For some, the first lockdown was a time to relax and take a well-deserved break. For others, it was the perfect time to finally dive in to that hobby or idea they’ve been bouncing around their head for awhile.
Enter Hash. After noticing a gap in the market and having the time to focus on his passion, he started Hashblondies – offering traybakes made with premium ingredients at affordable prices. We caught him between traybakes to answer some questions about the challenges of starting a business during the pandemic, his brand and how to get our hands on some delicious baked goods.
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You started your job at the Hummingbird Bakery without previous experience. What has motivated you to stay in the baking field and kick off your own business during the pandemic?
I noticed there was a shortage of traybakes made from premium ingredients at affordable prices. When people think of brownies and blondies, they typically imagine a plain square perhaps with a chocolate bar or sauce topping. I wanted to take this to the next level and top my traybakes with unique ingredients like ganache, caramel and roasted nuts. I often came up with new ideas at the Hummingbird Bakery and would experiment with different flavour combinations using leftovers. I knew I needed my own space soon to exercise my creativity.
When the virus hit, you got furloughed. What was that like for you on a personal level?
I didn’t mind being furloughed as it meant I could focus on other areas of my life and not worry financially. I saw furlough as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for deep introspection and to really ask myself what I want out of life. Upon returning to work, I realised how much I enjoyed the freedom at home and my plans for Hashblondies reached its final stages.
How do you stand out compared to your competition in a crowded market?
I use premium ingredients including Belgian chocolate, butter from grass-fed cows, vanilla bean paste and high-quality Ceylon cinnamon just to name a few. My slices are also generous with many customers reporting they struggle to finish even one. New customers often comment on the weight of the box upon delivery, which is no surprise as a box of 6 slices can weigh up to 1kg! All my packaging is also 100% recyclable. Finally, everything is baked, packaged and delivered by hand by me.
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What were your biggest challenges in the beginning?
One of the biggest challenges then and now is delivering via public transport. I do not have a car yet as I decided to invest in other assets first such as a new fridge, new worktops and better equipment. My focus is meeting increasing demand without compromising quality. Personal comfort can come later, until then I’ll make do with buses and trains. Another challenge is getting the word out there. I need to constantly be convincing people why they should buy my traybakes. I truly believe in my products and that’s what keeps me going.
Now that Hashblondies has taken off, how do you keep up with the demands of the business by being a one-man-band?
I keep a strict inventory and only put up as many slices on my website as I can manage to bake, pack and deliver alone. Once they’re sold out, customers will have to wait another week. As my speed and equipment improve, I increase inventory accordingly. Having a website also helps tremendously as a lot of the processes are automated, such as taking payments and enquiries.
Do you have any tips for someone who is starting their business alone?
Do not start a business for the sole purpose of getting rich. You will not see the fruits of your labour until at least 2 years in; until then it will just be about you building your brand and making investments upon investments. Ensure you are passionate about your product because it is your passion that will attract customers and get you through tough weeks. Ensure you have a strong support network of friends, family and/or colleagues you can go to at any time. Finally, humble yourself and learn when to take advice and feedback. I’ve made brilliant business decisions by squashing my ego and listening to others. Sometimes your passion can blind you.
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What’s next for you? Do you have any goals for the next 5 years?
I’ve definitely discovered my life’s work. I did not expect Hashblondies to kick off as much as it did, so whatever I do career-wise, Hashblondies will remain a part of my life. My goal for the next 5 years is to continue building my brand and eventually move to a new premises. Ideally, I would like to continue running Hashblondies from a residential premises as I like the idea of working from home.
What interests do you have in your downtime – if you have any?
I go bouldering, hiking and spend a lot of time in my home gym. I am a fitness enthusiast and sometimes offer personal training to my friends and family. I also enjoy cooking different dishes and meal prepping. Finally, I sometimes enjoy getting lost in fantasy such as Lord of the Rings, Marvel and Destiny.
We felt so inspired after hearing Hash’s story. We love seeing people follow their dreams and accomplish things they never would have had they not taken a chance. If you have an idea you want to see into a reality, get in touch with us! Obligation-free, we’ll chat with you about your dream and help you plan the steps to bring it to life. Now, we’re off to order some traybakes…