We are pleased to share an interview conducted by Athena Chang, the Social Chair of Taiwanese American Professionals in New York (TAP-NY), and adapted for TaiwaneseAmerican.org. Special thanks also goes out to TAP-NY President, Bob Wu!
Terry Chen (TC): I am Taiwanese-American, born and raised in New York and have a passion for food. I went to school at NYU and basically have lived in Manhattan ever since. Currently I am a consultant but look to pursue my passion through my baking company called Filled With Sweets.
During some time off from my jobs, I started to think about what I really wanted to do and baking was something I always did as a hobby. I just started to experiment with flavors, mainly with the Asian flavors that I grew up with and love eating. Eventually I brought these baked goods to parties and my friends really liked what I was making, so then I decided to sell at Hester Street Fair…and have been moving forward ever since!
AC: Who and/or what inspired you to start your own dessert business?
TC: Being Taiwanese, I grew up with eating and enjoying Asian cuisines and flavors. I have always loved my heritage and would like to see more of it being represented in the U.S. My family loves food and I think that is deeply rooted in Taiwanese culture, so we are food lovers!
AC: How does your Taiwanese heritage influence or enhance your food endeavor?
TC: It is really the basis of everything I make and create. All the flavors I have been using, such as red bean, green tea and black sesame, stem from my childhood upbringing.
AC: You are a business consultant by day and decided to start your own food business on the side. What business advice did you give yourself?
TC: Haha. This is a very interesting question. As a consultant we create work plans to help structure our time and efforts so it’s also important for me to do that for my personal business as well.
AC: How did your Taiwanese parents think of your new business venture?
TC: They are very supportive and excited at the same time for me. They are always the first to try my creations and give me compliments. They are my biggest fans!
AC: What are the best selling flavors? Or products?
TC: For cupcakes, I would say black sesame, green tea, green tea and red bean and honey with jasmine. As far as cookies, the real winner is the Maple Black Sugar (黑砂糖) cookie. Personally, I love black sesame cupcake just because I am obsessed with black sesame!
AC: What are the challenges and successes so far?
TC: So far the biggest challenge is to really get my name out there, to increase my brand awareness. I can see it slowly gaining steam but really I would definitely hope my brand and sweets can gain access to more customers. The success I have enjoyed is when my products sell. I know it might be so little compared to other established brands but it makes me happy to know people like my products or at least like the way they look and they buy them.
AC: What do you think are your advantages that make you stand out?
TC: I really believe in my products and I have always told people that I make what I would want to eat. I also think it’s important to use healthy and high quality ingredients in all my products such as organic flour and sugar, range-free eggs, hormone-free milk. In addition, I don’t use too much butter and sugar in my baked goods because I personally prefer lighter and healthier Asian flavors even though I am making “sweet deserts”.
AC: How do you advertise your business?
TC: Right now, I use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Kickstarter. It is inspiring to see people from all over the country recognize your effort and work you put into. It is also a lot of word-of-mouth marketing.
AC: What is your goal for 2012?
TC: I would really want to secure someone (distributor) or somewhere (i.e. restaurant, café) to sell my products. Right now, I have a stand at Park Here at the Open Gallery in Soho for the winter time, but it is not permanent so it would be nice to have a spot or a store to provide my desserts.
AC: What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs?
TC: Gosh, I don’t really feel like I am ready to give advice yet! I would say it really is JUST DO IT, you know. Don’t doubt your ability and don’t think you are not good enough…at least not until you have tried. It is really about putting work into it and we will see what happens.