Meet The SmartStart Winning Teams: PhumCAKE!

For our second week chatting with the SmartStart winning teams, Geeks in Cambodia sits down with the team behind PhumCAKE, an application that provides cakes for any occasion!

“You Make It, We Bake It!” is their slogan, allowing users to customise cake designs for special events ranging from weddings to birthdays, and just about any special occassion. Starting out with the idea of tourism, it has taken plenty of twists and turns for the PhumCAKE team to solidify their PhumCAKE application. Even before the incubation programme, PhumCAKE has already seen the development of a strong customer base, and they are also enjoying the support of several cake shops!

Read on to find out more about their journey and challenges faced!

The following interview has been edited for clarity, length and flow.

How do you feel about this win and how has the 3-month SmartStart journey been for you?

PhumCAKE (P): We had put all our efforts into this competition, and winning it is such a blessing for us. We’re really happy, and the programme has helped us to be ready and prepared us for executing our idea in real life. When we started doing SmartStart, it wasn’t easy. But for our team, we had the team spirit and the commitment to do it, so we could aim to achieve the things that we want together.

For our readers to understand, what inspired you to create PhumCAKE? 

P: We have thought about consumer needs, and the trends nowadays. We can see for many celebrations, cake shops provide cakes for any occasion, so we were inspired by how flexible cake designs can be customised for the occasion in line with customers’ needs.

How has the SmartStart programme evolved your business idea? 

P: Actually we had very little experience with startups, so along the SmartStart journey we have learned a lot of things. PhumCAKE was not actually our first idea, we changed our idea many times before eventually settling on PhumCAKE. We had initially started out with a tourism focus, our concept related to a tourist centre. However, we all still had limited knowledge about cakes, so along the journey we started doing market surveys and research on the cake market. We spoke with cake suppliers and they provided us with valuable information. The mentors had given us a lot of information with regard to the possible concerns and areas to address before we could finalise the business idea.

What was the biggest challenge faced during the programme? 

P: Initially it was difficult because of the lack of knowledge we had about cakes, it was very new to us so we had to do market research and meet suppliers. We were not business students either, so we had no idea how to run a business, we had to start from scratch. One problem was meeting suppliers, we didn’t know each other and had a lack of trust between each other. We had to slowly gain their trust, to let them know that we were a legitimate platform that can aid their business.

How different were the various stages of the SmartStart journey for you? 

P: At the start during Hatching, it was a matter of bringing our ideas together to present, which was easy as we didn’t have to come up with anything logical. During the next round for the Hackathon, we did a prototype for our business to pitch to the judges. The final rounds included everything, with financial projections, how to generate revenue, all of the aspects had to be considered, it needed to be realistic and logical.

What do you have in mind for your business idea during the incubator programme? 

P: We’re trying to scope down a little bit more because we didn’t do it enough during the final pitch. We’re trying to prepare our app to be market ready in about 2-3 months. A change would be that we are collecting catalogues from suppliers for them to choose from as the market doesn’t have a demand for cakes to be customised from scratch, so we are removing that part.  A feature that we are trying to provide is 3D modeling of the cake catalogue, so customers can visualise the cake and make changes if necessary.

How do you want to differentiate yourself to emerge as the most outstanding team during the incubation programme with Impact Hub? 

P: We aim to launch our application before the other teams, gain more users, while still ensuring quality and maximum functionality, this is what we are doing to differentiate ourselves.

Any plans after the incubation programme? 

P: After the incubation, we want to increase or expand our business to other provinces, and eventually to other countries as well. Even now, we have a community cake company from Malaysia that has contacted us because they were interested in our idea.

How has it been balancing school and SmartStart? 

P: For startups, you must ensure that you dedicate time to your team, understanding each other and respecting their time. We do weekly meetings to delegate tasks to the respective teammates. We always communicate to align schedules and to build relations.

Do you have any advice for aspiring innovators?  

P: You must ask yourself, do you like to create startups? Because creating startups is really not an easy thing, you have to build up your commitment, and decide that this is what you really want to do. If you don’t have commitment, you may abandon it in the future. Along the way, be ready to overcome the upcoming problems and challenges that you may encounter as well.

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Geeks in Cambodia looks forward to watching PhumCAKE’s improvements and expansion after the incubation programme, and we would like to wish them the best for their future endeavors! For more information on PhumCAKE, check out their Facebook page here.

Stay tuned for our next feature next week as we catch up with the other SmartStart winning teams. Read about last week’s feature, Rentech, here! To find out more about SmartStart, visit the SmartStart website or the Smart for Cambodia Facebook page!