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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

We're only human

Sometime last week I had this conversation with Aiman about human being. Everyone of us are leaders at different point in time. Why? Because we need to make a decision sometimes.

I recently read an article explaining about the leadership of our Prophet Muhammad SAW and how we could learn a lot from him leadership and decision-making skills. Two main points mentioned were 
  1. how he kept his words and was trusted by all.
  2. how he used his time with focus and self-discipline. He was a leader without a title, in today's world that speaks volume. 
Leader in today's context may carry a few meaning i.e. the head of a team, owner of a business, teachers, CEOs, someone you report to, a manager etc. As long as you are in a position of making decision, you need to practice both good decision making skill and leadership skill. That includes (and not limited to):
  • how you communicate: with people older than you, lower rank than you, your peers, colleagues, clients
  • having a transformational instead of transactional leadership style. In today's workforce, you may see leaders being paid a premium but you may not see the agreed business plan materialise
  • a listener and is able to accept dissent. We humans cannot hear the words "You are wrong" when in fact, different/fresh ideas are what makes a plan more interesting and sometimes work 
  • exemplary EQ which was something very apparent in our Prophet. In accomplishing his mission, he never gave up, instead persisted and never lost hope. Patience higher than the sky!
I felt the need to pen this down today because I don't think speaking to another human would help. In fact, being human, the person I speak to may even interject and not listen but instead think I'm preaching for no legit reasons. Sometimes I feel a little frustrated reading the news about unnecessary problems in this country that should not even have happened in the first place, and then you look closer to small ecosystem like in an organisation or even a business, believe me a lot of petty unnecessary issues.

We have one too many (wannabe) leaders shouting different things. No one willingly backs down and that is the reason why a problem does not get solved. Because we are human, and it is like a second nature for us to not back down. Instead you will want to shout louder to make sure your point is heard. We also have the 'I'm the head so you listen to me' leader.

I keep reminding myself not to fall into this trap of fighting back because there's really no point, especially with humans who want to hear what they want to hear - that it's always better to be the bigger person, because even though what you say mat be right, sometimes one may just refuse to listen. 

Instead, pray that Allah SWT will open the hearts of His creations including me to look at things positively and may he give his creations patience :) On a lighter note, my colleague just made me Ice Shaken Lychee Tea!! Gosh, I really have it going for me huh, a lot to be thankful for!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Double A Cafe KL - What next?

Fuhhhhhhh. 


We've only been running for a month now and I realise that having your own business means you're always working! In the shower you'll be thinking about that cake you really wanted to do R&D-ing, and then a customer calls just when you're about to take a 2 minutes nap to ask if Double A is open and sometimes in the midst of movie a supplier calls to ask if I need extra supplies. 

Yup! Sometimes (if not all the time) I have a customer calling, colleague updating about what's happening at the cafe and on both hands I'm managing supply for the weeks to come and discussing on new collaborations. It's tiring that I just want time to pause for a little while whilst I take a really long shower. Needless to say, it has been a very exciting journey and Aiman and I only have our customers to thank!

So when we first opened, we knew we wanted to create a leading platform for cakes that cater to local and international taste buds carrying the best of homegrown brands! As we further innovate, develop and add on amazing brands onto Double A's counter we have decided to start working on our


.


.


.


KITCHEN! 


Yup, that's right, we're bringing it forward from 6 months-from-now to let's-hack-it-right-now-shall-we? So we've got our hands full with equipment hunting, food R&D-ing, cutlery shopping. 

So that's the cafe, the supplies, the equipment hunting, the kitchen and Aiman and I are in the midst of working on a loan/grant pitch. Fuhhhhhhh my oh my Aiman and I have never ever treasured sleep this much! So exhausted, but really so worth it!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Double A Cafe KL - Like an online fashion retailer

When Aiman and I had the idea of opening up Double A, we had limited knowledge in F&B. The only thing we were really good at was EATING (who's not come on!), and agreeing on what was good and not to our taste buds. Aiman was passionate about coffee, able to differentiate between good and bad coffee and I was just that love-to-cafe-hop kinda girl who used to do it every other day whilst I was working in London previously. 

