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Identify and describe a prominent Australasia entrepreneur/s or industry

innovation that has occurred within the previous two decades and to chronicle the
successes and failures of this entrepreneur/ innovation.


Over the past one or two decades, Australasia has seen many great entrepreneurs and
innovations. Entrepreneurs today play a major role in the economic growth of many
countries in Australasia. One of these entrepreneurs is George Quek, founder and
Managing Director of BreadTalk Pte Ltd. “BreadTalk” was first conceptualized with the
idea of selling freshly baked breads that are visually attractive and creative. He started
his first outlet styled as a designer-bread boutique done up in an open kitchen concept
selling products presented in attractive packaging. He rapidly expanded its business
locally and internationally building a reputable lifestyle brand and even ventured into
Restaurant and Food Atria business.

In this report, we will examine the environmental factors, approach taken to materialise
the concept and how the Schools of Entrepreneurial Thought contribute to the emerging
of BreadTalk. We will also evaluate the success and failures of this entrepreneurial
activity and the legacy left to society together with recommendations made to further
exploit in the future.

Describe the factors that influenced entrepreneurial activity in Australasia during

the period that you have chosen.

The Four key factor of entrepreneurship to take place are: Active search of opportunities,
Entrepreneurial Alertness, Prior knowledge, Social Network. These four factors are
considered contingencies and the entrepreneur is responsible for bringing these
contingencies together to create a new value.
Entrepreneurship required at least one motivated person and that is the founder of the
BreadTalk group, George Quek Meng Tong. The chief conductor, who perceives an
opportunity, marshals the resource necessary to exploit the opportunity. There are the
four important factors, which influence the way opportunities are recognized and
exploited by entrepreneurs are active search of opportunities, entrepreneurial alertness,
prior knowledge and social networks

Active search of opportunities: One possibility, suggested by research on human

cognition, is that they do by using cognitive frameworks they have acquired through
experience to perceive connections between seemingly unrelated events or trends in the
external world (Baron, 2006). Basically, they are using cognitive framework they posses
on “connect the dots” between changes in technology, demographic, markets,
government policies and other factor. This will perceive in trend to suggest idea for new
product. Other than setting up a kiosk to sell dragon-beard candy, he goes into opening a
chain of Singa snack stall to sell “Bak Chor Mee” and fish ball noodle.

Entrepreneurial Alertness: Kirzner define alertness as a propensity to notice and be

sensitive to information about objects, incidents and patterns of behaviour (Kirzner,
1973). George has been in Entrepreneurial alertness since he started in the dragon-beard
candy business. He even designed his own wavy dragon signage and marketed his candy
as the original Chinese Emperor’s snack. Initially the business is slow but after few
months of intensive marketing, improved presentation and changing in pricing, his
business eventually improved and even expanded to five kiosks with monthly sale of

Prior knowledge: A wealth of information gathered through a rich and varied life can be
a major plus for entrepreneurs in term of recognizing opportunities. George used to work
in a Hong Kong handicraft shop in Parklane Shopping Mall, where he did wood craving,
metal engraving and wove dragon-beard candy. While in Taiwan, an economics reason
forces him to seek a living by selling dragon-beard candy. Through his knowledge on
wood craving, metal engraving and waving of dragon-beard candy, he has intensive
improve on the presentation and soon in successfully expanded into 5 kiosks with
monthly sales pf $ 240,000.

Social Network: The connection through various social relationships ranging from causal
acquaintances to close family bond, which play an important role in opportunities
recognition and development of an organization (Schaper & Volery, 2007). After George
has successful setting business in Taiwan and Shanghai, he went joint venture with his
Taiwan partners to start up the Food Junction foodcourt chain incorporate with other
variety like conveyor belt sushi, teppanyaki and a Swenson’s ice-cream outlet.
Eventually, this chain grew to 14 foodcourt outlets located all over Singapore within 8
years with addition one each in Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur. Next, he went into
launching his successfully chain of BreadTalk store in July 2000.

Identify and describe the Enterpreneur/s or innovations of the decade.

In July 2000, George Quek started BreadTalk Pte Ltd with his wife, Katherine Quek.
They wanted to introduce a new food culture with innovative and creative ideas with
differentiation. They have a vision in creating a new lifestyle culture and created
Singapore’s first “Bread Boutique”.

