Shradha now conducts baking workshops almost every week, with baking enthusiasts of all ages, from school-going teenagers to office goers to elderly citizens, who enroll in her classes to learn her bread and dessert baking yummy tricks. Last year, her recipe of Apple Cinnamon Pull Apart Roll was selected and featured in the MadeByYou issue of Femina and she was on the cover of the magazine, along with other contributors. She has held workshops at numerous lifestyle stores like Sanctum, and art spaces like The Art Loft, Extra Mile Café and has also been featured by publications such as Bombay Times, HT Café, DNA After Hrs. We caught up with the baking queen to find out how she has been managing so far –
Have you reached break-even? What has been the key to your business’s success? I work from my residence and have consciously tried to keep my overheads low. I live in Bandra in Mumbai, where the rentals are one of the highest in the country. Opening a store would only add to my monthly overheads, push me to the rat race and add stress about making profits / losses etc. The existing infrastructure and support system works out well for me. Further, the participants/clientele are happy as I do not charge market rates, the support staff are happy for the extra money they make and I am happy in my own little space. What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them? One of my biggest challenges in conducting workshops used to be the last minute cancellations/no-shows. It would bring to naught a lot of my effort, hard work, not to mention monetary commitments that go behind organizing any workshop. I have now started asking for advance payments – this, I have figured is only one way to tackle this problem. And have realised that if people are hesitant/reluctant to pay advance, they are not worth pursuing. Plagiarism is another challenge. I have had to deal with other bakers/confectioners who used the photos of my creations and shared with their clientele as their own. The other challenge, while accepting party / birthday orders is that the people expect the home bakers’ products to be inexpensive, cheaper than the stores as we don’t have similar overheads. What they fail to understand is that the home baker does not compromise on quality, uses best in class ingredients which are sourced fresh and so, the final product not only tastes better but looks good too. There are a few prospective customers who expect you to give out free samples (as we have not tasted your creations, they claim), but have actually reached out to you through a reference or have seen your work on the Internet. Such people have to be told politely, but firmly, that if they want quality stuff, they should be ready to pay the price and that if they compare home baker’s products with that of a commercial store, they are comparing apples and oranges.
Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business? I have been baking since my teens and would rely on my brothers to be my critics who would lick off whatever I baked. Now, my husband and my children are the people whom I fall back upon for help / support / guidance and advice for planning and strategies. Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations? Internet and more specifically Facebook has been the biggest boon and then Twitter to a certain extent. Social Media has become so powerful a tool to market my workshops. What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion? To keep a customer happy and satisfied is the biggest strategy. The customer should never feel overcharged or short changed. I am never stingy with the participants of my workshop. I have always received feedback that I share a lot of tips / variations during my workshops; Further, my participants carry back home all that they have baked in the workshop along with a few ingredients such as baking chocolates so that they can try out a recipe immediately. This has resulted in immense goodwill and further referrals. Going forward, I plan to conduct workshops in other parts of the country as well. In parallel, I plan to undergo specialized dessert making & baking courses being offered in the European countries. A piece of advice for those who want to start-up or are at the initial stages of starting-up. Have a passion, dream a dream and most importantly, make a beginning. Baby steps, one step at a time and before you realize it, it will become a big thing. Have confidence and belief in yourself. You will be amazed by the support and encouragement that you will get from family, friends and loved ones. The way they will rally around you, will take you by surprise. Most importantly, just ignore the negativities. Do not let it impact your thinking. Facebook – www.facebook.com/thedessertcart1