Tell us more about Cheese N Dough. What's the story of your company starting up and how you've built it up to where it is now?
The idea of Cheese & Dough came about when my mother, someone known around our family and friends as the one who cooks with an exceptionally Singaporean touch (seeing as she’s married to a Singaporean and lived there for the first few years of her marriage and had her culinary rite of passage through our very, very Singaporean auntie) began her pizza-making phase. After several attempts at emulating authentic Neopolitan style pizzas, I had the idea to change her approach and to add her identity and a personal touch of wholesome Singaporean flavours, into a more manageable New York style pizza. What was just meant for potlucks and gatherings soon became a legitimate business idea as friends and families urged her to open up orders for sale.
At that time I was working in management at the biggest Japanese restaurant chain in Brunei. Realising the potential of Cheese & Dough, I took a leap of faith and quit to go all in for the business. I ran the business/operations side while my mother focused on the menu for a few years up until 2017, and until now Cheese & Dough is fully run by my wife and I.
The biggest factor that keeps us running, I believe, is the consistency of our product quality and the constant pursuit to be as customer-oriented as possible.
This second wave of the pandemic is back to affecting our day to day lives and again, one of the most impacted groups are small businesses. In the first wave last year, can you share how COVID-19 impacted your business?
The biggest impact that we felt from COVID-19 was that dreaded feeling of uncertainty. Uncertainty in how much the market will change, are we even able to legally continue operating? Will our stock run dry? What will happen if there’s a total lockdown? Is it even safe to interact with customers that are essentially strangers? As business relies on structure, the pandemic really threw us for a loop.
Faced with the same situation today, what is your approach into Brunei’s second wave of the pandemic in keeping your business operations running and your team motivated while staying safe?
Now that we have some level of experience facing COVID-19, we are more assured in creating a system that can be efficient while adhering to the standard operating procedures. Zero compromise on safety is a must, even if it’s at the expense of our overheads. Thankfully our customers are more appreciative of our measured approach compared to the first wave.
What advice do you have for other small business owners?
Keep having faith in God that it’s just a matter of time until this blows over. Use the extra time (if there’s any) to fine-tune your system, marketing, product quality and budgeting. This is the time to show your leadership to your staff, not only in their work but more importantly on their mental health as it is as trying to them as it is to you. Use your platform to send more positivity to your customers and followers because your company is more than a business.