BreadTalk is different and have better edge over its competitors are due to their four main
strengths: Unique Concept and Branding, Wide Range of Products, Strategic Locations
and Experienced Management Team. Its Unique and Innovative concept has
distinguished themselves from the traditional bakeries. Its signature “See through”/ open
concept kitchens has also aid in showcasing the expertise of their bakers. The purpose of
the innovative concept is to introduce homely feel and the warmth of close friendship into
the store. By having wide variety of product available at their retail shops is one of an
important aspect in contributing to their success. They have over 1000 different breads,
buns and cake creations, each endowed with its own unique name, personality and
flavour, which had leaded BreadTalk into an award winning bread boutique. Besides
this, they would also constantly introduce new product to cater customers’ taste to keep
the company competitive.

The choice of strategic location for their retail outlets is another key factors of their
success. In order to capture high customer traffic flow, they have sited their retail outlets
near public transport like bus terminal, Mass Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transport stations
and surrounding amenities like department stores, cinemas and supermarkets, which has
aid in attracting more customers to patronize the stores.

Lastly, they have an Experience Management Team headed by George Quek with other
senior management whom has vast experiences in the food and beverage or retail
industries. On top of that, they have also extended the company’s network by franchising
its brand to other countries like China, Indonesia, South Korea and Philippines.

In order to create global branding cohesiveness, they host the first ever International
Franchisee Conference at the Meritus Mandarin Singapore. The purposes of this
conference, which attended fifty BreadTalk’s owners, marketing and operational
personnel from their franchise network to exchange ideas on brand development to
succeed and to leave an indelible mark across the globe.

Describe and evaluate the entrepreneur/ innovation with reference to the various
schools of entrepreneurial though.

Although there is no set of clear definition, each school of thought is perceived to have its
own under-lying set of beliefs. Each of these schools can be categorized according to its
interest in studying personal characteristics, opportunities, management and the need for
adapting an existing organisation.

The Psychological Characteristics School of Entrepreneurship

It is widely thought that one's needs, drives, attitudes, beliefs and values are primary
determinants of behaviour. One's behaviour is usually determined by responses to satisfy
needs be it for power, recognition, achievement or acceptance and love.

This psychological school, which focuses on personality factors, believes that

entrepreneurs have unique values and attitude towards work and life. Four personalities
characteristic were identified here: (1) the personal values; (2) risk-taking propensity, (3)
the need for achievement and (4) high internal locus of control.

Personal values. This school generally believes that entrepreneurs cannot be developed
or trained in classroom situations. Much of the entrepreneur's ability relates to
personality or style of behaviour, which develops over time, primarily through
relationships with parents early in life. Values and ideals fostered in one's family stay
with the individual and guide him for a lifetime (Cunningham & Lischeron, 1991). This
is particularly true for George Quek as his parents taught him to be humble since he is
young and drummed into him the unsentimental fact of life that nobody owes him a
living (Long, 2001).

Risk-taking propensity. Risk-taking is not a desire to try one's gambling skills in

Genting Resorts. Instead, entrepreneurs prefer to take calculated risks in situations where
they have some degree of control or skill in realising a profit (Cunningham & Lischeron,
1991, Schaper & Volery, 2007). They do not prefer situations, which involve either
extremes of risk or uncertainty. Much of the entrepreneurial literature has included risk
taking as a major characteristic of the entrepreneur. Practising entrepreneurs and business
managers have also felt it to be important. George Quek is definitely a risk taker,
although he might not think he is as he always believes that everything is under control.
Knowing that he might not succeed and might even lose his life savings, he still insisted
on taking the risk to open Singa (short for Singapura) for the consecutive second and
third time despite several setbacks (Long, 2001). George Quek was willing to take the
leap and try, even though he has been dissuaded against setting up BreadTalk.
The need for achievement. Of all the psychological measures presumed to be
associated with the creation of new ventures, the need for achievement has the longest
history. The need for achievement, a key personal attribute of successful entrepreneurs is
a person's desire either for excellence or to succeed in competitive situations. With such
strong achievement drive, George Quek was willing to work from 5am till 10pm when he
started the “Bak Chor Mee” (mince pork noodles) stall. He was not afraid of hardship
and working long hours (Long, 2001).

Internal locus of control. It is refers to the extent to which people believe they can
control events that affect them. People with a high internal locus of control believe that
events result mainly from their own behaviour and actions. Effective entrepreneurs
believe in themselves and have a perception that they can control the events in their lives
and can therefore guide their own destiny (Schaper & Volery, 2003). George Quek is the
one that fulfil this. He does not leave it to luck or change. Born with humble background
and having only an ‘O’ level education did not deter him from chasing his passion and
dreams. Despite many failures, he doe not give up or resent to his fate. He continues to
fight and keep thinking of new way to innovate and change (Long, 2001).

