Sugar World Academy

One of baking studio that caught our attention for quite a long time is Sugar World Academy. It began when we saw a very realistic Master Yoda’s (Star Wars) figurine on Sugar World Academy’s post in Instagram to introduce Dorothy Klerck’s class on March 2017. We continued scrolling down to see more flower gum paste, painted cookies, and more figurines. We couldn’t wait to visit Sugar World Academy while waiting for the appropriate moment. Now is the right time, with our monthly theme Cake Decoration, we met Dewi Hasan, owner of Sugar World Academy in Promenade 20, Kemang. Dewi Hasan told us the story of Sugar World, the reason why she chose Kemang, the main point of baking studio business, and also her criteria in choosing an instructor.

I saw growing amount of baking studio business, is the opportunity in the industry that promising?

When I started 5 years ago, there were not too many schools like this. We’ve been here (Promenade 20, Kemang) for 4 years. The business began when I had to replace a pregnant friend of mine to be a host (baking demo) for the guests. From there, everything went well, many people even encouraged me to continue the business and move to permanent place.

Before, we were located in a multipurpose room in apartment where I live in Setiabudi, Kuningan. Because we use apartment’s facility, every morning and afternoon we have to move the equipments around, including the coffee machine, we were getting tired. Finally we decided to move to Kemang because when you aim for exclusive market, it’s the right place. I chose the building because it has wide parking basement, actually it’s crucial for students because if they have to park on the street, they would got stressed, “will my car be fined? Will it be scratched?” Some students even asked how much the all day parking fee here (free parking in Promenade 20).

As the number of our students grew, many people think that the business is nice, easy to do, and prospective. Many of the current baking studio owners are our ex-students or students from other baking studios. Of course, everyone has their own management style. No wonder you see many baking studios are closing down because, I’d say that hosting a class is not a walk in the park, it’s not easy and you have to pay attention to details.

Similar to coffee shop trends, they think it’s cool and easy to have one, then they open their own..

Yes, they don’t understand the difficulties. I invited a coffee expert here, and it’s not easy as it seems. If you drink instant coffee, it will taste the same, but when you have specialty coffee, grind size and brewing method will give different taste. A coffee expert can adjust the taste to be more chocolatey or fruity. Then, what if your barista is absent, you start to have problem. So does baking studio. If you don’t know the “know hows” it’s difficult to maintain.

What is Sugar World Academy’s concept?

We’re more to cake decorating because it’s our core business from start. If we have baking class, it’s just supplement because some of our students also want to learn how to make the cake, often we taught home style, traditional cakes or cake that can be used as base for decoration. I don’t have very sophisticated class for entremets, etc.

Please explain the trend shifting in cake decoration?

It’s always changing, this year we focus more on wedding cake, so we invite many experts in that area. Before, we had figurine trend made of gum paste. When we just started, the trending cakes are based on fondant that can be shaped into mixer, shoe, or animals. Now people are moving toward something that can be sold easily. There was also a time where buttercream was coming back, that’s why have many Korean tutors which are famous because of their buttercream. Even though we invite many international tutors, we always try to use ingredients that we can find here. It’s waste to learn something if you can’t make it using available ingredients.

Who’s your target audience?

We’re more specific to top level hobbyist. Some of our students sell their cakes, but we also have students who are just doing their hobby, they make cake and give it to their friends and families who are having birthday parties.

Where did your tutors come from?

From various countries, but the trending tutors are from Russia. They don’t used to get too exposed, but this year, we have so many good Russian tutors. Other tutors come from Australia, America, South Korea, Holland, etc. We also have some local tutors, usually to build solid foundation as we call it basic foundation class. Meanwhile, the international tutors are teaching the advanced master class, it is recommended for those who want to join the master class to join the basic foundation class first.

What’s the biggest challenge in running the business?

Sometimes we have the same demo schedule with other baking studios who also invite tutor with the same level of skill and popularity. The target audience from this business is actually very exclusive and small, so we have to be extra careful when we invite a tutor. We have to check,

what kind of event on the date. Other things that should be checked is the Ramadhan month or national holiday, as many people prefer to go out of town at that times. We have to be able to make good scheduling plan.

Other than that, when you invite tutors from abroad, they need time to adapt with the time zone, also the climate. If they had their flower gum paste dry quicker in where they come from, it might took longer here. There’s so many adjustments to make when you habe international tutors.

You might get the questions frequently, but do you take any cake orders from clients?

No, but I always refer the client to our students. Some of our students own online cake shop, they also able to make very good products, so I always give the orders to them, that’s how they get business opportunities.

How big is Sugar World Academy’s community?

So far, our total students who come and go may reach 4000 people, quite numerous. The number comes from Indonesia and all over the world, such as Australia, India, Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Iran, Lebanon. The specifically come to Indonesia to join the class with the instructor they really want. If they feel comfortable, usually the will return.

How does the slowed down economy affect the business?

It all depends on how you run the business. I run it for hobby, but I also see many people start the business just for fun, or even just for profit, you can’t do that! What happen is, you have to put aside your ego, no problem, but obviously the service has to be good to keep the customers coming back. What most people don’t realize is, this is actually a service business, so you have to prioritize customer’s comfort and satisfaction. If they are happy, they’d tell friends and families, if they aren’t, they will also tell people, even more, but negatively.

Once again, it’s a service industry. Similar to when you visit 2 star hotel and 5 star, you’ll have different service. Now it’s up to you, which hotel will you become? However, as long as you’re happy and passionate, the business will run well.

What’s your future plan?

Because it’s a very niche and personalized market, I don’t have any plans to open a branch. Perhaps we’ll intensify the business by having more selected tutors.

What are your criteria for Sugar World Academy’s tutor?

At least they have something to be exhibited, it can be winner of a cake competition, contributor of a magazine, author of a book, the point is, they have significant work and have techniques that are worth learning for. If it’s just about making good and neat cake, anyone can do that, but technique is crucial.

How about Chinese tutors? 

I’ve heard good things about China’s decorating industrygrowth.

They are good, but because the population is immense, they’re more to mass-product. If you find good tutor, most of the times they are very detailed and have complicated technique, as a result, it will take a week to make the cake. The question is, if you need a week to make one, even I can’t stand to learn that long. Then, when you try to sell that kind of cake, your customers will yell at you because it would be too expensive. So, we try to be rational.

Sugar World Academy
The Promenade 20, Jl. Bangka Raya No.20, Jakarta Selatan, Indonesia