Liang Shiqi is the owner of Sweet Enchantment which stands as the only all-natural handcrafted rock candy and lollipops manufacturer in Asia. She travelled to America to learn sugar art from a world-renowned master of modern day confectionery arts and returned to Singapore to start up their store at VivoCity which launched in 2011. Since the big launch, Sweet Enchantment – which since 2013 has been an all-female team – has flourished with a consistently busy stream of walk-in customers due to the open kitchen concept which lets passers-by watch the intricate process. With 30 flavours on offer (categorised into four key themes: fruity, floral, afternoon tea and happy hour), the company also offers personalisation of candy for various events and occasions.
This month, Sweet Enchantment made its debut entry at the Great Taste Awards and was one of the six home-grown brands to beat off strong competition and see their products ranked within the echelons of excellent food. Up against 10,000 Great Taste entries this year, scooping a 2-Gold Star and a Gold Star award is a massive honour, especially considering that the UK-based event is considered to be the Oscars of the food and drink world. Hot on the heels of her success, LadyBoss grabbed a moment to talk business with the leading lady, Liang Shiqi.
Tell us about Sweet Enchantment, why rock candies, how long you’ve been doing it, and who your customers are?
Sweet Enchantment started off as a retail concept store in VivoCity in 2011 – where our all-natural rock candies were crafted live in front of customers. It´s for fun for us to see the looks of fascination and curiosity on both children and adults during our candy-making sessions, and hearing their “oohs” and “aahs” when they see the final product. As the business grew, we realised that we needed to take a decision on whether to expand in retail or to reach out to more customers via distribution to retail channels. In the end, we chose to distribute to retail channels such as Gardens by the Bay, Takashimaya and Candylicious, to keep growing at a rapid pace locally, before we began exporting our all-natural candies to the rest of the world. Globally we export unique flavours – you have Japanese Yuzu, Geranium Rose, Thai Lemongrass and French Lavender.
What were you doing before Sweet Enchantment?
I was handling finance in the hospitality industry before deciding to take the leap into running my own business. I first saw rock candies being made when I was in London and thought that was really fascinating. The way the rock candies were crafted reminded me of my love for scrapbooking and handicrafts when I was younger. Following the London trip, I took a sabbatical and went to the United States to learn sugar art from a world-renowned master of modern day confectionery arts.
Sweet Enchantment is a business for the senses – delicious taste and being able to watch the creation of the candies. In terms of sales and marketing, how do you reach your customers, and what works?
Sweet Enchantment positions itself as a premium brand of all-natural artisan handcrafted rock candies with unique flavours. Our candies are available at key locations and upmarket souvenir outlets – both online and offline. For example, you can find them at Naiise, Gardens by the Bay and Candylicious and through this, we gain mindshare with consumers as they shop for gifts for friends and families. Reaching out to these same customers through traditional and social media whenever we launch a new flavour or a new packaging also helps generate demand for our products.
What´s your best-selling candy product? What new flavours can we expect in the coming six months? Do you push a combination of staple flavours and limited editions?
Surprisingly, flavours are ranked differently in different retail customers/outlets. For example, Japanese Yuzu would sell really well online, whereas French Lavender would sell really well offline. New flavours that can be expected in the coming six months include all-natural Cola, Pineapple and Earl Grey Tea candies. We are also working on organic rock candies, sugar-free candies as well as hybrid flavours.
You started the business with your husband, was it a passion that both of you shared equally, particularly after the trip to America? How has the dynamic changed (if at all) working together over the last five years?
My husband enjoyed playing with the sugar and chocolate but he is terrible at handicraft ….so you can imagine the “art pieces” that he crafts. My husband prefers the corporate lifestyle. He would share with me his opinions when we talk about Sweet Enchantment but doesn’t dabble actively in the company.
For you, what´s the most exciting part about working in this industry? What excites you to get up in the morning and get into work?
Working in this industry is so very different from where I came from. A marked difference is what I observed when I went to the Sweets and Snacks Convention in Cologne, Germany. Everyone is so happy working in this industry – maybe it is from the sugar high from consuming too many candies.
You won two awards in the Great Taste Awards. This must have been something you´ve been striving for since the beginning? What work went into the application process? Did it involve the whole team´s input? What have you got your sights on next?
Yes, winning two awards in Great Taste 2016, especially this close to National Day 2016 (Singapore’s 51st birthday) has made the whole team at Sweet Enchantment very happy. Over the last couple of years, we’ve taken a lot of time to perfect the design, the balanced taste between the flavour and sweetness, as well as the crispy texture that the judges found in our candies. It is hard work by our team of lolliologists, but we are very happy that it’s paid off.
Tell us about your number 1 business challenge and how do you overcome this?
Number 1 business challenge is always about manpower. Effective communication is key in this aspect and we continue to strive towards excellence through building a strong team by challenging them so that they find meaning in their work, instead of working on repetitive tasks every day.