In conversation: Aysha Abdulla of Ma Baker | SupportBiz

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In conversation: Aysha Abdulla of Ma Baker

Ma Baker is a home-based baking venture in Chennai, run by Aysha Abdulla, a year back, Ma Baker has grown ever since. SupportBiz presents an exclusive conversation with Aysha, about juggling entrepreneurship and mommyhood, baking and more.

Since when has Ma Baker been in operation?

Ma Baker has been in operation since June 2011, but in a small way. I used to largely sell my products to friends and family, initially. It was in November 2011 that I got up a page on Facebook, mostly because at the time, I was enamoured with photographing the cakes I baked, not really expecting or foreseeing that it would make a big difference in terms of business. But it did, and here we are!

What did you do prior to starting Ma Baker?

I was a full-time mommy to three young children before starting Ma Baker, and that hasn't changed.

How did you come up with the idea of starting Ma Baker?

Starting Ma Baker was not a premeditated move. In fact, the first order came as a shock from the blue even to me.

One evening, I was feverishly frosting a cake I had just baked. Once I was done, I clicked a few pictures on my phone and, just for the fun of it, put one up on my Facebook profile. Although the photo was fuzzy and, I admit, the cake looked amateur, someone I know asked if I would bake her some cupcakes. And there it was, my first order.

What are your signature products?

My cakes covered in colour-graded buttercream roses, cakes and cupcakes in which I simulate the effect of ice cream cones smashed into them, and my cheesecake-in-a-jar.

Which of your products are the most popular?

Chocolate cupcakes are an eternal favourite, no surprises there! And I have consistently gotten good reviews for my cheesecakes. Apart from that, the fudge brownies, strawberry-oat tarts and chocolate biscuit pudding are quite popular.

How big is your team, presently?

I am the only person handling everything for Ma Baker at the moment - from the shopping to the baking, the decorating and photographing to packing. My husband, mother, brothers and sister pitch in from time to time, as do the two women who come in everyday to help with the rest of the cooking and housework.

Do you have a retail outlet where you stock products or a commercial kitchen?

No, I do not have a retail outlet or a commercial kitchen at the moment. I work from my home kitchen, and that is precisely the reason that this business has taken shape. I've never wanted to work before because I did not like to shift the responsibility and care of my children onto anybody else's shoulder. Working from home ensures I'm never far from them, and I am happy that way, though it also brings with it a whole new set of challenges.

How do you cope with competition from similar businesses?

Honestly, I do not like to get competitive. I believe everyone has a place in the world. I give my work my all - in terms of the quality of ingredients I use, the time I spend ideating and executing, the attention to detail, everything - and that speaks for itself. If you offer great quality, people will come back for more.

How do you get your clients? Do you indulge in advertising?

Apart from uploading pictures and updating status on the Ma Baker Facebook page, I do not undertake any kind of advertising. Most of my clients come via word-of-mouth referrals from other satisfied customers.

What are the major challenges that you face in your line of business?

There are quite a few. I am extremely fortunate that my work allows me to be on call for my children any time they need me, but that also means that I'm always long on obligations and short on time.

Because I put heart and soul into baking, finding the mommy-work balance is tough, especially when someone is ill and also around exam-time. Also, stress levels are pretty high when processing large orders, and it is physically exhausting.

Thirdly, finding speciality ingredients and equipment in Chennai is difficult, and if you do find them, they are most likely very expensive, which, naturally, would translate into having to charge higher prices, but people are willing to pay only so much for cake. Fortunately for me, an amazing extended family does all it can to help me and brings whatever I need even from as far away as the US.

What have been your best moments as an entrepreneur?

I am humbled and grateful at the response Ma Baker has got and the feedback I get when people sample my cakes and desserts. Consistently churning out delicious and good-looking desserts is not an easy job. The Almighty has been very, very kind. Each such moment of positive feedback is a proud moment for me.

What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

In this very connected, with-it world, there is opportunity for everyone. Do not be intimidated by competition, never take shortcuts in your work, compete with yourself to get better and better, and remember to put your trust in God.