“I knew that taking the conventional route wouldn’t get me to where I want to be in five years’ time.”
Ms Tang Hui Yi, 19, did not take the conventional route of education in Singapore, but is well on her way to achieving her dream.
Conventional Educational Route in Singapore
Education is heavily regarded in Singapore, where students spend about their entire youth chasing higher qualifications that would aid them with their desired career in future.
Students in Singapore usually go from Primary School, to Secondary School, to Junior College (JC), polytechnic (poly) or Institute of Technical Education (ITE), and then university.
Most students would follow the conventional route because of government subsidies and the recognition of our local institutions.
But not exactly for Hui Yi, who is already managing her small business full-time at the young age of 19.
She started baking ever since she was a child — watching baking shows and recreating the recipes even when she had no idea that it was a career option.
It was only after her N-Levels when she looked through the ITE course booklet and came across the ‘Pastry & Baking’ course, did she consider pursuing the childhood dream of hers to open her very own bakery.
She did some research and found that a private education institution, At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy, offers a 1.5-year diploma in Pastry and Baking with a more detailed curriculum, more hands-on projects, and opportunities upon graduation as compared to ITE.
There would be international chefs to guide her and also competitions that she could apply for.
But she did not meet the age requirement of 17 then and didn’t want to waste her time, so she decided to first join the ‘Pastry & Baking’ course in ITE for a few months, to gain more knowledge about the industry, until she was old enough to apply for At-Sunrice.
The cut-off point for Pastry & Baking in ITE was about 17 points for N-Levels then, and she scored 6 points.
Having Inevitable Doubts
“I definitely had my doubts as I was only 17 years old at that time,” said Hui Yi. “But I knew that taking the conventional route wouldn’t get me to where I want to be in five years’ time, which is to eventually open a bakery of my own.”
Even after enrolling into the GlobalChef Academy, she still had her doubts as she saw her batchmates having Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) and lectures in conventional institutions such as Junior Colleges, Polytechnics, and ITE.
“I thought I made the wrong choice but I soon realised that at the end of the day, I know that my journey and goals are different from others, hence, I stopped comparing and embraced my journey at At-Sunrice,” said Hui Yi.
Hui Yi took the 1.5-year diploma at At-Sunrice where she gained an eye-opening experience in the culinary industry and learned many essential culinary skills such as the “clean as you go” policy which has since become muscle memory for her.
“Practical-wise, I got to tap on every aspect of pastry, from hotel standard to home baking,” said Hui Yi. “I’ve also learned quite a bit of the business aspect.”
Starting A Small business of Her Own
Having the knowledge of culinary baking propelled her to start a small business, SugarBellySG, with her sister, where they sell her bakes online. Her sister helps with the marketing of the business.
“I feel that my passion for baking is contagious,” said Hui Yi. “I saw how I had the power to make people happy after eating my desserts and that made me feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Since its launch in April 2020, SugarBellySG has delivered its bakes to about 1,000 customers and gained more than 1,451 followers on Instagram.
They have also been featured in multiple publications such as The Straits Times.
Back when she was still attaining her education, Hui Yi was worried about taking the unconventional path, but she truly believes that it was the right choice for her.
While most of her peers are still in school now, Hui Yi is running her small business full-time, despite her young age.
She is confident about achieving her dream as she is extremely passionate about what she does and is happy baking for people every day.
“I believe that people can sense my passion and love through my desserts,” said Hui Yi. “I put my heart into what I do and I’m sure it’ll translate and succeed.”
As Hui Yi continues to take more orders and bake for her SugarBellySG customers daily, she works towards fulfilling her childhood dream of opening a physical shop, so that customers can buy and taste her bakes conveniently in the future.