The Classical School of Entrepreneurship

Innovation, creativity or discovery, are the key factors underlying the classical body of
though and research. Entrepreneurship, in the view, refers to the process of creating an
opportunity. Many innovative people, in describing their creative process, have
emphasized its subjectivity and individualistic nature. Most entrepreneurs is often
motivated to satisfy personal needs, leading to characterizing as an innovative and
energetic individual who is able to stimulate their creativity in order to develop
something that is new or extension of existing invention (Cunningham & Lischeron,

The founder of BreadTalk started off selling dragon-beard candy in order to bring home
bread and butter. It was a novelty in Taiwan at that time. When he visualized a demand
for Singaporean food in Taiwan, he ventured in a chain of Singaporean snack stalls,
selling “Bak Chor Mee” and fish ball noodle in Taipei shopping mall. During his stay in
Taiwan and Japan, he noticed the popularity of designer-bread boutique outlets among
the people. He decided to alter the dietary habits of Singaporeans towards bread with his
see-through bakery serving out freshly baked, creative recipes, of fusion bread with
interesting names. Many argue that bakery is a sunset industry. However, he had
believed in his decision and took the leap by opening the first store at Bugis Junction in
July 2000. As of December 2007, BreadTalk has 170 bakery outlets and won many
accolades for their brand and success.

The classical economic theory set the stage for equilibrium models by promoting the
development of economic foresight and dealing with uncertainty. Innovation has become
imperative to entrepreneurial activity. When BreakTalk first started in Singapore, it gave
bakery industry an extreme make over and created first of the kind designer boutique
style bakery with their quirky names fusion bun. George Quek was dealing with great
uncertainty as bakery business was in a sunset industry and with low barrier of entry, his
ideas could be easily conceptualized by rivals. The virtues of having competition across
industries added discontinuity dynamics to economic activity and entrepreneurs were able
to discover more niches and kinds of opportunities (Murphy et al, 2006). The driving
forces that keep BreadTalk successful will be their constant improvement is his products,
quality, better image and strategic location. BreadTalk build their brand to portray a
lifestyle boutique, which boost a classier look and exclusive offerings that are new in the
Asian market.

The Management School of Entrepreneurship

As in most fields of organizational study, entrepreneur is “a person who organizes or
manages a business undertaking, assuming the risk for the sake of profit. It was
suggested that in addition to risk-taking, the functions of an entrepreneur include
supervision, control and providing direction to a firm.

This management school deals with the technical aspects of management and seems to be
based on the belief that entrepreneurs can be developed or trained in the classroom.
Since many entrepreneurial ventures failures each year, a significant proportion of these
failures might be traced to poor managing and decision making, as well as to financing
and marketing weaknesses. According to this school, entrepreneurship is a series of
learned activities, which focuses on the central functions of managing a firm. The
management school is directed at improving a person’s management capability through
developing his rational, analytic, and cause-and-effect orientation (Cunningham &
Lischeron, 1991). According to this school, since entrepreneurship can be taught, a
central aim is to identify the specific functions involved and provide training to existing
and hopeful entrepreneurs. Courses such as new venture marketing and new venture
finance are quite appropriate. Training in theses management functions can, it is hoped;
help reduce the number of business failures.

With more than 30 years of experience in food and beverages industry, George Quek was
instrumental in establishing the BreadTalk brand name and identifying new business
opportunities in restaurant and Food Atrias. His strong business acumen has historically
brought unprecedented commercial success (Wong, 2003).

Mr Quek came a long way to be what he is today. From Taiwan art institute to selling of
dragon-beard candy, “Bak Chor Mee” to BreadTalk, Mr Quek had failed several times.
According to this school of thought, will Mr Quek be in that position if he was being
oriented with courses and training? Will that sharpen his management capability?
Perhaps the answer is yes, but to a certain extend. What Mr Quek sees is an opportunity.
It’s a vision that he pursues despite most people argue that bakery is a sunset industry.

Mr Quek together with his strong team behind every single vision and plan he made,
planned ahead set high and realistic mission. He grooms several talents, adjusts its
management system and style to suit the needs of its people. That is how he thinks one
should grow a company and keep it sustainable (Long, 2001). And that is the way, the
way to less failure.

The Leadership School of Entrepreneurship

An entrepreneur is often a leader who relies on people to accomplish purposes and
objectives. It suggests that entrepreneurs need to be skilled in appealing to others to “join
the cause.” A successful entrepreneur must also be a “people managers” or an effective
leader who play a major role in motivating, directing and leading people. The
entrepreneur must be a leader who able to define a vision of what is possible and attract
people to rally around that vision and transform it into reality.

