The Virus Created Jobs: Flying Sweets, Hundred-Thousand-Baht Brownies Project of a Thai Airways Captain

Jun 14, 2020
Transforming a crisis into an opportunity is probably a great idea for the current situation. As a way to motivate people to get themselves back on their feet, Captain Decha-Dechapong Poonpan switched over from serving as a captain for Thai Airways to creating a brownie brand. He’s one of the people who can be said to have turned this Covid crisis into an opportunity for success with his Flying Sweets brownie brand, which is currently catching on with orders queuing up for as long as half a month and sales totaling in the hundreds of thousands of baht per month.It’s interesting to take a look at how the captain's brownies are being used to keep him on his feet and how sales keep going higher and higher.  And his story should help inspire people facing this crisis and thinking about pursuing an occupation around this time.

Origin of the Hundred-Thousand-Baht Brownies

They are small snacks that deliver good feelings and build a positive atmosphere at work. They are what Captain Decha often take with him whenever he's flying. Eventually, Captain Decha felt like making things more special, and he decided to learn how to make them himself, even though he never made desserts before. But with his genuine determination, around the middle of last year he invested his time and energy in learning a dessert-making course, and he reminded us that everything started from scratch.

"I felt like giving something made from my own hands, so I thought it was a good idea to make desserts. Because I didn't have a background in them at all, I searched around on the Internet and applied for a dessert-making course that I could take on days when I'm not flying. It was a little odd that everyone in class was a girl, but I made up my mind, so I spend three hours learning how to make brownies, and then how to make cookies and rice cakes. Eventually, I settled on brownies."

The reasons Captain Decha picked brownies were 1—because they are desserts he already enjoyed eating; and 2—they are easy to carry. Later on, he bought equipment to make them at home at his condo. He kept improving his skills and studying additional information from the Internet until he developed his own recipe.

Captain Decha said he became more serious with brownies around New Year. Then, he didn't think about making them to sell and only thought about making them to give away to his close friends and family.

"I don't have to buy a gift basket anymore. At first, I wanted the people around me to eat them. I have friends in many places: friends at work, friends at my Kaset demonstration school student association, and golfing friends. So I took what I made and gave them a taste of it. Many people said they enjoyed it and that I was good at making it. That made me feel glad and proud."

"I always thought that having a source of supplementary income is a good idea. Then people asked me to buy them because they liked them and their flavor. So, I tried selling them, since they required little investment and, if no one bought them after making them, I can just go back to giving them away like before. I was fortunate that I started without an intention to sell them, so when I started selling them I already felt like it was profitable."

January was when the captain seriously studied ways to turn brownies into a source of supplementary income. As a result, he came up with a brand name which reflects his identity as a pilot. This is the origin of the name "Flying Sweets". Then he looked for sales channels, with primary emphasis on online channels and groups of customers.

"I was still flying then, but there were rather negative signs making me wonder whether I will be able to keep flying for a long time or not. As a result, I started making brownies seriously for sale. Beginning after 19 January, which was my last day flying, I have been making brownies every day up to today.

Captain Decha is another person affected by the COVID-19 outbreak when the airlines were grounded, part of the reason his income was less than what he used to earn, but that was also a great opportunity to delve into Flying Sweets, which is currently taking off.

Although It's Just a Source of Supplementary Income, You Still Need a System

Captain Decha wakes up early every morning around 6-7 a.m. to make his desserts. Every piece is homemade and given meticulous care by him. By 8:30 a.m., a personal messenger picks up the desserts for delivery, and about 10-20 deliveries are made every day. Meanwhile, Captain Decha's wife and daughter help each other load the desserts into boxes and packaging for postal delivery from north to south and across the entire nation. By the afternoon, Captain Decha starts making appointments with customers and planning delivery routes for the next day to ensure that cost effective routes are picked and ensure that brownies don't have to spend too much time traveling. Then in the evening, he cuts and packages the desserts he has kept inside his refrigerator before he goes back to making brownies until about midnight.

"Before I settled on this system, I had to go through a lot of trial and error. At first, I made 10 trays at a time. That was already a lot, since I was making deliveries myself and there were still few customers, so I was able to manage. Later on, however, I couldn't delivery myself, because I needed to make that time more productive. As a result, I hired a personal messenger. If I go home on Saturdays or Sundays to Raminthra, I still make some deliveries myself, since that allows me to meet with customers, ask them questions and get their feedback with direct contact. Whenever I'm home, or if the days are convenient, I make deliveries myself."

A Source of Supplementary Income of Over a Hundred Thousand Baht per Month

Flying Sweets brownies started with a concept of rich flavor and mild sweetness.

"For the rich flavor, I add a lot of good ingredients. I also add less sugar, because people don't like to eat a lot of sweet things these days, since the healthy trend has caught on. People who eat my desserts ask me whether I suffer a loss when I make them so rich. I say I don't aim for a lot of profit, because I want people to have something nice to eat."

Flying Sweets brownies come in four flavors: Nutella Brownie and Cream Cheese Brownie, which were the original flavors he learned at first; and Macadamia Brownie and Matcha White Brownie, which he later developed. Currently, he is working on Espresso Brownie.

