With only her A-levels security-deposit money in her kitty as initial capital, Aamina Jahangir, now 20, started off her small home-based business of designer cupcakes and cakes three years ago.
Aamina, who was on her way to initially becoming a doctor, baked her first cake when she was a mere four years old. By the time she was 10, she was making her own recipes. “My aim was always to make good-tasting food since my family is full of good cooks,” she said.
The Cakery, chosen so since she specialises in cakes and cupcakes, is in the pipeline of being registered as a commercial business now.
It isn’t surprising since her father owns three restaurants in Karachi. Today, he is very proud to have one of his children follow in his footsteps. “When I had started off, my parents were sceptical on whether this was going to work, but when they saw me build my clientele, they realised that this could really go somewhere,” she shared.
“Baking has always been a passion and I just decided to try it while I was still doing my O levels in November 2007,” she reminisced. It was after January 2008, when her idea got word-of-mouth fame that it took off.
She got a further boost in her business, when Proctor & Gamble contacted her for one of their charity shows. “Somehow they heard of me and approached me with their project, after which, I have them as my regular clients to-date” she said.
The young entrepreneur, who has a diploma in law, witnessed such success in her business that she decided to take time- off from studies. “I want to focus on this as it is my future,” she expressed. Aamina does not want to leave Karachi, even for her further studies, as she believes that with the right idea and right focus, people can make it big by working hard in this country.
This creative chef sees a lot of potential in this business and says that there is a lot of room for improvement and growth. “My business grows with me as I grow and I have so much more planned as I get more ideas,” she articulated.
Elaborating further, she said the potential of designer cupcakes and cakes as a business can be witnessed from the numbers of competing firms that have come up with the same idea. “I let competition go. I love baking and initially I wasn’t aiming to make it a business because I just love what I am doing,” she said.
“Plus it’s flattering when people copy me. I am 20 and my competitors are people who are much older than me so I take it as a compliment. Furthermore, there are certain things that competitors can’t copy, especially quality,” she added.
Aamina said that Karachi, in particular, has huge potential for businesses that young people can start off. “Some of my friends started along with me when they were also my age. One friend owns a salon, another owns a designer-candle making business, while my sister has her own advertising firm,” she listed.
Speaking more of her business, Aamina said that inflation and shortage of basic ingredients like flour and sugar had not hampered her business in a significant way. However, she had increased her products’ prices to adjust to inflation.
When questioned on the most memorable order she has had, Aamina shared her on-going experience with a German couple, who had ordered for 600 cupcakes to be prepared in 200 boxes for their son’s birthday.
“I made it for them and then they asked me to distribute the boxes amongst the orphans and flood-affected victims of Pakistan. All they wanted in return were the photographs,” she said. “They have asked me to do a similar project for them again as their daughter’s birthday is coming soon,” she continued. Aamina said that this gesture of the German family had touched her deeply and she hopes to see well-to-do Pakistani families do the same. “It’s charity but in a different style and the smile on the children’s faces are worth the hard work,” she added.
This entrepreneur considers her age and her studies to have been the biggest obstacles in her career. However, opening an outlet and establishing herself further is her future aim now. “I also need to train people … if you want to open an outlet, then you need to have hired hands and their training is very important,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2011.