I love meeting people who follow my work on Starting With A and the gorgeous Sarah Lee of Sweet Secrets is one of them!
In a typical Hong Kong occurrence, I was co-hosting a Little Alchemy event and Sarah came up to introduce herself and tell me that she follows my blog (which was so nice to hear!).
In a completely different conversation that evening my friend Ivy and I were trying to organise my husband’s 40th Birthday cake. Ivy being the helpful friend she is told me not to worry and she’d sort it out as she had an ‘awesome cake lady’… which of course just happened to be Sarah!
I’m pleased to report that I’ve now sampled the odd few Sweet Secrets treats, including a delicious slice of Sarah’s gluten free almond chocolate cake during our date at NOC. (If she hadn’t have told me it was gluten free I would never have known….it was THAT good!).
Over tea and cake I learned more about how Sarah has grown her business in the last 17 years, (which includes a retail presence in HK…no mean feat!), and her passion of helping others celebrate life, whether it’s a significant occasion or a sneaky indulgence, through her delectable sweets.
Sarah also opens up about the roles clarity, confidence and connection play in her life and business.
Read on and enjoy!
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF SARAH – WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO HONG KONG, WHERE YOU GREW UP, HOW YOUR BUSINESS GOT STARTED, YOUR PASSIONS…ALL THE GOOD STUFF!
I grew up in Sunny Singapore and left at 16 for Canada where I studied business administration.
I worked for a year in Canada after graduation. In 1993, I moved to Hong Kong to be with my now ex-husband who is a local.
I always knew I would have my own business at some point in my life. It was when I was pregnant while working in a local corporation that I decided it was the time.
My ‘WHY’ was to have fulfilment in what I do and to have a better work life balance which at that point I had not realised running your own small business is 24/7!
Then the next question was ‘WHAT?’
I reconnected to my love for desserts and seeing how it always brought people together.
When I started Sweet Secrets 17 years ago, it was all about the indulgence of taste, flavor and texture of our cakes.
WHAT DOES ‘CLARITY’ MEAN TO YOU? WHEN YOU’RE LACKING CLARITY IN LIFE OR BUSINESS, HOW DO YOU GET ‘UNSTUCK’? WHAT PRACTICES OR STRATEGIES DO YOU USE?
Clarity means having a reason to get out of bed each day, having another go at life.
When I lose sight, I will somehow have a customer who will send me a message or email to thank us how they have enjoyed our cake, that a cake can look great and taste great. So constantly reconnecting to my WHY is important.
Last week I had the Chef of The Globe come in to thank us for the Chocolate cake we had made for his kid’s party and said he wished we had business cards he could give to his friends!
This gives me immense joy and pride to be able to make a difference for our clients.
I practise gratitude and that’s what I start with each day prior to getting out of bed. I also practise EFT and now the AromaFreedom technique with essential oils.
One of my favourite essential oil blend is actually called ‘Clarity’!
I’D LOVE FOR YOU TO SHARE A TIME WHEN YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE HAS BEEN AT AN ALL TIME LOW AND WHAT YOU DID TO PICK YOURSELF UP AND GET BACK OUT THERE.
I was going through my divorce and my daughter had asked to go away for school while the business was suffering loss (we had expanded our bakery with double overheads and lost 3 experienced sales staff).
I focused on what mattered the most which is my daughter and family.
I dealt with things a step at a time not knowing what the next moment will bring and being ok with what it may be. Meditation and yoga helped me to ground myself and brought me to my inner peace.
I am mostly a very private and self-sufficient person and I had learnt to reach out to a few trusted friends and family, allowing myself to feel the shame for all the failures in my life and still loving myself .
A few of Brene Brown’s books, such as ‘Daring Greatly’ have been a great help.
Also telling myself ‘this too shall pass.’
HOW DO YOU STAY CONNECTED TO YOUR PURPOSE AND YOUR PASSION?
My passion has evolved over the ways as I grow (and age:))
In recent years, I have been focusing on bringing healthy, yummy desserts into my business, that nourish body, mind and spirit rather than seeing sweets as a guilty indulgence.
It’s a moment to moment practice of mindfulness in terms of why I do what I do.
It took years before I came to terms that it’s ok that my calling is not in a big way yet. I have my role to play in bringing love, joy and connectedness to all the people I serve through my small business.
WHO AND/OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
My girlfriend Josephine, who was my room mate at a meditation retreat.
I’m very inspired by how she learnt to forgive her ex-husband for cheating and even became friends with him and his new wife!
She’s a very spiritual being with an amazingly big heart.
She sets out to make a difference to the world, one person at a time – sharing and giving from her heart.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AND SWEET SECRETS?
I want to continue to create more healthy desserts to nourish the body, mind and spirit. I also want to share more with others about mindfulness of food choice.
Even desserts can be healthy if you know what needs to go into making them – obviously the ingredients and the energy of love! I believe there’s no compromise in the indulgence of healthy desserts…so as I continue to learn I’ll be sharing by blogging about my experience.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT LIVING IN HONG KONG?
For me, it’s love and hate really living in Hong Kong. I love the diversity and vibrancy.
I love the convenience and accessibility of everything at our finger tips, given the density of the place.
The vast beautiful outdoor nature – mountains, water etc
I also love the hustle and bustle of city life and the simplicity of village lifestyle just 5-10 min away.
MY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR YOUNG WOMEN ABOUT TAKING THE LEAP AND FOLLOWING THEIR DREAMS WOULD BE….
Live without regrets.
Connect with yourself, knowing what gives you joy in that you will bring joy and make a difference to others.
Trust that there’s no mistake or coincidence in life!
AND FINALLY DO YOU HAVE A QUOTE OR A DAILY MANTRA YOU USE TO KEEP YOU FEELING CLEAR, CONFIDENT AND CONNECTED WITHIN YOUR BUSINESS AND LIFE?
Be the change.
This too shall pass. All we have is in the moment.
I truly admire Sarah because she keeps it real.
Just like life, being in business isn’t easy and Sarah doesn’t ‘sugar coat’ this. I love the fact that when things get tough for her she comes back to her ‘why’ which includes the connectedness and celebration she helps to provide her customers through her products!
PS You must try Sarah’s gluten-free fudgy brownie and double chocolate chip cookies….AH-MAZING! Again I couldn’t tell they were gluten-free and they were a true indulgence (so much so, I made sure I ate them in the absence of James so I didn’t have to share!).
Sarah Lee, founder and owner of Sweet Secrets graduated from University of Ottawa, Canada with Honours in Business Administration. She started her professional career in IT software and the Telecom industries in Singapore and Hong Kong. However, during her pregnancy with her daughter she realised that the fast paced life of her corporate career wasn’t for her and she yearned for greater balance. Sarah followed her passion of delicious desserts and in the late 90’s started her business Sweet Secrets. With 17 years business experience under her belt her operation remains small and focuses on serving her customers and their varying needs. From bespoke cakes for special occasions, catering and wholesale orders to accommodating everyone’s sweet tooth with yummy gluten free cake, cookie and brownie options, Sweet Secrets has you covered.