Like many mums of young children, Suzlina Rahman’s day starts at 5.30am.
What’s different is that after she sends off her two children, aged 11 and 4, to school, she cracks open her laptop to check emails and clear the week’s events with her team of bakers and deliverymen.
Suzlina, 39, is the founder of Curated by Suz, a small home business selling cookies and cakes made by single and stay-at-home mothers, helping them market their baked goods to the wider community. This arrangement provides an additional supplement to the bakers’ main source of income as they receive up to 80% of the profits made through the platform.
Suzlina tells The Pride: “After I left my full-time position in 2015, I volunteered with an association that helps domestic abuse victims. From this experience, I realised how strong this group of women were and the sacrifices they made for their children. Also, they had built their own support system in the shelters. They helped to care for each other’s kids when it became too overwhelming for the mothers. It made me think of ways I could help this group of women to move forward and for them to feel their worth, because along the way they forget how valued they are to society.
“I think that this is the same feeling for any mother out there, regardless of whether you are a domestic abuse victim or not. We tend to forget how much we are worth as we get too caught up with our multiple roles,” she adds.
So when an acquaintance who owned a boutique selling baju kurung wanted to venture into selling cookies as wedding favours in 2019, Suzlina realised that this was an opportunity to start a business to engage mothers as home bakers, as she knew there were many talented ones out there.
One of them is 40-year-old Lynn Hamid, a single mother to a 17-year-old son. Suzlina approached her with the idea and she became Curated by Suz’s first official home baker.
Single mum turns hobby into earnings
Lynn became a single mother at the young age of 23. For her, she started baking as a hobby in 2007 after she attended free classes for single mothers provided by the Singapore Muslim Women’s Association (PPIS).
The programme allowed single mothers like Lynn to earn extra income by baking and selling cookies every Hari Raya. Soon after, Lynn, who specialises in chocolate chip cookies and Nutella tarts, started baking for family and friends and started packing her cookies in small party packs.
Curated by Suz has helped Lynn, who has no knowledge in marketing, reach out to a wider audience instead of relying on the support of just family and friends.
“By working together with Suzlina, it grew my business and I am happy to know that my hobby has turned into a business and is generating income for me,” says Lynn.
Single mum juggles work, kids and baking
For Yannie, 39, who has two children aged 12 and 10 years old, Curated by Suz has allowed her to continue improving herself for their sake.
For the past seven years, Yannie has had to do most things alone, including taking care of her children’s needs including their finances, education, emotional and physical well-being.
Yannie shares, “I have no other people to help with my finances so I had to work full-time and depend on myself to ensure my family’s needs are taken care of. This made me stronger and independent.”
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Working with Suzlina provides Yannie the additional income that she needs to supplement her children’s and family’s needs. As a sales executive, she juggles her time between the kids and baking – spending weekends with the children, and baking in the night after she returns home from work.
“I also get to hone my baking skills as I like to bake. The feedback provided by customers helps me to improve to produce tastier treats for the customers.” she adds.
“I don’t employ them, it’s a partnership”
The three bakers from Curated by Suz have the necessary certifications to bake at home and they already have their own small group of customers. However, what they lacked was the marketing and development know-how to grow their businesses.
That is where Suzlina fills the gap. She tells The Pride that Curated by Suz helps to promote and market the baked goods to its own pool of customers and is continuously developing partnerships with selected businesses as a supplier of cookies, cakes and tarts.
“We seek partnerships and possible collaborations to create a win-win situation for our bakers and our partners. We also handle queries from customers. We do participate in food fairs as a team.
But it’s not just a business for her. It is a community partnership that she envisions.
“We do not employ these mothers to bake for us as I see it as a partnership with these mothers. We support each other in our respective areas of strength in order to build this business,” Suzlina tells The Pride.
She says the business model has been met with positive feedback from the public.
“Singaporeans are very generous people and I think it is in our upbringing to help others in times of need. We have customers as young as 17 who travelled from Woodlands to the East to collect tarts she ordered just to support our single mother bakers,” she shares with a smile.
During the circuit breaker, Suzlina had to put a pause to the business due to the Covid-19 clampdown on home-based businesses.
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This year, businesses were hit hard by Covid19, especially so for homebased businesses. . . Curated by Suz works with single mothers & stay at home mums,two vulnerable groups that were affected. But, we will not give up because we have a vision. . . This video is a showcase of our journey. This video is also dedicated to all entreprenuers. . . Don’t give up on your dreams. . . Xoxo, . Curated by Suz . . #empoweringwomen #sghomebusiness #sgbaked #halalfood #halal #cookies #honey #wedding #sgwedding #sgmalaywedding #chinesewedding #indianwedding #sgcorporategifts #corporateevents #sgcorporateevents #doorgifts #sgdoorgifts #socialentrepreneurship #socialentrepreneurs #socialenterprises #sgsocialenterprise #sghalalbakes #berkats #sghalalbakers #sgbakes #curatedbysuz #instafoodsg #rainbowcookies
When Phase 2 kicked in, she immediately put things back into motion and launched a new product – Yannie’s tapak kuda or horseshoe roll cake. As workers have started to return to the office, Suzlina says she has had requests for deliveries as a welcome back gift or to cheer someone up who is still working-from-home.
Suzlina also started planning again with corporate event partners, who have been similarly affected by the pandemic. As fellow entrepreneurs, they motivate one another to keep going.
“Sales can never be the same as last year. The world has come to a standstill and we can never go back to how it was pre-Covid but we have to make the best of what we have now and keep on working hard,” she says.
Running the business alone is not easy for Suzlina and while she gets a lot of encouragement from her single-mum partners, it is her children that inspire her to keep going when she doubts herself.
“I talk to my 11-year-old daughter frequently about my work and in one of our conversations I was talking about the longevity of my business. She asked me to continue what I am doing and not stop because one day she would like to continue my work too.
“Many times we have no idea the things we do have an indirect impact on others. When I heard what my daughter said, I was reminded that my purpose is to help others. It serves as a testament that what I am doing has a positive impact on her life too,” Suzlina shares.
Suzlina plans to increase the variety of products in Curated by Suz and partner with more single-mum bakers.
Although she works with bakers whom she already knows and trusts, Suzlina is keen to find other women that would be a good fit for the business. She also hopes to partner with organisations that believe in her cause to grow the business so that she can continue helping these mothers.
Suzlina says: “I would like to be able to give hope and encouragement to this strong group of women and for them to feel appreciated for their talents.”