Two alumni, who both enjoy working with their hands but have followed very different career paths, have established businesses within 100 metres of each other on Bouverie Street in Carlton.
Bee Rueh Tiew (TCFS 2008) – the baker
Bee Rueh Tiew came to Trinity College in 2008 and completed a degree in commerce, majoring in economics and marketing at the University of Melbourne. While studying, Bee started baking on the side as a hobby, although she recalls first baking at the age of 12.
‘When I was back home in Malaysia, I had a maths teacher who used to give us unusual assignments. On one occasion, she asked us to bake a cake. I didn’t have an oven at home, so I had to bake at a friend’s house. I remember I was intrigued by how mixing flour and egg can turn into a cake! And that was my very first memory of baking,’ says Bee. ‘I never thought I would take up baking as a career.’
After graduating from university, Bee got into fashion and then banking, but neither career moves felt right. It was her partner who encouraged her to turn baking into a side business while she was working in retail banking at ANZ.
Setting up an online patisserie was not too difficult. Bee took over their home kitchen and dining table as her ‘office’, purchased separate fridges and did some courses on food and health safety. At first, she still wasn’t sure if it would be the right career path. ‘I went to Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School in Brunswick and did a short course there,’ she says. ‘They were looking for ‘stages’ – an industry term originating from the French word for intern – so I applied and did a six-month stage in a small patisserie school with the Queen of Chocolate, Masterchef Kirsten Tibballs.’
Four years later in January 2017, with over four thousand Instagram followers, Bee and her partner started to plan their next move, opening a physical patisserie. They opened Mille and B in August 2018, a patisserie specialising in mille crepe cake – a Japanese adaptation of French crepes, constructed with 20 or more layers of delicate thin crepes, layered with unique and deliciously luscious pastry cream. ‘I like to assemble things and build things, and at that time, no one was making this type of cake in Melbourne,’ says Bee.
Bee’s family is supportive of her career move, but she says that, like most Asian parents, they were very nervous and tried to talk her out of starting an online business, and then a physical shop. For young alumni considering a new career, however, Bee’s advice is to go for it, but try it out first before fully jumping in. ‘Before we started our shop, we went to France for patisserie training and worked there for about 10 months,’ says Bee. Having sound training and gradually building up her offering put Bee in strong stead to run a successful business, and she now gets to do something she loves every day.
Dr Siu Leung (TCFS 2001) – the dentist
Contrasting Bee’s story, Dr Siu Leung’s career is more conventional, but is not without its challenges.
Siu Leung, originally from Fujian, China, left home at age 14 to study in Singapore. ‘It was a very different environment,’ she says. ‘I had to translate every word from my textbooks for the first semester, as it didn’t make any sense to me, but I was lucky to have a housemate who went through the same journey with me for four years.’
Coming to Melbourne was a nice change – she got to experience seasons, which aren’t distinct in Singapore, and joining Trinity was far less stressful than her first move to Singapore when she had to adapt to a new language as a teaching medium.
Siu particularly enjoyed drama at Trinity College and has fond memories of her teacher Ernie Gray. Other than drama, her other favourite subjects were mathematics and sciences. When she finished her Foundation Studies program, she had a choice to take either dentistry or medicine – the two courses she was most interested in – but leaned towards dentisty. ‘I like to do delicate work with my hands and I didn’t believe I could handle five years of medical school before specialising, nor did I have the stamina to do the emergency hours or shift work,’ she says. ‘So dentistry seemed like an easier way out at the time, but it wasn’t as easy as I expected’.
‘I regretted not taking biology; I took physics and chemistry at Trinity,’ says Siu. ‘When I got into dentistry, I realised I needed to learn new terms again.’ She also recalls her first day of class, when she was shown a chart by a lecturer that showed dentistry to be one of the top professions with the highest suicide rate.
According to Siu, this stress is in part because most dental patients expect to receive feedback from their dentist straight away and also expect their pain to be gone by the end of their visit. On the other hand, when they visit medical doctors, they’re usually happy to wait until their next visit for test results and if they have an infection, they wouldn’t expect the doctor to fix it on the spot. ‘No one likes the dentist – patients come in stressed with negative energy and our job is to try to dissipate that and turn the experience into something positive.’
It was through attending some introductory seminars and trial and error that Siu set up Bouverie Dental seven years ago. She described the transition from working as clinician to running her own practice like moving from kindergarten straight into university. ‘We didn’t learn anything about how to run a business at university,’ she says. Given at least 50% of dentists eventually open their own clinics, she wishes there was some compulsory subjects on how to run dental clinics in the dentistry course.
‘Starting from scratch to make yourself known wasn’t easy’, says Siu, but Trinity was close by and she was able to make use of the Trinity network through Student Services and offered free check-ups for new Trinity students to promote her clinic. ‘All alumni who are running a local business should make use of the alumni network,’ she says. ‘It is the biggest network one can tap into.’
Despite having a busy work schedule and raising a two-year-old, Siu agreed to have one of our young alumni Shirley Zhang (TCFS 2009) shadow her at her clinic last year. ‘I am happy to mentor students as long as I can fit it into my schedule. I see the importance of sharing my own experience to help others who are not sure if dentistry is the right profession for them,’ says Siu. ‘If you want to become a dentist in the long run, you can’t just look at the financial benefits, you have to enjoy it. I enjoy my profession, it is very satisfying when I can see things fixed and can see the satisfaction from my patients.’
Visit Mille and B at Shop 3, 28 Bouverie St, Carlton (enter via 551 Swanston St).
Visit Dr Siu Leung at Bouverie Dental, 69 Bouverie St, Carlton.