There are two streams of writings concerning entrepreneurial leadership. The first stream
of development has been grouped with the 'great person' school and describes that certain
trait and personal characteristics are important for success. It is suggested that traits such
as adaptability to situations, co-cooperativeness, energy and willingness to take
responsibilities are important aspects. The most pervasive stream of the leadership school
is concerned with how a leader gets tasks accomplished and responds to the needs of

This school implies that leaders must be effective in developing and mentoring people.
The leader is an experienced mentor by whom the protégé is taught the “critical trade
secrets”. Due to the importance of the mentoring process, the entrepreneur is more than a
manager, but also a leader of people.

George Quek’s involvement in ‘Who’s who of Singapore business elite’ has given
tertiary level students a chance not only to hobnob, but also to be taken under their wing,
through mentorship programmes and attachment schemes. He is one who believes
entrepreneurship can be nurtured, said: 'Entrepreneurs start young. We hope to give the
young a head start with mentoring and guidance' (Wong, 2003).

He strongly believes in teamwork. Hence, he encourages in developing and mentoring

his people because there is no way a person can move to a successful level by himself. It
is important for a leader to guide the team well and understand that everyone in the team
is different. As a leader, he always stays flexible and supportive of the team. From here,
people will decide whether they want to stay with you when there’s a war. This can be
seen clearly during the SARs outbreak where sales are low in all the outlets and
BreakTalk had effectively control its operational cost. However, despite this difficult
period of time, it had persisted in its beliefs for people centeredness by maintaining and
grooming more talents within its company. These measures had allowed the company to
stay stronger in the market when facing challenges in the market in time to come. Also, a
successful leader cannot be calculative. Regardless of the situation, George Quek lead,
move on even there are mistakes (Long, 2001).

Did the entrepreneur/ innovation have a mentor or what was motivation for the new
idea? If so, what role did this play?

George Quek did not have a mentor for his successful million dollars business. Since
young, he is one who learnt quickly about poverty, thriftiness and hard work. As a boy,
he already has an unquenchable curiosity nature and was unhappy with the rigid
discipline in school. In 1982, he left for Taiwan to pursue his passion for art but by
twisted fate, he had instead started his entrepreneur life.

Prior to BreadTalk, George Quek was already a successful businessman who could have
jolly well retired comfortably if he were to sell off his Singa snack stalls business in
Taipei. However, he is one who is always quick to see opportunities. While in Taiwan
and Japan, he noticed the popularity of designer-bread boutique outlets among the people.
He decided to alter the dietary habits and perception of Singaporeans towards the
traditional bread industry. At that point of time, not every one was able to see his vision
and most people would argued that bakery is actually a sunset industry, hence he had
decided to leave his Taiwanese partner and venture on his own for this new idea. He took
the leap by opening the first store at Bugis Junction in July 2000, and soon BreadTalk
had became the talk of the town and a huge success in Singapore and many other

Describe and evaluate the creative and/ or innovative approach that was used to
identify, develop and exploit the idea. What were the successes and or failures?
BreadTalk has distinguished itself from traditional bakeries by being unique, innovative,
distinctive, stylish and aesthetic. Some of their outlets modify their product selection to
match local tastes. For example, the Paragon and Raffles City branches offers a wider
selection of European breads and cakes as the majority of customers who frequent these
shops are likely to be tourists and expatriates. The Peranakan Place outlet also has
special items with distinctive Peranakan flavors to meet tastes of the customers.

About ten new bakery items are introduced every four months to provide new flavors and
variety. Signature items include the "Flosss", "Fire Flosss", "Moshi Mushroom", and
"Applewerm". The aggregate revenue from the sale of these items contributed half of its
total revenue year.

BreadTalk offers a wide range of products. It recognizes that customers have different
needs and changing tastes, offering over 800 varieties of breads, buns, pastries and cakes.
Over 100 new breads were created by its Research and Development (R&D) Team in
consultation with top chefs and food consultants from France, Japan, Spain and Taiwan.
BreadTalk have continued to retain their top selling products such as Flosss, together
with a new product range to keep the brand fresh and surprising. In fact, as an innovator
and creative force in the bakery business, their R&D team, works hard to create new
products every six months, always injecting an element of fun and humour into our
products. Characteristic of their ability to remain in sync with current trends and the
latest happenings around the world, they created Flosss 1 and Ferraberri in
commemoration of the first ever 2008 Formula 1™ SingTel Singapore Grand Prix race
held in Singapore and OBUNMA, an allusion to the biggest political event of 2008, the
US Presidential Elections.

