To Alicia, macarons aren’t just round meringue-based pastries with cream sandwiched in the middle. Hers come with character faces, fast food imitations, floral designs, and more.
Of course, she didn’t jump into making the character-based macarons from the start. She began with making the classic round shapes, a hobby picked up after stumbling upon a tutorial video during her final semester in university.
With a culinary diploma, Alicia figured it’d be easy enough to recreate the sweet confection. It turned out to be a challenge though, but one that she was willing to tackle and even conquer, which was why she eventually began making them more complex.
Her first design was of plum blossom patterns, inspired by the atmosphere of Chinese New Year back in her East Malaysian hometown. When her friends saw her work, they suggested she sell her macarons, triggering her to eventually launch her business, Bakaron by Alicia.
Entrepreneurship wasn’t the original plan
Growing up with businessman parents, Alicia witnessed the resilience and patience required to run a company; she didn’t want to do the same. But once her macarons found buyers, she knew she had to pursue this venture.
“When I told my mom that I would like to start my own macaron business, she was so worried and against me venturing into it,” Alicia recalled. “But believing in myself, I’ve decided to take up the challenge and felt that this would be a really great achievement for me. I continued to practice and create new flavours and design, and this is what keeps me going.”
As an F&B entrepreneur running her venture with only the help of one assistant, Alicia pointed out that one of the most challenging parts of running Bakaron by Alicia is the long hours required. 10 to 12-hour days are normal for her, spent on managing customer demands and preparing the pastries.
Giving the pastries some character
Due to the process of making the character-based macarons, customers should preorder at least 3 days in advance. This gives Alicia time to review, conceptualise, and interpret their orders in her own art style.
She’d spend 3 hours in the morning to pipe and bake the base of the macarons and another 3-4 hours in the afternoon to draw the designs on top.
If any shells crack in the oven, the whole process has to be redone, from preparing her ingredients to piping, baking, and decorating. “I usually bake around 130 shells, but I try not to make up to 160 shells in one day to ensure that I have enough time to finish my orders,” she said.
Sold in boxes of 6 and 12, Bakaron by Alicia also offers a “maccake” which consists of 20 macarons bundled together with a ribbon so it looks like a full-sized cake.
“My pricing is mostly dependent on the designs that are requested. The more [complicated designs] will usually be at a higher price because it requires more time to make [them],” she shared. “Prices for our macaron [products] will range between RM38 to RM200 depending on what set the customer chooses.”
It’s worth noting that Bakaron by Alicia isn’t the only one making character-based macarons in the local market. Macarons.bymadeleine does so too, with prices ranging from RM45 for a 6-piece character box, to RM180 for its large 30-piece macaron tower.
While there might be a target market overlap between the two, Bakaron by Alicia is likely serving Mandarin-speaking customers primarily, based on its social media posts captioned in Chinese.
The character-based macaron market is far from being saturated, unlike the plain macaron one. One reason why could be due to the extra labour necessary to create the more detailed pastries. With Bakaron by Alicia and Macarons.bymadeleine being small, Instagram-based businesses in this niche space, the focus then shouldn’t be on competition.
Instead, it could be said that their simultaneous existence has the advantage of bringing more character-based macarons to the Malaysian market while building a bigger market for the dessert.
Leveraging the gifting market
Although Bakaron by Alicia was launched in 2018, the 26-year old shared that business only picked up during the first MCO. Customers began gifting her desserts to friends and family during birthday celebrations.
With that data, Alicia’s now actively looking for more opportunities in festivities and celebrations to push out her desserts to leverage the gifting market.
During Mother’s Day, for example, the baker collaborated with a local florist to sell their products as a bundle. She’s also made Christmas and Chinese New Year-themed macarons for the respective celebrations.
As long as Bakaron by Alicia keeps up its promotional strategies and maintains the taste of its desserts, the business should attract repeat customers coming back for more. Alicia confirmed this, sharing that of the 10-15 orders coming in per day, 40% of them come from returning customers.
If word of mouth or social media posts travel from these customers, Bakaron by Alicia could attain the interest of corporate clients, meaning larger quantity orders. To keep up with the rise in demands, the baker would require more hands on deck, and Alicia’s already thinking about her expansion.
“We hope that we can expand to a larger team of 3 or 4 in the next 3 years. Also, we would like to open our own bakery specialising in macarons,” said Alicia.
You can learn more about Bakaron by Alicia here.You can read about more F&B startups we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Bakaron by Alicia