From Heart to Home: Jiamin's Story

Curated by Zeppelin and Co and arranged by DITA Audio: 3 individuals go on their own parallel journeys to show us what it means to chase the Dream.

This week, we spotlight Jiamin, Zeppelin’s Previous Cake Wholesaler and co-founder of local cake kitchen Inthebrickyard, a bakery that celebrates local flavours with their unique cakes like their Orh Nee or Ondeh Ondeh offerings

Jiamin turns the act of running a food and beverage operation into an art, running a successful, 6 year-old cake-kitchen with her husband Darren with something of a cult following online. Given their current success, it’s almost inconceivable that Jiamin and Darren’s journey began 6 years ago in a simple home kitchen, where the (not yet) couple churned out bakes for friends and family under what was to become Inthebrickyard.

Humble Roots and Entrepreneurship

These humble beginnings come from the fact that her brand of entrepreneurship is remarkably grounded “I think the media sells entrepreneurship to be a beautiful story of how you should take the plunge and some day you’re suddenly going to be very rich." she observed.

"It doesn’t work like that, it’s still hard work every single day.”

When asked more about Inthebrickyard's home-kitchen origins, she said, matter-of-factly, “It wasn’t even a matter of choice, it was more like, no money la, so cannot do lor.”

“Cafes were approaching us to do wholesale at that point in time, we were no longer baking for friends and family, so we decided to get a space”.

However, reality hit hard when inthebrickyard made the decision to sell sliced cakes out of their first rental space, it was then that Jiamin and Darren were quickly introduced to the exorbitant costs of running a retail F&B operation.

“We had a float of 20k, it’s a lot for an individual, but in business it’s actually not much”. She points to rental costs, staff salaries and equipment costs as major monthly spends. “You will very quickly realise if you're not able to break even.”
She refers to this time as a “painful experience” one that prompted Darren and herself to reconsider the scale of their operation.

“We ended up selling pre-ordered whole cakes because that makes a lot more sense, as compared to preparing slices of cake which you might not sell at all.”

Inthebrickyard's Signature Ondeh Ondeh Cake: Pandan Sponge with a Gula melaka filling

That was when Jiamin and Darren decided to give food and beverage retail a rest, letting it remain a dream while choosing instead to focus on wholesaling in order to cut costs.

"We had a float of 20k, it’s a lot for an individual, but in business it’s actually not much, you will very quickly realise if you're not able to break even."

From Heart to Table 

When asked point blank about her dream was, Jiamin gave a less-than typical answer, “My dream is to work with someone who has the same vision and the same work ethics and values as me in life, and that would be my husband, Darren.”

This statement sums up Jiamin and Darren’s approach to Inthebrickyard.

“It’s nice to have someone who cares as much (as me) about bringing quality to the table and focusing on people and not just being business and money minded, having people who are on the same page is important, so for me working with people like that on a daily basis is a dream come true”.

It was only natural that this philosophy would be implemented in every facet of Inthebrickyard’s operations, which Jiamin describes as being from heart to table.

She tells us  Darren still insists on using freshly squeezed pandan juice in the cafe’s cakes, a feat that most home cooks will know is a cumbersome and uncomfortable one, especially due to Pandan Juice being a known skin irritant.

Meticulously-packaged treats highlight Jiamin and Darren's love for their trade an their attention to detail

Inthebrickyard maintains a slow, grounded approach in a food and beverage industry constantly besieged by new, short lived trends.

“If you just want to be transactional, then it’s okay to be gimmicky, if what you offer sucks, they’ll just never come again”.

“You have to play the timeless game sometimes.” She adds.

“Over time people realise that, hey, Your stuff is good and that they can always come back for the same quality and the same good service.” 

Circuit Breaker Cake Bakers

2020 has been a year of upheaval and change for many business, including Inthebrickyard, faced with a pandemic, quickly changing laws and the rapidly transforming face of marketing, Jiamin and Darren have been buckling down and striving to the adapt to the situation the best they can. 

"Entrepreneurship has always been reacting to change and adapting quickly to feedback and challenges" Jiamin writes through a text interview. "One of the most important things an entrepreneur should have is resilience and a strong mind."

Jiamin says that the volume of cake orders received by Inthebrickyard has actually increased, something that took her by surprise. This, however, revealed other areas for growth and development in the future. 

"(We) realised that we haven’t got what it takes to scale. Our cakes are so delicately made that our previous only took a fraction of the orders it does now, there’s a lot of flaws exposed during this period that we gotta work quickly on, reacting fast so that we can better serve everyone."

The circuit break hasn't dampened their resolve though, "One thing’s for sure, we still give our very best everyday so when our heads hit the pillows we know we will give it another good fight tomorrow."


What’s in the future?

Looking forward, Jiamin is setting her sights back on Inthebrickyard, the cake kitchen that started it all. 

“I always thought of Inthebrickyard as being a brand that celebrates local cultures and flavours, using fresh ingredients.”, she says. 

This shines through in Inthebrickyard’s cake selection, which consists of flavours like “Ondeh Ondeh” Chewy Rice balls filled with brown sugar, “Pulut Hitam” A sweet black glutinous rice porridge and “Yakun Set F”—a kopi, kaya and peanut butter flavoured cake paying homage to the Kaya Peanut toast set, a breakfast choice beloved by Jiamin and Darren.

“I’m wondering how Inthebrickyard Malaysia or Inthebrickyard Indonesia would turn out.” she says, “How it’d be like if we took an Indonesian flavour and baked it into a cake, like what we do here in our ondeh ondeh and sesame flavours. Can I do that with flavours from other countries too?”

You can follow Inthebrickyard on their Social media channels.

Inthebrickyard: Facebook, Instagram