SUGAR LAND, Texas – Small business owners have had to get creative to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, but one local baker had no idea her saving grace would come in the form of a simple donut.
After competing on Food Network’s “Spring Baking Championship” Christine Nguyen, owner and lead cake designer of The Sweet Boutique Bakery in Sugar Land, used what she learned and what she baked on the show to save her business.
“Being there and competing against these wonderful pastry chefs was very nerve-racking,” said Nguyen. “I was like, ‘I’m going to try my best not to get sent home the first week, and whatever else happens is just icing on the cake.’”
Competing on the “The Spring Baking Championship” was a dream come true for Nguyen. During her third pregnancy, she did what many pregnant women do: eat on the couch while watching the Food Network. “Ace of Cakes” soon became her favorite show, and she was a huge fan of host Duff Goldman. She later made the decision to leave her teaching career and become a professional cake designer. After being invited to compete on “The Spring Baking Championship,” Nguyen was delighted to find that Goldman would be one of the judges.
“I got to bake for the Ace of Cakes! I mean, he’s my cake idol,” said Nguyen. “The feedback that he gave me was really wonderful and helped shape me as a baker.”
Nguyen made it into the top five contestants of the show and acquired new mentors, friends and skills that would soon be very useful to her.
“Week two, it just so happened was a donut challenge. I decided I was going to do a baked version of the mochi donuts, and Duff loved them,” said Nguyen.
Mochi donuts are made with rice flour, which give them a plush and chewy texture. They can be fried or baked and are a good gluten-free alternative for those sensitive to gluten.
Nguyen was excited to promote her episodes on the show with her bakery’s customers. Unfortunately, around the same time that the show aired, Nguyen’s excitement was tempered by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The whole pandemic started. Our business was slowing down,” said Nguyen. “We’re a small mom and pop business, so [if] we close, we will most likely be closed for good.”
In an effort to not lose hope and use her resources wisely, Nguyen came up with a special promotion to help boost sales.
“Let’s just offer mochi donuts one day. Offer it one time on Wednesday for my fans,” said Nguyen. “We sold out in thirty minutes.”
Nguyen could not believe how quickly the donuts sold out. They decided to sell them again the following Saturday, baking four times as much as the previous day and sold out in less than two hours. A line of more than 50 people formed outside the bakery, so Nguyen quickly took action to follow social-distancing guidelines.
“We sent my husband outside and another staff member, and they took names and sent everyone back to their cars,” said Nguyen. “We ended up calling people in two at a time, so that they didn’t have to stand in line.”
Since then, The Sweet Boutique Bakery has flipped their business plan to primarily sell donuts. Nguyen trained her staff on how to bake and dip the donuts and even had to hire more staff to accommodate the influx of business.
Many were driving into Sugar Land for a taste of the colorful and chewy donuts. Nguyen wanted to find a way to get them to other parts of Greater Houston, so they started offering round-ups in different communities where customers could pre-order donuts and pick them up in a convenient drive-thru. So far, they have planned round-ups in The Heights, Cypress and Sugar Land.
“These mochi donuts truly saved our life,” said Nguyen. “I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I do see a donut shop in the future maybe.”
For more information, visit The Sweet Boutique Bakery’s website.
Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.
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