When Sehar Shabir Khan was a child she like other kids was fascinated by birthday cakes. But unlike most of the kids, she went a step ahead by making customized cakes.
“Baking is all about creativity,” says Sehar. In over a year, she has baked and designed over a thousand customized wedding, anniversary and birthday cakes under the brand name Al_zaytoni- Cakery by Sehar Shabir.
Sehar’s menu includes full fondant customized cake, edible photo cake, Piñata cake, Chocolate mousse cake, Chocolate truffle cake, Red velvet cheesecake, Blueberry cake, Premium butterscotch cake. You name the cake and she knows how to prepare it. From a customized cake with a doctor’s apron draped with stethoscope and medicine, cricket stadium, popular video games to cartoon characters like Doremon, Spider-Man and dolls, her itinerary includes almost every sphere of life.
Hailing from the Lal Bazar area of Srinagar, Sehar is doing Master’s in Business Administration from Islamia College Hawal.
What inspired you to design cakes? “During the COVID-19 pandemic, I had so much time on my hands to find something I am passionate about.
“I started exploring my creative side since I was always fascinated by the idea of being creative. I tried my hand on different things and found out baking is something that gives me peace. I feel immense pleasure while baking. It just brings happiness.
“I’m a self-taught baker, I have not practised my art from any institution. In the beginning, I used to watch videos on YouTube. But gradually with practicing it just comes to mind itself. I think artist finds art in everything.”
What was the reaction of your parents when you started designing cakes while pursuing MBA?
As icing on the cake, Sehar says she received overwhelming support from her family.
“They were obviously happy seeing me managing things all together as it’s not simply easy to manage business and studies at the same time; they are really proud of me. I’m so grateful to Allah for having such a supportive family. They didn’t stop me rather appreciated every now and then.”
Elaborating she said, “Initially I didn’t have any idea of doing any business out of my creativity. And my parents had no idea that it will reach this level so they let me do it.”
“When I received huge appreciation from my friends and relatives it motivated my parents. My brother has supported me a lot in my journey of baking. I have no words to express how supportive my family is. They advised me to take less orders and see if I could manage both studies and business together. And when I received immense support from everywhere and got a lot of orders, I hired few female workers and Alhamdulilah today everything is almost smooth.”
How do you reach out to customers? Being an MBA student, does it help you market your products?
“Social media is the only platform from where I reach to my customer. It is the platform where I showcase my skill and I get orders.”
Being a management student is definitely a big perk,” she says. “My subject is designed in a way to give students a solid foundation about marketing management, how to maintain public relations, giving emphasis on communication, trust-building, entrepreneurship skills and accountability.”
You have completed a year in cake designing. What was the most difficult thematic cake for you to design? And did you get any big order for ceremonies
“It’s been more than a year now and I have baked more than a thousand cakes. Honestly speaking, there was no such difficult cake to design but yes fondant thematic cakes are a bit tricky and need a huge amount of patience while making thematic cakes. One just needs to be very determined and hard working for sure. Alhamdulilah I get a lot of wedding orders, anniversary orders every now and then now.”
What inspires you?
“ Every time I get a call from my customers saying ‘thank you… your sweet treat made our special day more special. That’s my happy moment, it drains all my fatigue, stress and motivates me to work harder and to spread smiles.”
The unemployment rate is high in Kashmir as there are not many job opportunities in the public or private sector. What’s your message to unemployed youth?
“I believe new opportunities arise every day for all of us to learn, but we are a bit reluctant to step forward because of risks involved in the business that scare us off. An entrepreneur doesn’t just create a job for himself or herself but for other people as well.”
“My message is just don’t be scared of failures, but give it a try, be it a small idea or a big, because nothing is impossible if you are determined about your goal. Nothing can defeat you, don’t think what people will say what if I fail but give it a try.”
What was the first cake you designed and what was the customer’s reaction
“One of my friends Shehwar ordered it. She really appreciated me that boosted my confidence and today when I look at the picture of that cake, I feel so happy how far I have come.”
Sehar believes that people in Kashmir are getting more modernised in respect of customized cakes. “Because of the infuse demand for customized and designer cakes, job demand in the baking industry is also booming at an unexpected rate. It gives customers immense pleasure and satisfaction and makes their moment more special.”
What is your ambition?
“My ambition in life is to become a successful businesswoman and a kind human being. I have learnt that making money through our own business gives you a different feel. I have many dreams like giving employment opportunities to other people so that they can also earn their livings. I am making myself efficient to achieve my aim as early as possible. Being kind and hardworking is the key to success,” she says.
“After my MBA, I am planning to expand my business of cakery only In Sha Allah.”