At the same time, the desserts are also offered as part of a set. For example, the Lai Jai Brownie set has six pieces of different flavors in a box, while the Ruam Mit set has nine pieces of different flavors to make it convenient for customers to buy and for them to get a taste of many different flavors and make them easy to recognize.

"I am still improving my desserts every day. Because I make them myself, I know the weaknesses of each flavor, and I'm constantly trying to remedy them. My desserts will continue getting better and better every day, and that's because I know the improvements that I want to make."

That's what Captain Decha said as he explained his unique identity which caused captivating distinction and generated sales during the Covid-19 outbreak amounting to over a hundred thousand baht per month with orders queuing up for over half a month. When the team from MHA tried placing an order, it took over a week before the order was delivered.

Ghost Kitchen and 100% Online Marketing

Flying Sweets is a brand for what is called a "ghost kitchen". This means that there is no storefront, and sales are available only online and by delivery.

"At the time (serious sales started around March), everyone had to stay quarantined at home, and online was the only way. The first one was an official LINE account with about 60-70%, because I was already a LINE user and connections can be made directly. I was able to directly answer my customers. It didn't seem very serious to sell through private LINE. I needed a brand of my own, so when answering customers, I preferred to answer using the store's LINE account. Lots of functions are also available for food sellers. For example, when I wanted to post, all I had to do was broadcast. It's quite convenient."

In addition, point of important changes in promoting the online shop was when universities set up marketplace groups for their institutions on Facebook.  Captain Decha posted his story and introduced Flying Sweets until he attracted widespread interest.  This made more people familiar with his brand.  So many people called him to order brownies that he could barely accept the calls on time.  And people who’d had them before sent comments to encourage him.

Content Marketing and Management to Keep Customers Coming Back

Captain Decha explained, "I mostly take care of my customers personally and directly. Sometimes there are problems with late EMS deliveries, and customers worry about whether or not the desserts will spoil. I handle all of these issues myself, so they are impressed. At another time, someone made a mistake during a delivery, so I made a new delivery, and the customer expressed how impressed the customer was by making a post on social media. That got more people to know me. At first, people wanted to know what the captain's desserts tasted like, and about 30% of people had them before and came back for more."

Additionally, every day before going to bed, Captain Decha will write a story and post it in LINE and Facebook. He tries to post cute messages about brownies from other perspectives aside from sales advertisement. This helps customers stay close to the brand and allows good friendships to be formed with customers like they're family. They also provide a way for Captain Decha to connect with his customers.

The Next Step for Flying Sweets

If the airline industry manages to resume its flights, Captain Decha will have to go back to man his steel birds, but he definitely has future plans for Flying Sweets. For example:

"I don't think I’ll be flying a lot at first, so I will need to make some extra just in case I'm not around. It’ll probably be about two days max. It’s unlikely that I'm going to go anywhere for long. As for at home, everyone is going to help out. When the situation normalizes, my daughter will have to go back to school, but she's helping me out a lot nowadays. It's impossible to handle so many orders on my own. I'm able to do it because I have support and a great work team. Everyone is helping out. In the future, I will probably need to find someone to help out. I am looking for a channel to expand. I dream of having a store so I can directly meet my customers."

The Captain's Encouraging Message to All

        From a person who did not have his own brand, a person who started from zero, he managed to establish a dessert brand name with sales up in the hundreds of thousands. Captain Decha said that planning was important to bringing him to his present point.

"I didn't do a lot initially, but then I planned and made things better, and I studied information to find out who I want to sell to, what the desserts' weaknesses are. I kept making improvements. Another thing is being sincere with customers. I planned on making the most delicious desserts without taking advantage of anyone. As I put in my care and attention, great desserts are definitely made, and customers learn how sincere I am from what I deliver to them."

While the Covid-19 crisis is gradually resolving toward a good direction, many people who have been affected by it will have to start to recover. Thus, Captain Decha wanted to share an encouraging message with entrepreneurs and people looking for a way to start something for themselves.

"Every occupation has been impacted. I myself am heavily impacted, since I'm not flying anymore, and a lot of my income disappeared. It's suffering, but the epidemic eventually has to pass, but I'm still here, and I want to encourage everyone by saying that it will pass. Anyone who wants to do something and still doesn't have an idea of what to do can try to just go ahead and do things anyway to find out what they like. Maybe you will find something you love that you can do, and maybe it will be a supplementary source of income. I didn't know at first that I liked making desserts, but when I tried it… if I didn't apply for that course that day, I might not have today."

"Everyone can do new things they’ve never done before. All you need to do is be determined and keep trying. I had a lot of trials and errors, but they are what help us learn. We need to have a growth mindset and believe we can improve ourselves. Regardless of the problems we face, as long as we keep trying to find a solution, they will pass. By doing this business, I learned many things I did not learn before. I learned about LINE OA and Facebook pages, and even deliveries by mail, ingredient purchases and meeting with customers. These are all things I've never done before. It's just the beginning, but I got to get to know many people. Everything is your profit in life."
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