Looking back & Moving forwards with MayEe (Bob the Baker Boy): International Women's Day Feature #1
I had the privilege of knowing MayEe first as a client. Getting to partner Bob the Baker Boy for Evercasa’s 1st birthday in February was a fresh experience in working as collaborators, and it got me more interested in knowing MayEe not just as a client, but as a fellow entrepreneur, friend, woman, and person.
So we invited her to talk about her story and experiences, from before she became the founder of Bob the Baker Boy to who she is today.
She gracefully invited us to her boutique, where we sat by the storefront people-watching as we chatted.
“It’s up to the woman herself if she wants to succumb to [stereotypes] or to play by her own rules.” - MayEe Fong
How were you as a teenager? Did you ever fear or doubt your capabilities
I've always been very competitive and entrepreneurial. As a teenager, I sold earphones and did other odd jobs. It was important for me to reap what I sow; if I put in (a certain) amount of effort, the results should be commensurate with it.
I also wanted to be the first in everything. I desired to be the teacher's pet (laughs), so I studied incredibly hard, through secondary and poly. But I slowed down in uni because I felt that studying was meaningless. 'Why do I need to learn this? Why can’t they give us real-life examples to prepare us for the real world?” I had these strong opinions, so I stopped studying.
That’s so interesting. When exactly did this happen?
It was after poly. Though I studied hard and made sure my grades were enough to enter university, I started having more part-time adventures. I went through an internship and joined an MLM company. This increase in exposure made me think ‘Huh? I’m going to study accounting all over again in uni? Am I even going to be an accountant? If not, why am I studying?’ It didn’t feel practical, which is why I also mentioned that I was a brash person with strong opinions. If I had more humility then, I might have learnt more or made more friends. But I literally have zero friends from uni, because I was busy working, busy learning to be a makeup artist, or when to do MLM, or gain exposure.
But I feel we make the choice to move circles. You decided to dabble in different things to understand your interest, and met people from all walks of life.
Who has been the biggest supporter in your growth to who you are today
My family. I don't think I would have this shop today if it were not for my family. The first few years are actually the toughest. I'm now in my sixth year, including the home baking days, and truth be told, the home baking days were the toughest. I had no cash, no resources. Everything was provided for by my family. They paid the utility bills and used their car to help deliver cakes. All I had to do was provide the strategy and work incredibly hard.
What’s the greatest change you’ve gone through going from teenagehood into adulthood?
Confidence and humility. Because I was an incredibly brash teen, very different from who I am now. (laughs) Whenever I talk about my teenage self, people are like: "Huh? Are you sure?" Anyway, I think I’m not done evolving yet. There’s still a long way to go.
Describe a bit of that brashness.
I was a judgemental kid. Whenever something happened, I would jump to conclusions. I've since realised that that’s not the best thing to do. We can be wrong. Yet, we think we’re right, and that’s a sense of entitlement.
Right. What happened whenever you jumped to conclusions?
Whenever I was unhappy, I voiced it out on social media with my own conclusions and used harsh words. Yeah… People tend to not like me because I’m that brash.
So when did you make that switch?
In my twenties, when I started home baking. It was a humbling journey. Though it was at home, and it was not a big business, it was everything that I had. I didn’t receive any culinary education, so I really went through a school of hard knocks, getting scolded by customers. I guess it humbled me as a person.
How did you become the boss of Bob the Baker Boy?
I mean, from home baking to starting my own shop… it was really 机缘巧合 (by chance). Even though I'm an entrepreneur at heart and a chiongster (go-getter), I didn’t think that I would start my own business. I thought I would be a salesperson, someone who is not afraid to work hard.
But there was one day when I felt lost after graduating. I flipped through the papers and saw how much a cake could be sold at an attractive price. So I thought to myself, 'I’m going to go into the cake business too.’ But I didn’t know how; I literally just tried to make a good product. I experimented at home and sold to a warm circle of family and friends. Then I made ads to sell to a larger audience. And then... here I am.
From where, or who, do you gain confidence to do what you do?
I think confidence comes from myself, from doing things that I was afraid to do. Even with hornets and butterflies in my stomach, I just did it and realised that I could, and that’s where confidence comes from. So it’s through experience and exposure.
How do you handle the stress of running a business? Do you think you’ve found a way to handle unexpected problems?
No. Running a business is still stressful, but not too stressful, honestly. I'm grateful to have an excellent team to share the burden. All I needed to do was to ensure that the business was going in the right direction. And my way of handling stressful situations is to think logically. I always return to the process and system of things.
How did you hone this instinct and use it to problem-solve?
My current approach is to recognise emotion. It’s ok to be emotional because we don’t want to sweep it under the rug. But first, recognise. “I am feeling this way now, and that’s ok. But put it aside for now because it’s not helping the situation. Let’s deal with it with logic.”
Look at the problem with facts and data, then come up with three solutions and the pros and cons. Derive the best solution and step-by-step approach to deal with it.
