The recipe for success: Infusing business with passion

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Despite the string of sweet treat fads that come and go, cupcakes have turned out to be more than just a temporary craze.

Meet RMIT alumni Samantha Quek and Ernest Tan, the pair who successfully turned their passion for cake-making into a money-making venture that Instagrammers can’t get enough of. It seems really easy when you’re reading someone else’s success story, but there are so many challenges and hard lessons learned on the journey to living out your passion. Here’s the Cupplets guide to turning a dream into a sweet reality.

The word ‘couplet’ means a pair of complementary lines. “I think Ernest and I sum up the idea of a couplet really well. One is analytical and loves symmetry, and the other is free-spirited and crafty. These differences complement the way we work and have grown as business partners over the years,” says Sam (as Samantha prefers to be known). And it was this thinking that inspired the quirky name for their venture.

But the journey for this ‘Cupplet’ wasn’t an easy one.

Don’t rely on anyone but yourself

Their first endeavour – a hotdog kiosk when they were just 18 years old – taught the pair probably one of the most valuable lessons; train to become skilled and completely self-reliant.

“Business was good in the first year, but in the second year our supplier stopped importing a particular type of sausage. As a result, sales went down and we quickly realised that we needed to be self-reliant,” she says.

Inspiration struck when Sam discovered YouTube videos posted by a cupcake connoisseur in the US. “I watched them over and over, then I called Ernest and we headed to the nearest electronic store to purchase our first oven and hand mixer. We wanted to give ourselves another go at running an F&B business, so we first spent two and a half years figuring out what to do with flour and butter by watching videos and reading blogs.”

In their last semester at RMIT, with just five recipes in their notebook, Sam and Ernest decided to take the leap. And while they admit the early days were daunting at times, their Bachelor of Business (Management) degree definitely came in handy. 

“At RMIT I learnt to work as part of a team. The Organisational Behaviour module, for instance, focused on how human behaviour can affect decisions, and taught us the importance of distinguishing between good business sense and personal interest,” explains Sam.

Stand out from the crowd with creativity

Sam and Ernest’s passion for what they do is evident in every cupcake. They go the extra mile and treat each cake as a blank canvas. Their customisable cupcakes come in eye-catching colours – from summer peach and forest green to Cuban purple, a rainbow of sweet treats awaits you. They are equally inventive with flavours, making cupcakes such as yuzu banana with passionfruit curd, brown butter gula melaka, and lychee and rose.

“We are constantly trying out new ideas and take our time with each design. It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small; it’s still going to be important to someone. Our creativity is what sets us apart from the rest,” says Ernest.

Embrace obstacles to grow

“Continuous learning is essential,” says Ernest. “The first six months were a huge challenge, but we have learnt to be strong. We are constantly learning and growing with every order that comes in.”

As a fledgling business, Cupplets faces a variety of challenges – whether it is their small team that needs to stretch itself to cater to large orders and liaise with suppliers, or coordinating logistics – but the founders are always thinking about their next steps.

“We want to focus on our e-commerce site, to show off all the products we offer and make placing orders more convenient for our customers,” says Sam.

As parting advice, Sam says: “Running a business is a continuous journey that’s filled with ups and downs. You will trip, so learn to look at the ground and not just straight ahead. That way you can avoid tripping the next time around.”

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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.