The full-time air stewardess who started a baking business
With many of her flights cancelled during the circuit breaker, Khalisah started ‘The Stewardess Chef’.
When the circuit breaker prevented her from flying, 22-year-old air stewardess Alya Isyah, who also goes by Khalisah, used the extra time to pursue her other passions – baking and cooking – and set up The Stewardess Chef.
“Baking has always been my first interest, and flying was secondary,” said Khalisah, who has been baking since 2010.
Having amassed 1,200 followers on Instagram within a year, The Stewardess Chef has become an additional source of income for her to cope with her reduced earnings from the decrease in flights.
When Khalisah first started her job as an air stewardess in 2018, she was so enthusiastic to start flying that she would arrive at her pre-flight briefings an hour early.
However, travel restrictions implemented in 2019 meant her usual 20 flights a month were reduced to only three to five per month – a number which has remained the same until now. She was initially disappointed that she could not fly as much, and felt like everything was turning against her.
“This was why I decided to put this negative energy that I have within myself into something that I loved. So this form of distraction turned out to be a business,” said Khalisah, who runs The Stewardess Chef with her mother.
While she’s in charge of making donuts, her mother specialises in making tahu bergedil – deep-fried potato patties stuffed in tofu.
She said: “I want to cater to people and I want to set the price at a reasonable price. I hope people get to satisfy their cravings without burning a hole in their wallets. Something that tastes good, that feels like it’s being made by your own grandmother or mother. When you eat it you will feel homely.”
Challenges of setting up a business
Setting up The Stewardess Chef was a rocky process. With little experience in the aspects of running a business, Khalisah faces difficulties while managing the logistics and the pricing of the goods.
Initially, her orders were so disorganised that she would mess them up. After getting more experience, however, Khalisah learnt to set up a system with an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of her orders.
It is also not easy to handle both a demanding full-time job as an air stewardess and a side business, and Khalisah has her fair share of struggles.
Although she normally receives her flight schedule one month before, there are cases when she has to leave for a last-minute flight.
“Sometimes I’m being randomly placed for standbys, they would even call me two hours before the flight on that day. If I had any orders on that day, I would panic initially,” she recounted.
Her unpredictable schedule was a struggle at first, but she managed to work her way around it by preparing orders on weekdays and teaching her mother and sister her doughnut recipe, so that they can help out whenever she has a flight.
She also recalled one occasion when her close friend persuaded her to bake 500 donuts for an event on short notice. As she had little time, she ended up staying up until 4am to make the donuts before leaving for a 6am flight. As it was a short flight, she landed back in Singapore on the same day and immediately continued baking the doughnuts.
“It is tiring, but I’m glad that I was able to fly and make someone’s day. I see it as a win-win situation,” Khalisah said.
Receiving support from her friends and family
Although operations at The Stewardess Chef are now running smoothly, Khalisah confessed that she had a fair share of uncertainties – she was afraid that her handmade donuts would not be as consistent as the donuts sold in bakeries, and that people would not enjoy them.
Fortunately, Khalisah’s friends and family were supportive and helped out when she was not confident of her abilities.
She said: “I wouldn’t say that I am the best at this, and there’s so much competition out there.
“But with the encouragement of my friends and family, I stepped out of my comfort zone to try starting my own business. Without them, I would not have started this business.”
Although running her business may be tiring, Khalisah said she would continue to operate it, even when flights start to pick up again.
“It may seem like a little to people, but it actually took a lot of hard work to grow the account to this amount of followers. It’s like our baby,” she said proudly.
To youths who are currently unable to go back to work, Khalisah encourages them to try to get out of their rut by focusing on the things that they love.
She said: “You should never think that one hurdle will bring you down, so turn your adversities into something positive.
“You never know what will happen if you try to work on something that you love.”