Unable to bake, I thought why don't we replicate those multi-label fashion online retailer where a variety of designer brands are offered under one roof - just that instead of fashion, it would be desserts. For a start, we plan to stock local dessert brands especially of those from homebakers that do not have physical shops and do not sell their cakes by slices. Thought hard about it and I decided that hey, why don't we create a go-to platform for Malaysians to get their favourite desserts - clearly a gap that we saw still needed to be filled here in Malaysia. I remembered sometimes scheduling our weekends before to make sure we get to try a few cafes in a day, so having a few brands under one roof was clearly a great idea to me. 


I had a vision for Double A and wanted to create a cafe that customers can pop in to grab well known desserts and best sellers of a few home bakers at once, carry their best sellers and cater not only to local taste buds but also for foreigners and tourists visiting Malaysia.


Aiman left the cake operations to me (jokingly calling me CCO, Chief Cake Officer or Cake Boss) and right then I realised that it was not easy to ensure which brands do we engage. From doing my research, getting in touch, pitching the idea, sampling and making a final decision. It really felt like the job of a head buyer at a fashion store!


Double A opened its doors to public on the 16th of May 2015 (and we did this to celebrate our monthlyversary which we no longer celebrate like we used to before we got married lol!), 3 months after the idea hit us! Some said for an idea to spark, planning, renovation and having onboard brands for the soft launch in 3 months we were considered very fast. Aiman and I are very impatient like that sometimes haha! I even offered to paint during the renovation but Adrien said "no" for fear I might create a mess instead, ho well more rest time for me then :D 


We started off with 3 great brands - Sugar Rush, Gulabakery and Gateauxlicious and Alhamdulillah today we are carrying 8 amazing home grown brands! Yup, EIGHT and even I can't believe it sometimes! Managing supplies can be quite a challenge having to match demand from customers and supplies from our partners but it has taught me a lot of things that no book can ever teach me, but thank God for amazing partners I'm working with :) So, what are you waiting for, drop by Double A if you would like a slice from all these amazing bakers! 



Sugar Rush
Gulabakery
Gateauxlicious
Cake Jalan Tiung
That Last Slice
The Kitchen Guardian
Frost & Flourish
Sugarpods

Monday, 1 June 2015

Challenges

Running a F&B business has its fair share of problems challenges that crop up unexpectedly. Even worse if it happens on weekends because that's our busiest time. We were a little short of staff last weekend and Aiman had to make a quick trip back to Johor. So it was just the 5 of us (1 was unwell) having to handle close to 300 customers! Alhamdulillah, everything went smoothly, as planned and as cheerful as we wanted it to be. 

But...Just when we thought we had everything under control, I saw what felt like the worst thing that can ever happen - a whole cake...flat on the floor! Can you imagine the mini heart attack I had! I don't even know how I looked like because the next thing I saw was everyone on 'freeze' mode. They're probably not used to seeing me upset (can you tell I'm the good cop at the cafe? Haha!) because everyone just stood there and looked at me look at the cake. One with a wet cloth, one standing holding a knife on freeze mode which made me put on a happy smile immediately (in case he drops the knife pulak). They quickly cleared the cake away before I could utter another word and said sorry. 

How can you be angry anymoreeeee when they say sorry and really mean it *sighhh meltsss*. 

The day continued to go by happily before my barista came up to me and said (in the most calm tone, he is very very calm like that), "Boss, itu machine bocor (leaking) ada air keluar. Banyak punya air", showed me a video he took and said "itu sudah last part punya, mula mula lagi banyak air punya"......and on the other side of the counter "kak alia, salad nak habis dah tak cukup"..."dengan cheese"..."tisu". 

At that moment I wished I could mute the world. Haha! But really, it's crazy how much I love my team that I don't have the heart to scold them, because they work so very hard every, single, day! When Aiman isn't around every one of them boys waits for me to head home first before heading home themselves.

Bless them for helping me and Aiman make this dream cafe of ours possible. Bless them for teaching me so much every day and bless them for making me so very happy everyday! :)) 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Hiring for a new business

Creating a team was initially our biggest challenge when we first started. As we had a fix date to roll out operations, it became a little tricky when we only had me, Aiman and our Barista.

