Think of Plain Vanilla and decadent and delicious cupcakes will come to mind, so it probably isn’t all too surprising that the brand founded by lawyer-turned-bakery-entrepreneur Vanessa Kenchington now has four outlets. Not that these sweet treats are the only yummy things available on the menu of course—some of the other popular favourites include the granola bowls and savoury sets.
But running a business is never easy, much less keeping one afloat or successful. We got Vanessa to share the challenges she has faced in her journey and her best piece of business advice.
You practised law before starting your own bakery. What gave you the push to enter the market?
I desired for my work to have a more direct impact on the community. I thought about the skills I had that might lead me to start a viable business and, having baked at home for almost eight years before leaving law, believed opening a bake shop would be my best shot!
What gives Plain Vanilla its edge?
Simple food done consistently well; the pursuit of quality food that’s true to cuisine and traditions, without riding on trends or gimmicks; and pride in building relationships with regular customers.
In your opinion, what’s in a cupcake?
For us, it represents the belief that the simplest things are the most satisfying, and is a treasured moment for us to take the time to savour what we already have and reconnect with what really matters to us.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had in your entrepreneurial journey, and how did you overcome it?
It’s striking a balance among relentlessly pursuing brand goals, maintaining self-care and making time for family. It is an ongoing journey!
Does expansion mean things have gotten easier, or harder?
The launch of our online store this year too, if we may add!
It has allowed us to continue to bring to life the Plain Vanilla way of life in renewed, meaningful ways, and to more communities in Singapore, such as the wellness-conscious professionals in Telok Ayer and everyday consumers who shop at ION Orchard.
Each store presents a platform for us to offer more than just cupcakes—hot deli food, lifestyle products, and collaborations with other like-minded companies, including our sister floristry brand, Wonderland Botanicals.
The brand recently partnered with Her World to release a curated pastry set. Tell us more about the collaboration.
We created two exclusive bakes—Chestnut Cream Cupcake and Basque Cake—to celebrate their 60th anniversary.
With every collaboration bake purchased, 10 percent of the proceeds will be donated to Daughters of Tomorrow and the first 300 customers will receive a free three-month digital subscription to Her World.
As a female-led business ourselves, we believe in and support businesses that make meaningful impact on female communities. Whether it’s championing the financial independence of women or providing value-adding lifestyle content, we feel honoured to have collaborated with these partners.
What’s one piece of advice you have for aspiring business owners?
I’ll share one of my favourite quotes from Franklin Roosevelt: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Be tenacious, have courage and, whatever you do, never stop trying.