Q&A: Entrepreneur of the Year award the icing on the cake for young baker

This week we chat to Philip Kuoch. When Philip took over the reins of his family’s baking business five years ago he didn’t, in his own words “know the difference between a wholemeal and multigrain bread”. However, Philip learnt on the job to such an extent that Goldleuck’s received the 2020 Melbourne Entrepreneur of the Year award in the Hospitality and Tourism category.

ISB: What was the motivation behind you stepping in to run your family’s business despite the fact that you were still studying and had no baking experience?

PK: My parents were refugees from Cambodia and growing up, I always listened to them talk about living the “Great Australian Dream” of owning our own business. After two decades of saving up as a family, the dream became a reality, however my dad’s medical condition worsened, and my mum had to become his full time carer. We were faced with either pushing ahead or giving the dream up, so I stepped up and naively offered to take time off university to help start the business despite having had zero baking and business experience.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in the early days, and how did you overcome it?

PK: You know that saying “some things are easier said than done”? That was exactly it. I thought being a business owner meant you get to sit back and get other people do the work for you, but that was definitely not the case. I worked harder than anyone else in the business. So, I had to teach myself how to bake and how to run a business on the job! There were no shortcuts – I worked 16 hour days and learnt everything inside out about my business. Not to mention that the first year of business, we lost a lot of customers after we took over the business.

ISB: And what about the specific challenges of keeping the business going during the COVID crisis?

PK: Like all hospitality businesses, the challenge was how to pivot the business when everyone was staying at home. It was particular harder for us in Melbourne where we spent more than six months in lockdown.

As soon as we knew lockdown was going to happen, we had a plan ready to go. We pivoted our business online to deliver our baked goods as gifts to help our customers send gifts to their loved ones whilst in lockdown.

ISB: Please tell us about the story behind your renowned “dossant” and how that has helped in the growth of the business.

PK: The dossant is our version of the Cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid that originated from New York. Our version is different as the texture outside is flakey like a croissant but more softer like a doughnut on the inside – compared to the Cronut where it’s flakely inside and out.

When we posted about the Dossant for the first time in 2015 on Facebook, it immediately put our humble bakery on the map and foodies began to travel all over Melbourne to try it. We would often sell out before 8am.

ISB: What is your vision for the development of the business in the next couple of years?

PK: 2020 changed the hospitality industry and in 2021, it’s all about envisioning what the future of the industry looks like. For us, it’s all about integrating eCommerce into our business as much as possible and reaching customers beyond the traditional local area of our stores.

Our vision for the business is to become Australia’s dessert shop. In 2020, we expanded our delivery service to the whole of Australia and we’re continuously launching new products to expand our dessert range.

ISB: And, finally, what is the most important lesson you’ve learnt in the five years of running the business you’d pass on to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

PK: The most important lesson I learnt in business is to not do everything yourself and ask for help if you need it, but it’s important to know the ins-and-outs of your business, from the production to bookkeeping to marketing. Understanding this will give you control over the business so you can manage its growth.

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