The decision to switch careers is a difficult one to make, especially if you are leaving behind years of hard work that rightfully placed you in a highly regarded position. Thankfully, the stigma of choosing your passion over, say, the high-paying and prestigious option is fading. Many try to follow their dreams after aeons of doing jobs their parents thought suitable. This, however, was not the case for Chong Yi Qie, who worked for many years as an AirAsia X stewardess — she loved her job. “I love to travel and the freedom to fly here and there. I made a lot of friends. I really loved it,” she says.
Chong then got to a point in her life when she wanted to get married and have a child, and thought being a stewardess was not flexible enough for this transition. She decided to quit her job but wanted a vocation that fulfilled her. “I wanted to do something from home,” she adds. Obsessed with candy, lollipops in particular, Chong learnt from a friend the basics of making her own. After a lot of practice — and a little assistance from YouTube and Google — she began her business in September 2017.
Poplicious Candy Factory sells beautifully designed lollipops that can be customised to suit any occasion. From Chinese New Year to a baby shower or even a Valentine’s Day bouquet, these lollipops will provide your celebration with that added sense of fun. “They make people happy. Regular candy doesn’t feel as special as a lollipop,” says Chong.
The venture allows her creative side to flourish and it unearthed her natural aptitude for business. With the help of her friends, she built a website and formulated her brand, making her candy at home.
What makes Chong’s lollipops so special is that they are quite healthy. She has replaced sugar with isomalt, a sweetener with a very low calorific value of only two calories per gram. This ingredient also does not cause tooth decay, nor does it influence your blood glucose or insulin level. For Chong, health is paramount, especially when she thought about the young ones. “Children like to eat candy but it causes cavities and other health problems, so I think isomalt is a good replacement for sugar.” She is happy to let her son enjoy his favourite dinosaur-shaped lollipops without having to worry about the ill effects.
At first, one of the challenges Chong faced was trying to convince customers that her lollipops were sugar-free. “It was too new, so some people found it hard to accept and they asked, ‘Are you sure because it’s too colourful’.” Another challenge was finding ways to sell the lollipops online, she says.
Chong began by promoting her products on Facebook and using the Facebook Live function. Having never done this before, she looked to other candy shops, such as Boncha Boncha from Taiwan, to learn strategies that she could adopt. “I looked at the popular pages, at how they did their Facebook ads and how they wrote their different captions and advertisements,” she explains.
She also tried selling her candies at bazaars, but after two attempts, she realised “it was not that good because it takes up a lot of time. You have to be there from 10am to 10pm. Because I have a child, it’s not suitable for me”.
From handmade embellishments on her lollipops that were quite tedious to make but aesthetically pleasing, Chong evolved her products to suit her customers. “My ideas come from what the consumers want. At the first stage, all my candies had handmade designs — fully candy. After that, I changed to printing on icing paper because I found that my customers wanted photos,” she explains.
You can customise Poplicious Candy Factory’s lollipops to include a printed image of your loved ones or any special words. This has made Chong’s products perfect for all kinds of events, from weddings to business conferences. “The standard size is 3.5cm. I also offer 5cm and 15cm — as big as your face,” she says. With the help of her friends, she was able to promote her products to event managers and companies, which use her lollipops as healthy door gifts. Now, she focuses on bulk orders from 50 and above, with a few exceptions.
With her team of four working on making and packaging the candy, Chong has time to focus on her marketing strategies while also sorting out her daily orders. Poplicious Candy Factory can make a maximum of 1,000 lollipops a day and it ships worldwide. Chong is also working on concocting exciting flavours to add to her product range, without jeopardising the low calorific value.
When asked when was the moment she felt that her career change had been worth it, Chong says, “The first day I started this business, because I believe that when you want to do something, you have to put in all your effort, then you will surely be successful.” It is surely this determination that has made Poplicious Candy Factory a sweet success.
This article first appeared on Nov 18, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.