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The recipe behind Sourbombe Bakery's success
Co-founder Genevieve Lee (right) started Sourbombe Bakery in 2020, amid a boom in home-based businesses (Photo courtesy of Sourbombe Bakery)
It’s not rare to see crowds queuing for fresh bakes along Penang Road — chances are, they’re waiting their turn to buy one of Sourbombe Bakery’s signature Sourbombes.
The brainchild of Genevieve Lee and Tan Chun Rong (CR) , Sourbombe Bakery was initially a home-based business born amid the pandemic, starting out in a time when many online businesses were taking off. The bakery quickly gained renown for its sourdough bomboloni, a revolutionary blend of sourdough and italian doughnuts stuffed with generous fillings.
After running Sourbombe Bakery as a home-based business for a year, the duo felt confident enough to open a physical shopfront; their first store at Penang Road has been open since July 2021, and they have since expanded their product range to include pastries and croissants.
The importance of branding and driving visibility through marketing
Traditional media was key in enabling Sourbombe Bakery to build a steady base of customers, reveals Genevieve. Her prior experience with MasterChef Singapore, along with CR’s foundation in the food media industry as a food stylist and photographer, had granted them both a wealth of connections in the food media industry, who they approached to get feedback on the Sourbombes.
“We started off with a simple objective; [our mentality was to] just share with people, hope that they can give us a shout out and help us along,” the MasterChef Singapore Season 1 Finalist recalls.
The delicious sourdough bombolonis were met with warm reception from friends in the media industry, and they soon found themselves inundated with articles and reviews from traditional media publications, kickstarting Sourbombe Bakery’s launch and helping the brand to gain visibility.
“They tried the product and they were like, ‘Oh wow, this is really good,’” she recalls. “So they proceeded to write detailed articles [which were] full of praise, [that] a lot of people saw. Everybody wanted to try [it], that’s how we blew up.”
Having a clear branding strategy has also helped Sourbombe Bakery to flourish. Bold, eye-catching visuals take centre stage in their Instagram feed, with Genevieve describing the brand as “very fun-loving”. Indeed, the bakery’s beloved sourdough bombolinis reflect this lively spirit, with names such as “Brûlée Hooray” and “Pizza Bombe”.
Bright & striking visuals are a mainstay across Sourbombe Bakery’s social media channels (Photo courtesy of Sourbombe Bakery)
“Our Instagram account played a big part… We always try to be unique and out of the way, in terms of the flavour profiles and also the names that we give our products,” she laughs, adding that this has helped the brand to resonate with younger audiences.
Transitioning from a home-based business to a physical shopfront
Making the leap from a home-based business to a brick-and-mortar store was not without challenges, a process which Genevieve likened to starting a business from the ground up. The attention they had attracted as a home-based bakery had created more demand than they could meet as a home-based operation, calling for a move to a physical shopfront.
“Opening a retail store is vastly different from just doing a home business… To have [a professional kitchen], you have to go through a lot of licences, approvals, and government-mandated protocols,” explains Genevieve.
Moving her business model from a home-based operation to a physical shopfront also involved greater cost, as Genevieve had to factor additional overheads, such as the cost of rental and manpower, into her expenses.
She found the GoBusiness platform particularly useful in helping to manage the transition: “It’s kind of like a one-stop shop for business owners starting out for their first time. You can [learn] how to apply for permits, grants and licences… and can make the whole process of opening much smoother and easier, on your wallet, mind, soul.”
Adapting marketing strategies to engage audiences
Staying relevant is another challenge she faces, and one that she believes many small business owners face as well with their own company.
“You face the challenge of how [to] make yourself more relevant, more enticing in this very fast paced world,” she muses. “Every business owner is always driving themselves to be newer, better, faster.”
To combat this, she has maintained an openness to trying new social media marketing channels to connect with audiences. “[We focused on] Instagram for a very long time, and Facebook… Now we are trying to get into TikTok. We always welcome social media strategies with open arms, because we know how important it is - we understand the pull that it could have,” she says.
Genevieve advises potential entrepreneurs to explore more media channels, as opposed to solely relying on organic marketing methods, as the latter tends to be slower. Many brands that are flourishing have also leveraged similar strategies, she observes.
She stands by traditional media and publications as being imperative for businesses, emphasising that it’s important to know one’s target audience.
“So what if it looks great on TikTok and Instagram? If the people who are watching don’t have good spending power, your audience might not be the most optimal,” she quips.
Genevieve building Sourbombe Bakery’s first bombe tower at a wedding earlier this year (Photo courtesy of Sourbombe Bakery)
In defining success in marketing strategies, she also believes that it is important to consider how marketing efforts contribute to one’s brand as a whole, as opposed to focusing solely on how individual posts fare.
“It’s gonna be very hard to micromanage every single post. So why not just look at it as a whole?” she muses. “With more engagement, more people know about our brand. They may not try what you’re posting about, but they may come and try other things.”
Reaching out to seasoned players in the same industry is another piece of advice Genevieve has for potential small business owners. “Try to find someone who has a lot of experience or a lot of connections in the industry. It always helps,” she says.
It’s also important to assess how one’s product can fulfil consumer needs, she notes - be it through filling a gap in the market, or ensuring that one’s product is as good as or exceeds offerings by existing players in the market.
“I think that is something that every brand owner should be very confident of about themselves,” says Genevieve. ”Knowing what they are, what they represent.“
Teamwork is another value that she makes a priority.
“You can have the best marketing strategies, you can have the best product, but if you don’t have a team then you will suffer by yourself,” reflects Genevieve. “ A job should be something that you look forward to every day, because you get to work with people that you like, and have things that you do that you are passionate about.” It’s the same principle she upholds with potential collaborators, as she believes that it’s important to work with people who share the same values.
The Sourbombe Bakery team also takes part in events such as the Singapore Food Festival (Photo courtesy of Sourbombe Bakery)
Being your own boss may come with its challenges, but is also immensely rewarding, reflects Genevieve, as she works with her team to see her ideals and dreams come to life. These include expansion plans in the form of an upcoming outlet at Jewel Changi Airport, which is set to open in November 2022.
“[Don’t] be too hard on yourself, ride things along, do your best. And then just let things flow naturally… Just embrace it,” she advises. “Keep going.”
Ready to take the first step to build your own business? Check out the GoBusiness Start-up Guide, an extensive guide on how to start home-based businesses and larger ventures alike, and find out more about Genevieve’s experience as an entrepreneur in this video.