Every Sunday and Wednesday, Foodie is honoured to explore the stories behind some of the better and lesser known brands and the people behind them. They will feature in our new movement, the Foodie Startup Boxes, aimed to support local food startups in Hong Kong. For the sixth and final entry (for this box anyway!) we chat with the delightful RJ for the Foodie Start Up Diaries: Tai Tai Pie Pie! “A Truly Artisanal Premium Pie Company”
Tai Tai Pie Pie is more than an overly enjoyable name to say; it is a Western bakery that focuses primarily on pies, birthed from a passion and love for the pies the matriarchs of RJ’s life would bake for him. Forsaking the corporate world and all its allure, he went about creating an artisanal american pie to Hong Kong, capturing British and Australian/New Zealand pie lovers as well as those of the US. Making dutiable effort to use only state of the art equipment and ingredients, as well as absolutely no additives or preservatives, these pies are premium. RJ tells us more about the vigorous life of being the pie guy:
Let’s start at the beginning; the inspiration for your business?
The inspiration came from the passion and the skills learned from my mother and grandmother. I noticed that there was a real shortage of handmade and high quality of western pies done the right way here in Hong Kong especially ones that were fresh and not factory-made imports.
Pies shouldn’t ever be flown…pies weren’t meant to fly! So this passion you speak of, what specifically do you feel passionate about?
I am passionate about what I do as I feel everyone should enjoy a handmade pie. I love eating one and feel everyone should. I really do not like eating a pie that comes from a can filling.
Ugh no. Canned pie is definitely not good. What does an average day look like for you who ensures no canned filling shall cross our paths?
There is not average day for me. I spend a lot of time in the bakery but am at the Pie Shack and Great often. I still do the home and fffice deliveries so every day I am doing those. We have a delivery service for retail shops and wholesale customers. I do marketing, sales, customer service, updates to our POS and Website, and various other things.
So pretty much everything! With all the experience you have, could you tell us what life lessons you have learnt?
Nothing is built overnight! Be patient.
Most importantly, you need to sometimes take a leap of faith.
You also learn some not so positive lessons BUT I try not to focus on them but to learn.
What are the most difficult parts of entrepreneurism here? Is establishing a business in Hong Kong hard?
The financials of the business as here in Hong Kong costs keep going up. Raw ingredient prices are out of control here and rents are nonsense. I compared prices I pay wholesale with my mother at her prices at the grocery store and my wholesale prices are 400 to 500% more than what she pays in the store in New Jersey, USA
It can be an extortionate affair. What is the guilty pleasure you seek on time off?
My guilty pleasure is FOOD! And Wine. I used to say shopping as I used to be a clothes, shoe and watch aholic, but now I do not have the need to shop BUT I cannot give up the love for great food and wine. I find dining is a great form of entertainment no matter if it is at a restaurant or at home or a friend’s home.
As a parting gift, could you paint a picture of you in three years?
I hope running a Pie-Empire and having a larger staff and many more shops and customers. I also would like to have a Beach House somewhere in Asia to go to and relax.
We hope to see your beach house and your pie empire in full swing soon RJ!