S04E03: Linda Lo, Director of Ambon Boenda, Malaysia

​​When I was 20 or 21, I learned to bake from a lady who taught this – baking layer cakes. My mom bought me my first layer cake oven. And I was sitting at home for three days and I baked [layer cakes] every day. I used so much butter and eggs. I just kept baking and ate them all and put on a lot of weight! 

Linda Lo

In today’s episode, I am speaking to Linda Lo who is the founder and director of Ambon Boenda, a business that makes and sells Indonesian layer cakes in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Linda was born in Medan, Indonesia and currently lives in Malaysia (and if you want her run-down of the best food in Medan, don’t miss the last 5 minutes of our interview as she entices me with all the tasty must-eat foods in Medan).  

She particularly loved the cake of her homeland, the Indonesian layer cake. Married to a Malaysian, this mom of triplets often craved for the true taste of her childhood and it became a ritual for her to bring back to Kuala Lumpur the layer cake each time she visited Indonesia.

As an ardent traveller, she believed that gifting cakes would be a delicious way for people to remember each other. 

linda lo ambon boenda indonesian layer cake
Linda Lo loved the cake of her homeland so much that she decided to produce kek lapis for Malaysians!

As a business owner, you need to have that intuition about the risk that you’re gonna take. You assess the risk. Then you also assess if this thing fails, can you take it? You know, if that risk is not that big compared to what you’re going to gain, then go for it. If not, you will never know.

Known as spekkeok or kue lapis in Indonesian, it originally was a Dutch cake. Spekkoek is said to be a cake made by the wives of Dutch administrators in Batavia during the colonial period. Indonesians put their own unique twist to the cake by adding spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, clove, mace, and anise. It is a popular cake in Indonesia and given as gifts for birthdays and weddings until today. It is also known as the thousand layer cake although it doesn’t consist of a thousand layers.

Linda is an optimistic and bubbly person and her optimism and gratitude shine through in this interview. She was most proud of her expansion to commercial retailing although she had started as a home business in 2015, baking as she calls it “in the back lane”!

To me, Linda is someone who dares to take calculated risks and focuses on a growth mindset. She talks about thinking big and daring to dream and making sure she is learning continuously and keeping an open mind about business and opportunities.

While she started off producing layer cakes, she is already setting her sights on creating more Indonesian flavours in her retail stores through some innovative rebranding and menu items.

Her inspiration has always been her mother – hence the word “Boenda” which is Indonesian for mother – in her brand. 

In today’s episode, Linda spoke about:

  • Starting as a home baker, using the back lane of her house to bake her cakes to opening retail outlets 
  • Why this cake is expensive and what she tells customers who tell her so 
  • The importance of market analysis before she decided to open her retail outlets (she has 3 outlets – one in a mall and two in commercial areas)
  • What is in store for her business and how the next outlet will be different 
  • Knowing your customers and who exactly you want to serve with your products
  • Her best ambassador for her cakes (and no, it’s not her customers although they have been a large part of her success)
  • The importance of knowing your brand and its customers
  • Location matters especially for her products
  • Being optimistic and bold enough to take the first baby step
  • Knowing your brand and its values to determine who you should collaborate with 
  • Why this isn’t your regular cake (it takes 3 hours from start to finish)
  • How she is rebranding her stores and what her dreams are

If you talk about branding, there are a lot of factors. It’s not only your logo design, the logo or packaging. If you are new to the business, you won’t understand what is branding because branding is something that you need to build like every time you’re gonna collaborate , how are you going to project yourself in the market? ​​Not every product is suitable for everyone. So you need to know who you are, who your customers are. Then you can slowly build your brand.

Connect with her: 

Check out (and subscribe to) our Youtube channel for a snippet between Linda Lo and Krista.

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