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Bagels for the Win

If you love bagels, then you may have ordered from Jiababa88 on Instagram. But did you know that the pair of sisters behind the delicious baked goods are actually Tanglin students, Kay (Year 13) and Kat (Year 12)? They were recently featured on CNA as two of four teen entrepreneurs who harnessed the power of social media to launch their business before the age of 20. Everyone is understandably excited for them, so we decided to catch up with Kay and ordered a few bagels in the process. 

Tell us a little about yourself.
We joined Tanglin in Year 12 (2021 for Kay and 2022 for Kat). We’ve lived in Singapore for eight years now.
Why baking?
Baking has been our way to relieve stress, so we’ve been doing it prior to the business. We chose not to bake popular pastries like brownies and cookies. Instead, we opted for traditional Taiwanese desserts/ pastries: like castella cake and taro steamed buns. Living away from our home, we like to stay connected with our culture through food. Up till around Year 10, our parents were the ones preparing our favourite Taiwanese food for us. Having learned so much from them, we eventually took over their roles and started baking for the family. 
Are bagels easier to work with than other types of baked goods?
Bagels are actually more tedious to make than most types of baked goods. The secret behind the chewy texture of bagels is that the dough is boiled before being sent into the oven. Additionally, each bagel has to be rolled meticulously by hand into its signature smooth, round shape. These extra steps, especially when making larger quantities of bagels, can be time consuming and require lots of care. 
What’s the inspiration behind your home-based food business name Jiababa88?
‘Jiababa’ translates to ‘eat full full’ in Hokkien. We chose this because of its connection with our Taiwanese roots and we hope that our customers will always be “full” of happiness.
What are your most popular flavours?
Black sesame and taro are popular flavours. These are flavours that are commonly found in traditional Taiwanese delicacies, and I think our customers like how we incorporate Taiwanese elements into our flavours. Our friends at Tanglin love biscoff and chocolate flavours the most! 
How has setting up your business made you better students at school?
We spend around two hours every day making bagels. To make that possible, we need to follow a strict study schedule to make sure we have time after studying to bake. Managing the business has definitely trained us to be more disciplined. On the other hand, the school has supported us a lot in our business. For example, Kat takes Computer Science (CS) and she’s been using those CS skills to build our own website! I take psychology and there’s a part about consumer psychology. I’ve been using knowledge from class like product colour in our business.
What was the biggest challenge to having your own business?
We think the biggest challenge is balancing the business with our own studies and social life. As the founders, we need to fulfil all the responsibilities on our own (e.g. designing IG stories, arranging the logistics and attending to customers individually), so we need to make sure to manage our time well.
We know your success story, but can you share a story about your failures that inspired you to do even better?
We’ve made many mistakes. Examples include forgetting to send an order, baking the wrong flavours and printing 200 care cards with the wrong design. These are just a fraction of the mistakes we’ve made. Take the first mistake - forgetting to send an order - for example. The angry customer spammed our business Instagram and emphasised that we were ‘too young and irresponsible to run this business’.  We were so scared of making more mistakes that we almost considered ending the business. But we also felt the urge to prove that we can do better. From there, we switched from writing orders down in a notebook to using a proper website to streamline the order procedure. Each mistake we make is like the start of another ‘cycle’: making the mistake, feeling discouraged and guilty of not doing better, and then motivated to fix the problem.
Knowing what you know now, how would you advise your fellow students on setting up a business?
We would advise our fellow students not to be afraid to ask for opportunities, for help, for advice. For example, we proposed a collaboration to a local bubble tea shop, and they are very interested in our concept; we’re in the midst of discussions now! This is an example of how we actively seek opportunities. 
What are your future plans for the business?
We want to officially register Jiababa with ACRA, and possibly build up a team of bagel bakers. 

Want to check out the delicious bagels by our enterprising students? Then visit their Instagram handle @Jiababa88 to feast your eyes on their delicious baked goods!

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Student Achievement
  • student excellence

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