Starting up this cafe has taught me a lot of things, especially about people. I can tell you one thing, never ever judge someone before you give them a chance (of course you have to take a calculated risk for this!) - the team I've created today consist of individuals who are passionate and determine, fun-loving and cheerful people, but (for some) it's the last traits you'd ever find out about them!

Initially we were frustrated that every time we put out a hiring ad we get no replies. After some time, we figured out the problem though - we are CORPORATE people. Our audience are not our target market, our followers weren't the ones we want to attract. Our YCM network at that time was of little value in the F&B industry.

We went the extra mile to post our ad on different portals, fellow cafe owners passed on CVs to us and marketing was on level 5! Slowly, we had resumes and CVs coming in. Oh well, we could definitely do with this few individuals we have for now or so we thought. First day of soft launch was madness! But it was good kinda madness and bless my little small team, they did very very well :)))

Continuous marketing has proven to be the cheapest yet most effective method of creating awareness, if done the right way.

...and just like that, we had strings of CVs coming in from individuals interested to work at Double A! Alhamdulillah, there are even people with great background and experiences :))

Today, Double A is a strong fun team of 7 and growing! And these individuals are so so passionate about learning that I feel so proud just looking at them serve customers with big smiles and practicing when there are no orders. So very hardworking and driven, bless them all!

I really feel so blessed with God's initial test and solution all in a span of one week. Truly very grateful, Alhamdulillah! I'm beyond happy that I miss my team right after we close our shop everyday. It's going to be a tough time for me to go back to work soon.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A Meaningful Day


Over the weekend, Aiman and I both decided to do a dry run for Double A - at 80% complete. Only because we had a motivated team eager to serve customers, whip up some wicked beverages and offer amazing desserts! So off we went :)

Night before we went to bed at 4am setting up the POS system, sweeping and mopping the floors at 11pm before the pipe decided to burst and was soaked at midnight because the main for the water can only be handled by management and they weren't around at that time...testing out coffee machine and rearranging our set up with no lights (because lights for the front of the shop was not installed yet at that time)....basically we were in a state where we thought it was a bit crazy to want to open the shop for a dry run.

But you know what? We woke up with the biggest motivation to make do with what we had! Being the corporate people that Aiman and I are, we tend to do things a little different from how it is usually done in the F&B industry but oh heck - we've sent out invitations so we cannot back out.

16th of May turned out to be one of the best days we've ever had together, Aiman and I. We had our apron on, our Superteam with us, handled the cash machine, served customers and cleaned up all in that 3 hours that we were opened! We served about 80 customers who went back happy, and that was the only thing that mattered to us :)

It was so surreal that I am so so so grateful to God for blessing both Aiman and I with all these challenges and rezeki. You have no idea how much I'm in love with our new business. There's definitely a lot to do, and a long long way more to the end but Alhamdulillah for a start we have motivating team and I just can't. First day down and I was missing my staff already.

As I was having dinner with Aiman (more like supper since we hardly have time for meals anymore these days) I looked at him and tears rolled down my cheeks..."I miss my Double A team already. Why aren't we working on Monday and Tuesday? :((("

And all Aiman did was....laughed at me. He really has no idea how much I love my team guys, he knows me very well like that.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Double A Cafe KL coming soon!


So much is happening for both Aiman and I right now and everything feels so quick. Soon our lil bub will be up and ready to operate! We're planning a little family day at the cafe - more like opening doors to what may be the best or worse critics, planning a private event and assembling together all brands for the official launch. Fuuuuh! Make way for panda eyebags, they're designer :D

Gosh, you'd think you'll only need to make sure there is coffee at the shop but hell no, so much more things to ensure than that  when opening up your own business. Definitely a steep learning curve for us and we can't stop counting our blessings for this opportunity He has given, Alhamdulillah. It's very much like a one-way street, you decide to build a business and then you start settling all expenditures and then there is not turning back man! We gotta make sure we can convince our strategic investors that this idea of ours would work. On top of that hope and pray that things would fall into place as planned InsyaAllah. In life, I guess you cannot predict what's coming your way, but you can definitely make the best out of what you have at that point in time.
So what is Double A?

