Afternoon tea memories add zest to Cambridge graduate's bakery
Lexie Morris could have had a promising corporate career in London. Instead, the neophyte businesswoman, who was born in Hong Kong and went to school here, gave it all up to start a cupcake business in Beijing.
'After university, I got a job at a strategy consulting firm in London. I was the highest-paid graduate coming out of my year, but I absolutely hated it,' she says.
But Morris, 25, who had studied in Beijing as part of her degree in Chinese studies at Cambridge University, figured there would be a market in the Chinese capital for properly made, prettily packaged cupcakes and relocated to launch her venture.
'The idea for cupcakes came from going for high tea in London, to the Ritz or Fortnum & Mason. I also knew how successful the Peninsula in Hong Kong was with its afternoon tea,' says the keen baker. 'I knew from experience that Beijing did not have anything like that - one thing I hated about the city when I was there as a student was that there was no cake.' Morris did all the baking out of her 800 sq ft flat when she set up Lollipop Bakery (www.lollipopbakery.cn) a year ago. Her biggest expenses at the time were rewiring the place to cope with an electric oven in constant use and placing an order for 10,000 packaging boxes (the minimum her supplier would accept).
'At first it was just an order a day, and then it really began to snowball,' she says. 'Since last September, it has been insane - I get orders from individuals and also supply coffee shops. I have never done any advertising or marketing; it is all word of mouth.'
With the business expanding, Morris (above) has since moved into commercial premises and hired three full-time workers. A standard order of 24 mixed cupcakes costs about HK$220, with a choice of chocolate, vanilla, Earl Grey, spiced carrot, red bean, cookies and cream, black sesame and red velvet flavours. The bakery also customises the cupcakes with inscriptions for birthday parties or other special occasions.
Morris's base in Beijing makes it convenient to meet her father, a civil engineer, when he visits Hong Kong as a designer on the new bridge linking the city with Zhuhai. Martin Morris worked on all three cross-harbour tunnel projects and met his wife, Fifi Chan Lai Thiong, while posted to Hong Kong.
Lexie Morris has clearly inherited her Cantonese mother's entrepreneurial genes. 'Right now, I am really engaged with what I am doing,' she says. 'I find it really satisfying when compared to the corporate world. I feel I am creating something. I have to decide where to go from here, whether to hand over day-to-day control, do a coffee shop or franchise it.'