’m not sure what will happen in May.
“And moving forward, we have to decide whether we are going to revert to our old custom cake model or stick with our current dessert box model, which was developed because of the MCO. And that’s another concern as many of our cake artists have very specific skills, so I’m not sure how they will respond to a change in direction, ” she says.