- Diane Ong CA moved back to Singapore in 2018 after studying and beginning her career in Sydney
- She has always loved baking, and returned to her passion during Singapore’s pandemic lockdown
- She found baking so inspiring that it has led to a career change, and she now owns a new cafe called Flourish in Singapore’s Phoenix Park
When Diane Ong CA and her PwC colleagues were settling in for a long night of work on a client audit, it was common for her to bake up a batch of brownies or tea cakes to share with the group.
“It was my go-to stress therapy,” says the 29-year-old, who moved back to her native Singapore in 2018 after completing her studies and CA qualification in Sydney.
“And although I am passionate about accountancy, opening my own cafe or bakery has always been a dream, but I always thought it was something I’d do in retirement.”
Circumstances, particularly the COVID pandemic lockdowns, made that dream a reality much sooner and she is now the proprietor at Flourish, a family-friendly bakehouse in Phoenix Park.
Ong had taken six months leave from her auditing job at PwC with the intention of developing a commercial app, but when the lockdowns hit Singapore, she – like many others – found solace and meaning in baking.
“I was baking a lot during lockdown because there wasn’t much else to do,” she says. “I was making mooncakes for the October mid-autumn festival and my family said they were great, and I should try selling them and the whole thing gained traction much faster than I expected.”
Things started to accelerate when Ong, after experimenting with a variety of recipes, came up with an unusual signature bake: chili crab doughnuts.
“Instead of custard in the middle it had chili crab sauce and deep-fried crab, and that got a lot of attention,” she says.
A friend who had also studied in Sydney had already opened a cafe in Singapore, so Ong began supplying to him and collaborating on baking.
By then, Ong had resigned from PwC – partly so that she could spend more time with her family – but the baking opportunities kept coming.
"Opening my own café or bakery has always been a dream but I always thought it was something I’d do in retirement"
When she saw the venue, which is now Flourish, she knew that her retirement dream of owning a cafe business would be a reality before her 30th birthday.
“I was really inspired by the cafe culture in Australia and there was something of a Sydney vibe about Flourish which really drew me to it,” says Ong.
For now, Flourish is keeping her busy and she offers a selection of her own bakes and coffees.
The venue is in a special needs school where the students come to the bakehouse twice a week for vocational training.
Although she may have radically switched careers, Ong says the CA training has been invaluable and is something she still uses daily in operating the business.
“I wasn’t conscious of it at first but a huge part of my decision making came from what I learnt in the CA program and working at PwC,” she says.
“Budgeting and understanding what a robust control environment should be – both of which I learnt from my work experience and the CA program – were intrinsic in helping me assess the viability of the business.”
While she is living her baking dream, Ong says she would “never say never” about one day going back into accounting.
“Right now, however, I’m doing what I really love and what I’ve always wanted to do,” she says.
“It’s not stress therapy any more, it’s my career.”
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