Competitive Advantages
Unique bread concept - BreadTalk was the first to adopt a sleek, transparent glass
concept for its kitchens to enable public viewing of the baking of breads and pastries, so
as to draw interest. A wide variety of recipes, bread designs and promotions, coupled
with the constant rollout of new bakery items that caters to the ever-changing tastes of
consumers. Depending on the size of each outlet, between 60 and 80 items are offered

Strong branding - The BreadTalk brand has evolved to become one of the most
recognisable local brands in Singapore. In 2002, the group won the “Singapore
Promising Brand Award 2002” awarded by ASME and SPH and was also voted
Singapore’s Most Popular Brand in a joint poll by the ASME and SPH.

Strategic locations - The group’s outlets can be found in accessible locations with high
pedestrian traffic flow. This pulls in customers as they walk by. Many of the outlets are
located near public transport systems such as bus terminals, Mass Rapid Transit stations
and Light Rail Transport stations. Some stores are also located near popular
departmental stores and supermarkets.

Intense competition and low barriers to entry in the F&B industry - The F&B
industry in Singapore is highly competitive and fragmented with low barriers to entry.
Some of its competitors are established players in the bakery and confectionery industries
and may have greater financial and marketing resources. The entry of new competitors
into the same F&B segments or into the immediate areas around the group’s retail outlets
may affect its earnings.

Impact of swine flu minimal - As the global swine-flu pandemic is not transmissible via
the consumption of cooked pork, the impact on the F&B industry should be minimal.

Subject to inflationary pressures - As with most other industries in Singapore, the

F&B industry has been hit by the inflation of rental expenses and utility charges, which
has hurt profitability. As such, many establishments have been raising their ASPs.
BreadTalk believe prices will continue to trend up and businesses will have to continually
adjust their selling prices in order to maintain profit margins.
What legacy has been left to society and on future entrepreneurs?

BreadTalk distinguished themselves from other bakeries in the marketplace through

innovating a staple traditional product. Utilizing creativity in marketing strategies and
distribution channels, they had successfully re-positioned a low margin product with little
differentiating features into a product with strong branding. BreadTalk successfully
illustrates the power of innovation and thinking out of the box in transforming a
traditional industry into a growth story spurring countless imitators. This creative spirit is
the legacy left to society and on future entrepreneurs leading the way to other endless

Explain how you think the idea could be further exploited in the future.

Other entrepreneurs can imitate BreadTalk and use such innovations in other traditional
services or products and turn them into a lucrative business opportunity, such as the
‘Kurang Guni’ trade into an industry that epitomize corporate social responsibility.


The different schools of thoughts regardless whether it is dealing with psychological

characteristics, classical, management or even leadership each has its own under-lying set
of beliefs. Taking George Quek as an example, he is clearly a successful entrepreneur
who has displayed the above-mentioned characteristics as well as the various leadership
skills from the different schools of thoughts. Motivation and determination to succeed
are also derived from the need for power, recognition, profitability and achievement.

Today, the name “BreadTalk” is well established giving it a sustainable competitive

advantage over its rivals. BreadTalk has successfully managed to creative innovation in a
long deemed sunset bakery industry and has written off doubts that sunset industries
cannot be revitalised. Breadtalk has not only revitalised the bakery industry but also the
dietary eating habits of Singaporeans. In order to stay competitive, George Quek uses
“innovative recreation” in all its bread, food courts and restaurants, as he is aware that
customers have different needs and ever changing tastes.

Besides George Quek, many innovative people, in describing their creative process, have
emphasized its subjectivity and individualistic nature. Hence, innovation is definitely the
key to stay competitive and also the essence of successful entrepreneurship is to have the
constant drives in identifying potential business opportunities in the market.

1. Cunningham, J. B. & Lischeron, J. 1991. Defining Entrepreneurship. Journal of Small

Business Management 29, no. 1 (January 1): 45.
ame=PQD [Accessed 15 August 2009]

2. Long, S. 2001. Food for thought from foodcourt king – 'No one owes us a living'.
Straits Times, The (Singapore) [Online]
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3. Murphy, P. J, Liao, J., Welsch, H. P. 2006. A conceptual history of entrepreneurial

thought. Journal of Management History Volume: 12 Issue 1 [Online]
e=Article&contentId=1537775 [Accessed 15 August 2009]

4. Schaper, M & Volery, T. 2007. Entrepreneurship And Small Business. 2nd Pacific
Rim Edition. John Wiley & Sons Australia.

5. Wong, K. 2003. Learn business? Mix with the best – Entrepreneurs to take students
under their wings. Straits Times, The (Singapore),
F1AB948DD9F68919AE0E716E1 [Accessed 17 August 2009]