How does being aware of your emotions help with your decision making?
It makes me more rational. I won’t allow myself to make erroneous decisions based on an emotional reaction.
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring business owners?
These are not my words, but I have found them to be words of wisdom, especially for people who are just starting. They don’t know if they should do it or not. But someone told me: "Just do it. You don’t regret the chances you took, you only regret the chances that you didn't take." So just do it, because in everything that we do and in every fall that we take, we learn a lot about what suits us and what doesn't.
Do you think entrepreneurs are born or bred?
Entrepreneurs can be either born or bred, but I think that the level of success may differ. Born entrepreneurs, they have entrepreneurial personality types. They have lesser obstacles to reaching where they want. Bred entrepreneurs might not have come into the world with a lot of ambition, but they do achieve success.
So are you a born or bred entrepreneur?
I’m a bred entrepreneur. (laughs)
How are you celebrating International Women’s Day?
I don’t celebrate International Women’s Day, but it’s a great yearly milestone for us to commemorate the growing women's equality in the world.
Do you face challenges in your daily life as a woman?
I’ve always felt that there is a difference between men and women in business, a social stereotype against women. But now, I feel stereotypes are prevalent, and it’s up to the woman herself if she wants to succumb to it or to play by her own rules.
Another thing I believe is that there are no more successful men or more successful women. There are many successful women out there that I really admire. Women bring a very different perspective to business, family, and personal life. There’s no one better sex.
So your way of overcoming any bias is in perceiving rather than judging?
Yes. It’s really about what meaning we choose to put to whatever social stereotypes there are. Our minds are stronger than whatever stereotypes there are.
Did you make any new year's resolutions, and are you keeping up with it?
For myself, it has always been to be a more confident woman.
I think that confidence is a skill. Last time, it was 0%. Now, it’s around 50%. Of course, even the most confident people have moments of self-doubt, but my goal is to be more confident.
What gives you purpose?
I view business as a tool to help me, be it monetarily or interpersonally. It helps me to grow as a person, and also allows me to help my family, and bring out the best in people.
We’re not in your home right now, but what is your favourite part of your home
(laughs) My bed. It’s where I do my readings, where I scroll through social media. It’s a chill place for me to collect my thoughts.
Are you a homebody?
If you asked me 2 years ago, I would say that I love to stay at home and hate going out. But now, it’s 50/50. I like having my own space to rejuvenate and recharge. The other 50 comes from my love of meeting people because I get inspired by them and their journeys.
Let’s pretend you have an empty, new home. What’s the first piece of furniture you buy?
I don’t have an answer. But I picture it to be a spacious place that is contemporary in design and monochromatic.
Is it like that, currently?
My home is nothing near that. (laughs) Looks more like a dog kennel. But my dream home would be facing the sea, with a breeze that I can enjoy after a long day at work.
What’s a memorable exchange or conversation you’ve had with a customer of Bob the Baker Boy?
The most memorable one was when I felt particularly nostalgic. I scrolled through old photos from customers who tagged us. I remembered this man that worked very hard until midnight. He said he could only come to my house at 12 a.m. to collect a Star Wars cake for his son. He had not paid but I did it because I couldn't choose my customers then, and waited until midnight to deliver the cake to him. The funny thing is just a few weeks back, there were two ladies here to buy a floral cake. We realised they were related to the man who purchased the BB-8 cake. They asked: “Do you remember, we purchased the Star Wars cake last time, 6 years ago? We went to your home to collect!"
Did you get chills from that?
Not really. (laughs) Sorry. But, I felt really grateful. Just 6 years ago, I wasn’t a professional baker. It was just me with my desire to make things work out.
Your grit and tenacity.
Yeah. Just do lor. But people still come back, and they don’t throw eggs at me. So I’m really grateful la. (laughs)
Ok, so to end the interview, let’s answer some fun questions: Your favourite song to dance to/sing?
(laughs) I don’t have a particular song, but I like fast songs. But I’m very shy, so I only dance in my shower.
So cute! You don’t go clubbing?
Nobody believes me - when people look at me they say I look like Ah Lian, like a clubber - but I’ve never stepped foot into a club before. I was a very good student - people will say ‘Ay! Clubber means not good student ah!’ - but I’ve really never stepped into a club before.
Yes. But no dancing.
What is your pet peeve?
I don’t like when people use their phones while talking to me, or others. I find that to be rude. But also, why I said earlier that I'm not entirely confident is because I can't yet ask them to stop using their phones.
Is that more about confidence or not wanting to step on toes?
Well, not wanting to step on toes is also about not having the confidence to be authentic.
Okay, but do you think authenticity equates to confidence?
Confidence with tact. That’s something that I am learning to be.
Okay, last one: fill in the blank. A home is _____?
A home is a place to recharge.
Learn more about MayEe and Bob the Baker Boy here.