If Alice had a predilection for baking mysterious cakes rather than eating them, Wonderland might have looked a little different. Rather than rabbit holes leading to curious creatures and murderous queens, she might have wandered the aisles of a charmed baking supplies store and been the one making supersizing “Eat Me” teacakes.
A visit to Bake With Yen carries that same sense of anticipation and possibility. It is, after all, a wonderland of sorts, from refrigerators brimming with French butters, cheeses and creams to shelves upon shelves of flours, pastes and powders, chocolate, nuts and dried and canned fruit. Gleaming appliances and tools beckon, whispering promises of confections that fill the air with the warm scents of toasted sugar and spice.
This almost-mirage is one Ricky Soon is familiar with, having frequently experienced it himself as a customer.
“Before I joined the brand, I often visited Bake With Yen with my wife on her weekend trips to pick up baking supplies,” he says. “The stores were usually crowded and we always ended up buying more than we intended, thanks to the sheer variety and value-for-money prices. I have long had an attachment to this wonderful business, but never did I imagine I would someday have the privilege of leading it.”
After all, the charismatic CEO began his career at one of the Big Four accounting firms before spending 25 years in the retail arena. Previous roles at supermarkets, hypermarkets and health and beauty outfits colluded in preparing him to take Bake With Yen to the next level when he came on board in January 2019.
The genesis of this 54-store empire can be traced to a 720 sq ft space in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, where Yen Khong Moi set up shop in 1987. Little is known of the low-profile founder, except that she must be a tour de force of business acumen and customer insights, growing the humble store into the industry’s most reliable name. Business was centred primarily in the Klang Valley and Kota Kinabalu — Sabah hosts a regional office — with just one store in Ipoh until private-equity firm Creador bought a RM57 million stake in the 15-outlet chain to become a major shareholder in August 2017.
Since then, Bake With Yen has tripled in store count and is now the largest bakery ingredient chain in the country, with stores in every state except Perlis. Inventory multiplied accordingly to serve the myriad needs of diverse customer segments. To address baking trends in Asia and the voracious appetite for comforting baked goods, more than 10,000 products are now stocked on shelves. This necessitated new production facilities in Kota Kemuning and Kota Kinabalu, as well as bigger warehouses and substantial organisational growth.
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