Flour Power is a bakery with a social-driven mission and trains people with special needs in baking and other occupational skills. With several years of experience of running the operations at a social enterprise restaurant that won several awards, Hiok Keat took over the reins of managing Flour Power. Bearing in mind his trainees’s different abilities and challenges, he makes it possible for them to bake perfect and crunchy cookies.
Read more to know more about Hiok Keat and his plans to create a more inclusive workplace for everyone through an interview with him.
1. Could you briefly introduce yourself and your company’s mission and vision? How long have you been in the field of running a social enterprise in the F&B Sector?
I started from Project Dignity (Dignity Kitchen), where it first started with only having 3 food stalls, which focused on work placement and job integration and even looking at people with disabilities and special needs to help them enter the F&B industry successfully. From then, we moved on to a food court with a size of 14,000 square feet in Tech View, and then to a centralised location in Serangoon Central. Over the course of 10 years, we have also won several awards.
Thus, when I took over Flour Power, my motive was to preserve and move forward with the existing business plans, where our focus was to help those with special needs. We wanted to tackle the issues regarding people with special needs who might face uncertainties and challenges when going into employment.
We are preparing to focus more on training these groups of people in the current and upcoming year, especially in the areas of mental resilience, fine and gross motor skills, which are some things that they are already lacking before they begin their vocational training.
2. Why do you think that creating pastries in a social setting will be beneficial to your workers in the future?
I think that the idea of a bakery is that one would usually only fully focus on the F&B scene. However, to me, I feel that our bakery is like a vehicle – where our employees are able to freely express themselves through creating pastries. Skill sets are also better expressed through pastries, to train their motor skills.
At the end of the day, the baked goods are also edible and a product of one’s hard work. I also feel that people with special needs are also more inclined to dabble their hands in baking and pastry-making, as a starting point to find out where their interest lies.
3. What were the biggest challenges that you have faced during your journey, and how did you manage to solve them?
The biggest challenge was that we started off right at the start of Circuit Breaker (CB) – it was something that we had to face head-on. Running a business or entrepreneurship does not really have a “correct timing”, but more of how you can actually face the challenge and manage the obstacles. We are lucky that in the past year, we have managed to survive thanks to our supporters and partners, to keep us moving forward.
4. What would you envision Flour Power to be like in time to come?
I think what we would be focusing on is how do we actually work with people with special needs across the board. It is not just limited to people with Autism, or loss of sensory such as those who are hard-of-hearing, but how we can work with different learners and even normal adults. We want to emphasise inclusivity, where we would usually lack in, as we usually think that it is very difficult to work with people with disabilities because we would usually think that more skill sets and knowledge are needed in order to interact with them.
But what we would like to do at Flour Power is to create a standard framework of understanding how people learn, regardless of whether they are disabled or not. This will enable everyone to be able to work with each other and help to ease the complexity of working with those with special needs so that their chances of getting employed can be higher. Having this framework will also allow for easier communication as a whole.
In Flour Power, we are using the Universal Design for Learning framework (UDL) so it is a very inclusive framework to work with diverse groups of learners. We are trying to also localise it for Singaporeans to better use it. The UDL framework highlights three learning points – Engagement, Representation, and Action & Expression. By integrating these three points into the UDL and adapting it to the conventional Singaporean means of learning, the standard for the UDL can be achieved.
5. What do you wish for your consumers to feel or do when they enjoy your products? How do you think that they can make an impact on society too?
At the end of the day, what we would really like our consumers to feel is that our products are of consistent quality that is nice to consume, and to judge it for the quality of the end product and not because of the people who have made it, or to do it for charity. But because the food is good, and that you genuinely want to buy it. Maintaining the consistency and quality of the goods are key, as they allow Flour Power to be sustainable while allowing the employers to be able to better themselves in order to prepare for their future employment.
Flour Power Cookies x Mini Bloom Bundle
Flour Power is offering a Mother’s Day gift that comes in cookies in three classic flavours – black sesame, oatmeal cranberry and chocolate chip. It is accompanied by a lovely mini bloom in stylishly rustic crate. Get the gift set for your mom now.