When we created it, we envisioned Double A to be your neighbourhood cafe in Ara Damansara working towards an aim of bringing quality coffee and desserts for customers. We believe in carrying the best of Malaysia's home-bake "brands" at our place! How many of you have experienced the challenge of crazy cravings for cakes? But then that favourite cake supplier of yours sells only whole cakes. But heyyy, I still want that tiny tiny one slice. Just one.

Here at Double A, we plan to do just that for you! Give you that small bite pieces from any of your favourite suppliers!

Currently, we are working with three amazing brands for our first launch and I've learn nothing but only the greatest tips from them. Exciting times! :)) Follow us on FB (Double A Cafe KL) or Instagram (doubleacfe) to see the brands we're about to reveal! 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Opposites Attract

They say opposites attract.

Aiman and I....we are like night and day. So glaringly different.
  • I get ready very quickly. Aiman takes a long time to get ready. Very disciplined at having breakfast first before getting ready for work. I'm the kind who'd jump straight off from bed and get ready. 
  • I prefer feeling stressed out int he beginning whilst Aiman prefers doing things last minute and feel stressed out hours before an event. 
  • When I say 8.30, I mean 8.20. When Aiman says 8.30, he means 8.40. 
Right this moment, I just told him I finish work at 7. He says ok...

but still arrives at 8. Oh Aimannnn :D

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Last night

Both Aiman and I came home from a wedding last night with the intention to do some work before heading to bed.

What really happened: Aiman was in Disneydreamland 5 minutes later.

So I thought this would be the perfect time for me to have some me-time and finish up work for Double A. It was really nice to just snuggle underneath the duvet in the coldest 16 degrees room and  pay all my attention to Double A. Aiman and I are currently at this stage where we have soooo many little little things that we need to sort out immediately every chance we had - at every-free time we have because weekdays are just so difficult for us to run errands for the Cafe. 

We're in the midst of something very exciting at the moment! Excited to plan our first ever event at the cafe soon InsyaAllah! So, sorted out all the operational matters and then it came to customising menu....

"I want to have this. No no....I want to have that. Perhaps along with this one too?"

Was debating with my self for about half an hour - well, me and snoring Aiman - before I gave up and thought it was time for bed. Woke Aiman up (coz he was asleep on the floor, didn't make onto the bed guys. He was that tired!), got him to sleep properly and then headed to bed. 

This morning I woke feeling satisfied that I managed to complete so much work last night before Aiman casually said...

"Did you know you woke up in the middle of the night last night? You were talking to yourself and was asking "Where's the client listttt? Where is it?"...."

Apparently I insisted on that Client list. I think I meant Cake list perhaps. Or maybe I had too much of Invest Malaysia 2015. Haha!! Aiman being the good husband tried to wake me up from sleep talking and guess what happened?

I looked at him and said "YOU"RE NOT MY CLIENT!!"...and happily snuggled back to bed. 

Haihhh so nice to be married right. I get to scold someone in my sleep. LOL!!!! Sorry sayang! :)))

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Appreciate

Lately I've realised that as humans you can take for granted even the smallest things. Small things that only when its lost will you realise it, regretting for not appreciating those things sooner. 

Some people can continue talking so harshly - taking for granted someone who doesn't take things to heart. "No matter how I speak, this person will still treat me kindly anyway". 

Some people can feel so envious of another's happiness they start comparing lives; "why does she have it and I don't?"

Some people cannot see another person so happy and content, they start making other people take sides. This I have seen a lot. 

Some people look for a person only during down times and they forget friends when they are at their happiest. 

Some people can be so calculative they expect something so much bigger because of one little kindness they may have given before. 

Some people suddenly become your friend instantly when you are recognised for something good; "Oh, we grew up together" or some crazy ancient story like that. 

Treat people with kindness, and never take for granted blessings (no matter how small) that are right before your eyes. It can a beautiful day (and people still whine when it's too hot or when it rains!), it can be a small surprise from someone, it can be a nice person, it can even be a smile from a stranger. All these little thing and kindness make all the difference. Cherish it and always count your blessings before you even ask for something, a little more. 

