In this new series, Lifestyle Asia speaks with individuals who were bit with the food business bug during the early days of Enhanced Community Quarantine and how their passions led them to cooking, baking and selling in the middle of a pandemic.
Lifestyle Asia’s brand associate Abby Laurel has always had a sweet tooth, and a sense for entrepreneurial endeavours. “My first exposure to the baking business was when I was around 10 years old with nothing else to do during the summer. I found a box of Betty Crocker Brownie Mix in my pantry and thought that it would be interesting to make and sell,” she says. She and her cousin went into business and made a profit of 500 PHP, which they used to buy ice cream. “A testament to our love for sweets,” Abby says, fondly.
When the lockdown started, Abby started baking again just to pass the time. Baking desserts for her family, she also tried bread and cinnamon rolls, but on the advice of her dad, wisely decided to stick to desserts. “Having discovered the multiple businesses on my community Viber group, I wanted to test whether I had what it took to compete. Currently, I’ve expanded my presence to BGC in addition to my neighbourhood,” she says.
Always up for a challenge, Abby decided to elevate the brownie experience. Her offerings for Baker On 9th are an original triple chocolate, Kahlúa and experiments with other flavours like Grand Marinier and Bailey’s. “I decided to focus on these because I absolutely love chocolate, especially European ones, and for me, it’s a comforting sweet treat that you can’t really go wrong with – everyone loves a good brownie,” she says. The liqueurs were chosen because they pair well with desserts and chocolate.
When she first made the triple chocolate brownies, Abby knew they were already good, due to the three kinds of premium Italian chocolates, 60% cacao, and pure Madagascar Vanilla extract that she was using. Wanting to take it a step further, she thought of a way to make the product stand out. In came the liqueurs. “Since I enjoy drinking coffee and sipping on these types of liqueurs I wanted to incorporate the flavour to the brownies, giving it a bit of a boozy kick,” she says, “it also gave me the opportunity to offer something different and ideal to those with a more sophisticated palette.”
Abby says that the lack of ingredient shortages wasn’t a problem for her, because her neighborhood Viber group was and is active with information on where and why to buy the best products available. “They sell EVERYTHING! From baking goods to produce. It’s very convenient since they do free scheduled deliveries around the neighborhood,” she says, “we also have a small neighborhood market set up every Wednesdays and Saturdays in which you can go and buy items you need such as eggs and milk.”
As a one-woman team, Abby opted for a scheduled pick-up date for her products every Saturday. This allows her the flexibility of being able to check her inventory or go on grocery runs. For those within her neighborhood, she offers free delivery, and for everyone else, their own couriers can pick up the order from her house.
According to Abby, her family members are her number one critics. Her friends were also very excited, knowing they would have first taste during the research and development stage. While her initial sales were all to family and friends, she has started to gain traction from new customers who have shared positive feedback.
“Upon receiving my product, I want my customers to feel that they immediately got their money’s worth. As I try to be different from other brownies in the market, I want to provide a more sophisticated product line,” says Abby. It is a great way for her to be able to share her most-liked liqueur flavours. “First, Kahlúa posses a rare combination of flexibility and identity. You just know when Kahlúa is part of your drink. Similar to Kahlúa, Bailey’s offers a rich but distinctive flavor. It has a seamless assimilation of creaminess and bitterness that needs no further explanation. In contrast to Bailey’s and Kahlúa, Grand Marnier provides more citrus and zesty notes that brings the brownie to life.” Her number one fan is her father, and Abby says it was important to her that he enjoyed everything she made. “The four flavours are enjoyed by one of the most important persons in my life, my father,” she says.
Abby is thankful to have been able to showcase her skills during this venture. “I realized, despite regardless of the current situation, I will definitely continue fulfilling orders and innovating new products for everyone’s boozy pastry needs,” she says. If there is anything she would like to see happen, it is to enjoy and partake in the new food businesses cropping up. “I hope to encourage other entrepreneurs who have been coping with the times and wish them well on their businesses,” she says.
For the full menu and orders, please visit @bakeron9th on Instagram