Moving Dapiku Sweets“The brightly colored Instagram feed is a visual feast, with unconventional flavored desserts and quirky graphic illustrations.
Their eclectic collection of sweets is a fun and playful touch to local flavors, with bold pairings that keep their fans hungry for more.
From their home in Bukit Batok, Lee Jian Yun, 34, and his partner Aliff Tee, 32, work full-time building aesthetically pleasing jams for hungry customers in Singapore.
They run their homemade bakery mainly on Instagram
The man behind the ovens is Jian Yun (also known as JY).
He started Dapiku Sweets in 2017 as a creative outlet for his cooking hobby, but only opened it to sales a year later when the demands came.
Dapiku resident illustrator Aliff is in charge of the back-end with marketing-related work and provides an extra pair of hands in the kitchen.
“When we saw an opportunity in the market, we decided to take (the business) seriously and our menu evolved organically to what we offer now,” JY said.
The homemade bakery started out as Tapiku, with a sashaying tapir with an “impressive back” as a pet. They soon realized that another business in Taiwan had a similar brand, so Dapiku, Big ass, which means big jaw in Mandarin, was born along with the slogan “happy to eat you”.
JY and Aliff were fans of Shokugeki No Soma, an anime about students struggling in a culinary school. The protagonist Soma, has a phrase that fell in love, osomatsu, or “happy to serve.”
“With each order, we have the opportunity to create new food memories. We are very grateful to be able to feed people, ”added JY.
Jump from the bench to the F&B
While her dessert might suggest otherwise, JY never attended culinary school.
In fact, like most of Singapore, he took the conventional path of education and went to college and university, where he specialized in banking and finance. Still, he knew that the future of banking was not what he really wanted.
I was always obsessed with sweets anyway and always wanted to work in the kitchen. When he was in college, he started working in restaurants, though not in the pastry department.
At the restaurant where he worked, JY was commissioned to prepare live seafood, but he got so hooked on all the sea creatures sent to the restaurants that he started calling them. Finally, when the animals had to be killed, he was overwhelmed with guilt.
“When the locust nightmares that haunted me started, I knew I wasn’t cut for work. So the moment an opportunity opened up at the restaurant to launch into pastry, I made the change and never left, ”JY recounted.
As he continued to work in restaurants, he realized much of his life was being lost. He had to work instead of being present at family events, celebrations, vacations and his cats.
When he suffered the pandemic, he found himself working 28-hour shifts despite a pay cut, taking a quick nap only when his pasta was baking in the oven.
“I felt trapped in that bubble and couldn’t understand why I was working harder,” JY said. “I became increasingly detached from everything I created at work. That’s when I found out I had to get out of the kitchen. “
Since Dapiku was already a project he had been working on, he naturally changed his approach to making it grow as a company.
Transfer visual communication skills to dessert
Dapiku Sweets, which offers European-style ovens and sweets with intriguing Asian inflections, has a refreshing collection that stays true to its brand. They take unconventional flavor pairings and make them work; think of a burnt miso cheesecake with a brown butter almond base or a lychee chestnut pie.
The belief that desserts should be fun is reflected in their cheerful and unknown brand.
Aliff is responsible for branding, advertising and related graphic design, and is no stranger to creative advertising. He worked as a graphic designer, having spent more than eight years in the creative industry.
Aliff always had a fondness for F&B. His family was engaged in food business, from selling nasi lemak to running a coffee shop. He has also helped his uncle peanut ice cream shop.
He only joined Dapiku Sweets full time when he discovered that JY was finally selling his sweets and felt it was a great opportunity as he truly believed in the potential of the business.
The visual communication graduate transferred his design skills and applied them to the bakery. He designed cakes together with JY in line with the brand, incorporating Dapiku’s outstanding peculiarity into the products.
Creating products that stand out
JY and Aliff try to find a balance between the familiar and the unconventional.
They also work closely with customers on personalization according to personal preferences and cater to people with a variety of dietary needs, from vegan cakes to gluten-free cakes. Customers who want something more special can also opt for personalized illustrations and messages.
The couple loves to have all the creativity in custom orders, so they can come up with flavor pairings. JY’s trajectory in restaurants also helped him be bold and experimental with his flavors.
Dapiku Sweets delights are made in a Muslim home.
“Using halal-only ingredients is a challenge, but we wanted to be inclusive for everyone. We also wanted to break the perception that halal food is of a lower standard, ”explained JY.
Over the years, its customer base has expanded to the local Muslim community, despite some initial hesitation and confusion due to the Chinese brand name. The couple stresses the importance of making products that not only taste good and look good, but are inclusive enough for everyone to enjoy.
Their current popular products are dessert boxes, burnt cheesecakes and cookies. One of JY’s personal favorites is his red bean “burger,” which includes red beans and honey. pure dog pasta, tangerine orange, kinako dango and fresh shiso sandwiched between two dacquoise almonds.
“Singapore tends to follow trends where there will be a high demand for a particular item before it suddenly fades,” JY noted about how their products change over time.
Their burnt cheesecakes, however, remain popular today as they feel the trend has stabilized and found their way into the hearts and bellies of people across the island.
Rolling in the dough despite the Covid-19
What started just as a creative outlet for the couple is now a business that now has more traction among B2B customers.
Increasingly, companies have approached Dapiku Sweets to create visually appealing dessert products with exciting flavors.
The team of two takes care of everything on their own, from conceptualizing, cooking and marketing, to receiving orders and managing payments. The only aspect that is outsourced is deliveries because neither can drive.
As a home-based business, they initially faced difficulties. For example, creating accounts with suppliers was difficult due to issues with the minimum order quantity.
“Starting from the beginning while juggling our full-time jobs was very difficult. We spent many sleepless nights cooking and going back to work the next day, ”JY recalled.
When they started, they didn’t do too much marketing and grew organically through word of mouth and making a presence in flea and event markets.
Their business soon grew by 40% when notable Instagram influencers helped showcase their products. Because they rely heavily on social media marketing, the couple is constantly updated on Instagram’s constant changes in their algorithm.
When gastronomic restrictions were announced, they saw a big jump in orders when people started sending care packages to their friends and families. Media attention to the #circuitbakers cooking trend also brought home bakers like Dapiku Sweets to the forefront.
JY and Aliff are also very open to collaborations with other small local businesses. Most notable is that they were associated Makbibik to create savory sweet cookies with yours serenity, a spicy Malay coconut condiment.
Currently, however, they face more storage issues as their business gains more strength, so JY and Aliff have had to reorganize their home to free up space for new stocks and packaging.
“Maintaining steady business growth is also a challenge due to budget, changing landscapes and labor constraints,” JY said.
For now, Dapiku Sweets is working to scale its business to open up a physical retail space, where they can increase their production capacity.
They also hope to hire new talent and provide a safe and inclusive workspace for people who want to enter the F&B industry.
Featured Image Credit: Dapiku Sweets