I just feel very thankful for the handful of people I see every single day who are always positive and happy - they never fail to make me feel content. Happiness is a choice and it's really free! So don't waste em energy competing with your inner self :)

Friday, 17 April 2015

Mix & Match

We're now in the midst of choosing and picking what we want to put into our cafe - the colours, the cups, the chairs, the tiles....everything!!! It's so super fun mix and matching everything that sometimes we tend to piece things that our ID doesn't agree with. Imagine the headache our ID has to go through, coz Aiman and I think it's a free playground.

Once, we tried to mix and match yellow, red and black cups. REJECTED.

It's like picking what you want for a wedding dress. Which and what go together. For me, I can be quite bad at it at times, because I love so many things, and these many things when put together don't go together. Hahaha!

Anyway, we're getting very excited as we plan for the opening soon, InsyaAllah if He wills it. In the meantime, we'll continue to give our ID a big massive headache :D

Sunday, 5 April 2015

DOUBLE A IS HIRING!


We are looking for driven, motivated and (most importantly) cheerful individuals who are passionate about creating a success in the F&B industry! 

If you want to be a part of the happy team at Double A cafe, do drop in your CV and the team will get back to you asap :) 

Experience? Nahhhh. I have ZERO experience, but I sure do love being a part of a happy and driven team working for something that has turn into love for me. Coffee. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

hantu roti

People close to me would know I have so much love for bread. I would walk into a supermarket and take the longest time to pick out the loaf that I want. The most important criteria that would make me buy them is if they are soft, that to me shows that it is fresh from the oven. I would even attempt to kill whoever puts my loaf of bread into the fridge. You know how some put their bread into the fridge so that it lasts longer? 

No. I totally hate that. Because the softness won't be the same anymore after you put them into a microwave later on. Plus, I used to take about 2-3 days to finish a loaf :P So no thank you. I'll finish my loaf well before the expiry thank you.

When I used to live in London, I could find bread EVERYWHERE! And even those loose ones are amazingly delicious I could eat it on its own. They're not just easy for me to grab and delicious, they only costed 0.30 pence. How I miss my London times. 

Anyway, a couple of weeks back, I saw an advertisement in the Star Online (you know one of those popping up ones that annoy you because you just want to get to the news). Bake with Kuali workshop. They were advertising their workshop on Bread baking. 

"Sayang! Look!! *sends the link* "JOM?"

Before I knew it, Aiman had already paid for our spots! Too efficient. 

Initially yesterday, I was tempted to skip the course. Only because I was feeling a little under the weather. But Aiman insisted that the Double A Team do this so that we know ourselves how to make it when Double A opens. Things we do for our little baby Double A. 
It was a collaboration between Kuali and Malaysian Institute of Baking (yup! I didn't know MIB existed until yesterday!) and we were taught the science of baking before we got our hands dirty with some Pumpkin Seed loaf, wholemeal loaf and sandwich loaf. Very privileged to have been taught by Chef Don and assisted by his students at MIB. The one thing that I was very impressed about are his students at MIB. You would think they do just baking as part of their degree, but no, they are expected to also get pass accounts and economics during some semesters. CRAZY! I'd be stress! These graduates at MIB are a full package, throw them out there and they can open up their own cafe :)

Hopefully I'll be baking you guys some bread in the future at Double A, Insya Allah! :)

Monday, 16 March 2015

From Penang to KL

Over the weekend, we took off on a random flight to Penang for a mini getaway and to also visit Aiman's grandpa (we call him Tok Ayah). He is sooooo cute and such a businessman at heart. We Aiman was told off for spending 'so much' money on flights and hotel. Hehe. We explained to him how times are bad these days...haha! You know...with all the price of oil being topsy turvy and all and nothing like the price during his time and GST kicking in soon, so prices for things are going up and all.

Just a btw note, GST will actually be a substitute for the existing sales and service tax you guys are being charged now. But on what sellers are marking up post-GST, God knows.

Anyway, we had an amazing great getaway in Penang with loads of food adventures and of course a visit to the beach. I'm starting to think that I'm a beach girl. I just don't like the sun, although for picture purposes the sun will come in handy.

We decided to head back to KL in the evening because we had a meeting for Double A at night. Guess who made it possible for us not to have the meeting? Our Airline.

