We had the good fortune of connecting with Alice Tam and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alice, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I think about work-life balance a lot. I run Soft Dough Co. alongside my 9-5 corporate job, and it’s not easy to stop working when you have two jobs.
Weeknights and weekends are spent running the business – folks are surprised at how little time the actual baking takes up. There’s admin, marketing and operations to take care of too!
After a recent burnout experience, I now make time for rest. Sundays are usually free, just hanging out with friends and exploring the city. My days are full, but what I tell people is that I’m conscious about being more productive. That way, I’ll get things done quickly and still have downtime left.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
One of the most important pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs (and a reminder for myself) is to stay open-minded. We have to not be afraid to say yes.
A lot of people turn down opportunities because it feels too hard to pursue. For myself, I’m a planner and not much of a risk-taker. But I learned to take opportunities that come my way and trust that with enough planning and effort, things will turn out well. (And they have so far, luckily!)
I’m an ex-accountant and now working in a Growth team in tech while running a bakery. It’s definitely not a traditional path in the eyes of Asian parents. I’m proud of stepping outside of expectations and exploring work that fulfills me. I’ve met a lot of people afraid to leave their comfort zone in career, so I hope my experience can be an example.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Toronto has a lot to offer thanks to its multiculturalism. I only realised how unique this is after living abroad for a few years. A weekend visit is perfect for a food tour!
Day 1 –
Brunch: Dim sum in Richmond Hill, a predominantly Asian suburb north of Toronto. Their dim sum restaurants are as good as what you’ll find in Hong Kong.
Walk: While uptown, we can take a walk around Main Street Unionville. It’s a quaint, historic neighbourhood lined with late 18th century homes.
Coffee and croissant: Duo Patisserie (Asian-owned), is one of my favourite croissant places. The lines are long, and they sell out fast.
Dinner: Head back to downtown Toronto for Vietnamese dinner. We have so many great restaurants. I’ll either get pho or bún with barbecued pork.
Day 2 –
Explore the city by bike! The west-end of Toronto is my favourite.
Little Italy: Tsuchi for best vegan chocolate cake. Let’s go to Coco’s for a coffee and a cookie just across the street too.
Lakeshore bike path: We’ll head back south to ride along the shore of Lake Ontario. Make a detour to Little Sister Baking for a curry puff. That’s our snack for later! The smooth lakeshore bike path is serene and has seriously nice views. After a good ride, we can stop at a park and have a little picnic.
Dinner: Wrap up the day with the truffle pasta at Gusto 101. Then, head over to Ossington for some drinks.
A day trip! To Niagara-by-the-lake, which is a quick drive from Toronto. There we can bike (or get a ride) to winery hop and enjoy the view.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Our customers deserve this shoutout – starting a local business means I got to know our first customers by first name basis. Many of whom are still getting our desserts today and will take the time to congratulate us on our milestones. I’m really lucky to have this community.
A book (and podcast) that continues to have a big impact on me is “How I Built This” by Guy Raz. I recommend it to every entrepreneur, big or small! Guy interviews founders of multimillion dollar businesses. Despite their scale, I relate to their challenges and how they overcame them when I reflect back on my road to entrepreneurship. Seeing their success is reassuring that what I’m doing now will lead my business down the right path.
Other: Some context of my business: Soft Dough Co. is a Toronto-based bakery, serving French-inspired desserts. We recently opened our pop-up storefront where we will be located until this summer (stackt market in Toronto). We have been featured in Toronto publications such as blogTO and Daily Hive.