TL;DR – Where flowers bloom, so does hope.
2020 hasn’t been easy for Joanne, the owner of home bakery Unsalted Butter.
The abrupt outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic had all her hopes and dreams for the future come crashing down all at once when the circuit breaker measures kicked in on Apr 7.
She was about to start her own café – something which she has been working towards two years ago. The former accountant decided on putting her plan into action after she was hit with an unexpected retrenchment which left her with no choice but to seek for an alternative solution.
And yes, you read that right – Joanne was retrenched.
She lost her job as a regional accountant with one Swedish watch brand almost immediately after her wedding. “I was told that there was an organisational change, and my position was made redundant with immediate notice,” she said.
“It was quite a big shock for me, especially when my workload had been increasing ever since I joined the company,” Joanne added.
Adding to Joanne’s woes was the financial burden of the new shoplot, “I just signed the Tenancy Agreement (TA) for the café in January – right before COVID-19 turned into a global pandemic, and renovation is underway. And that is one of my biggest commitments amongst others.”
A rocky start
The 29-year-old has been working in the financial profession ever since she had graduated from the university.
In other words, she had no prior experience in starting or running a café for that matter, and clearly, lady luck wasn’t on her side either.
“Everything was going fine until the virus hit us hard at the start of the year. My business partner and I found a shoplot after lots of running and looking around. Then we tried to push through renovations and required applications. However, everything came to a halt after the circuit breaker restriction kicked in. We had a very difficult time with the landlord. There was no room for negotiation at all, and we were already facing huge losses because it was impossible to operate the cafe with the safety measures.”
Fortunately, she managed to find her way around the bumpy start.
To cope with her losses, she decided to take her business online, where she can still reach out to the public with her products.
“There are many more facets of things that I need to take care of. For instance, customer relationship management (CRM), marketing, logistics, to name a few,” said Joanne.
“However, the biggest challenge of all will be physical exhaustion due to long working hours. Even though I’m already used to long working hours since I came from the finance background, but to stand and whisk all day long as compared to sitting in an air-conditioned environment, it is not quite the same,” she said.
“It is tiring, but I get a sense of accomplishment whenever I receive compliments from my customers,” Joanne added.
Be multi-skilled, be keen to learn
Changing course in a career would inevitably mean taking a “pay cut”.
However, Joanne took the pay cut in her stride. Perhaps it helps a little that Joanne has always been someone who values skills and experience over other things.
“I feel that having more than one skill is very useful and the experiences that I have had in different industries when I was working as a part-timer have helped to shape what I am today.”
Besides being a certified nail technician, a trained barista, Joanne also took up the Professional Coffee Roaster’s Course with her SkillsFuture Credit.
She believes that learning is a never-ending process, “You will never know how these skills will benefit you in the future. So, if you have an interest in learning new things, don’t hesitate, just go ahead and learn it!”
In the Budget 2020 announcement in February, the Singapore Government has also announced a $500 SkillsFuture Credit top-up for Singaporeans, making learning a new skill much more affordable now.
On top of the SkillsFuture credit, there is also the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy for Singaporeans aged 40 and above.
For Singaporeans aged 25 and above, courses offered by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG)-Appointed Continuing Education & Training (CET) Centres are also heavily subsidised, subsidizing up to 90% of the course fee.
Have you read the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) General Election manifesto?
On top of protecting Singaporeans’ lives in view of the COVID-19 threat, the manifesto is also focusing on helping businesses and jobs, so that Singaporeans can protect our livelihoods.
Young Singaporeans entering the job market will be supported with career support, as well as be offered free continuing education and training to help them pick up additional skills and knowledge while the job market recovers.
Looking at the grants and subsidies from the Government for continuous adult learning, perhaps we don’t really need the SkillsFuture education loan as the Workers’ Party has suggested in their General Election 2020 manifesto, do we?
From retrenchment to COVID-19, despite the immense challenges she faced, Joanne believes that resilience and adaptability are key traits for survival. And if anything, help, and support are available.
Like many other Singaporeans whose livelihoods have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, Joanne has also applied for the Temporary Relief Fund (TRF) and is waiting for her Self-Employed Person (SEP) Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) application to be approved.
“Personally, I think the Government is doing a good job in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. To introduce four budgets within a short span of four months is really impressive!”
When asked what’s her takeaway amidst the unprecedented challenges, Joanne said that one thing she learned is to “never say die”. When God closes a door, he opens a window. So, never give up once you have set your mind on doing something.
In short, bite the bullet and persevere, she added.
As its brand suggests, Joanne explained that Unsalted Butter (“Muyeom” in Korean) uses only unsalted butter for their bakes.
For those who have yet to try their bakes, Joanne recommends their Walnut Banana Gugelhupf (a type of European cake), the Black Tea Chocolate Scone, and the Earl Grey Lemon Tea Cake.
And here’s a tip: Do check out their Instagram @muyeombutter for the earliest delivery slot available because the slots are filling up real fast.
But be assured that the baker-and-assistant team is trying their best to churn out more delicious pastries by baking 16-hours a day!
Covid Stories is a series about resilience and adaptability. It’s about ordinary people in Singapore and how their lives have been impacted by COVID or any other lemons thrown their way during this pandemic.
“She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.”
― Elizabeth Edwards