Our flight was at 5pm, and we were making our way to the gate at 4.45. Hurriedly we went straight to the door, thinking that we were already late because there was no queue and there was a huge sign on the board saying CALLING. I thought "s*** we're the last, it's gonna be so embarrassing to walk into the aircraft last". Turned out the plane has yet to arrive. So we thought it may be on its way. Spoke to some disappointed passengers and they said that actually the flight has been delayed to an unknown time.

My first thought: Then can you please bring that freaking CALLING word down and put DELAYED instead?

20 minutes passed and we started seeing a mini commotion at the counter. Feeling a little left out, Aiman decided to be a little nosy and started joining the commotion. Found out, the flight has actually been CANCELLED. Not delayed.

My first thought: Make an announcement.

I asked the counter why no announcement. They politely explained that they wanted to, however passengers already started attacking their counter so they did not feel the need to.  -_______-

We were then promised a flight 3 hours later at 8pm (did not bother fighting with the rest of the passengers who wanted to get on the 5.20pm flight to a different airport) and was assured that it is confirmed. So Aiman and I requested for a slip to go back out. I thought this is probably God's sign to allow me another round of Nasi Kandar before I head back to KL :D Btw, we got to McD and found out that there is a special lane for delayed flight passengers, but of course we did not get that coupon which upon checking later on, they said "oh kami ada coupon untuk delayed flight". Why thank you.

Long story short, at 8pm when they called for all passengers to board, we still have yet to receive our new boarding passes! The person in front of the queue was passing the message to tell us that the Airline now may not have seats available and we may be pushed to the 8.20pm flight.

My first thought: You bring your Manager to the ground and manage this crisis. Don't go and call the poor counter girl and tell her to tell us sorry no more seats.

There was no point in getting angry to the person at the counter. She cannot make the call about who and who gets to go on the plane when there are a hundred people in front of her requesting for the next flight out. I went to the front of the line and said that they should have their manager down on the ground now to manage the many angry passengers ready to probably eat them alive by then. It is unacceptable that you promised me a seat for an 8pm flight and now you're telling me that there is no seat. It's either you take someone off the plane or you do not make a promise that you are unsure of, no?

She quickly took our boarding passes and assigned us seats in the 8pm flight. They did not even issue us new tickets. Oh well, as long as I get back to KL I'm all good :)

My point is, I am ok for a flight to be delayed or cancelled. In fact it probably saved my life if there were real problems with the aircraft and I definitely have them to thank for. But have the courtesy and better trained employees to manage crisis. Do not cancel a flight without notifying passengers because they may have already made plans for a connecting flight and stuff. And do not promise passengers something you are not sure of. I'm sure passengers would be more understanding when you tell them about your crisis management process, step by step.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Train Money

The other day Aiman was around the office area for a meeting and we decided to have lunch together. 
He doesn't work in KL, so on those rare days when he is back in KL for meetings and conveniently the meeting is around my office we will go for lunch together. He decided to take us to some nice lunch as he did not have anything to rush for after lunch. I on the other hand had a meeting at 3pm in the city, so Aiman offered to drop me off a little early after lunch before he goes off for his next meeting. 

Turned out we finished lunch way earlier than we thought we would. So I told Aiman that probably he can head back first and I'll find my own way to the city later on. At least I can finish up some work and pray in the office first before I leave for meeting, and Aiman on the other hand would not have to wait too long. Plus, there is easy access to public transport from where I was. 

He obliged and we headed to the car for him to drop me back off at the office. As I was about to get out of the car, he took out RM10 note and gave it to me. 

What's this for?
"That's your train money"
Train money?
"Yeah. Cause you never have to pay for anything ever again"
Oh no need, I'm using my staff tag to get on the train. 
"Then reload your staff tag"

Awww! Too cute and too sweet! Where did I find this husband of mine again? 

Of course as a working wife, you try to catch that waiter with the bill first before he gets to Aiman when you go out (but it's like an auto pilot thing sometimes for waiters to go to the guys to take the tab). Or pays for something behind his back and by the time he finds out, it's too late for him to pay for it. 

Sorry, did I hear you say supplementary card is on the way? 
#ithinkiseeanicehandbagtheretoo