Young Srinagar baker Rafia Manzoor is beginning her home baking career by using social media.
The food industry has always piqued Rafia's interest, a postgraduate in mass communication and journalism.
Despite never having intended to formally enter the area, she said that COVID had helped her launch her company.
"Everyone was cooped up at home during COVID, and the internet was the only way to get things done. I began baking at home in 2020 since I had a liking for it. During the first year, learning and experimentation predominated. To provide the greatest items to the clients when I enter the market, I honed my baking expertise. I began my career in home baking in this manner," said Rafia.
Rafia claimed that in the beginning, she just baked goods for family and friends, and they gave her the confidence to launch her business.
"I then launched my Instagram page and gave my business the moniker 'Sweet Craving Bakery. Friends shared their suggestions for logos and how my business should seem online. It gave me a lot of encouragement and made it easier for me to begin the trip," she continued.
"As young entrepreneurs in Kashmir are venturing into home baking by using online platforms, I also did the same to reach out to her customers and display her art of baking."
Some individuals, according to Rafia, give more attention to the bakery's layout and presentation than to its flavour and quality.
She claimed to have gone above and above to preserve the best presentation and taste. To distinguish herself from other people, she claimed that she concentrated on a few specific topics.
“I focused on hygiene, good presentation, and added products that are beyond traditional bakeries in Kashmir,”
In a short period Rafia’s Croissants, cinnamon rolls, and Donuts are a big success. She says that people often want to taste something beyond traditional bakery and try new things and she tries to fulfil their wishes. In addition to that, Rafia has a good customer base who want customized Cakes for different occasions, cookies, muffins, cupcakes, Brownies, Bread, and other varieties of bakery products.
Rafia claims that because she comes from a mass communication background, she used her understanding of branding and marketing to interact with her clients.
“It is important to put your best efforts into producing good quality products. Then the next important stage is to reach out to customers with good communication skills. If one never compromises hygiene, presentation, and quality, there is no way that you can fail. I did not go directly into the market rather I tried a recipe a dozen times to perfect it because the first impression is very vital.”
Rafia claims that I had several difficulties when I first started. But what kept me going was my enthusiasm and determination to succeed.
“I was new to this field with zero experience. I had to learn about everything from scratch. During the first year, there was a low rush of orders and there was a COVID challenge as well. I did most of my raw material shopping online and my initial customers were my known people like friends and family."
"I did not give up and kept learning and mastering new recipes to perfection. Today I have a separate customer base for each product and it is keeping growing. I used occasions like Eid to expand. I created separate menus for festivals like Eid and kept innovating. These things helped me to keep my customers interested,” she added.
Rafia doesn’t have a physical store. Her home is her workplace. She says that she is receiving all her orders via her Instagram page ‘Sweet Craving Bakery’. Rafia has tied up with various delivery agencies to have the orders delivered.
Rafia says that she values the feedback of her customers and tries her best to give the best products. Rafia often shares reviews from her customers on her Instagram page. She says that it gives her encouragement to do better when her customers love her products.
“As someone who has tasted this cake, I can tell you it was the yummiest chocolate cake I have had here in Kashmir. This Chocolate Ganache will be a mark of comparison for other chocolate cakes,” reads a customer review on Rafia's Instagram page.
Rafia said that her venture not only allowed her to follow her passion but also made her financially independent. She says that in such a business venture all the efforts she puts help her grow and she can be her boss and can also attend to her social commitments. She said that she did not know much about the business and how to spread it but social media helped her in a good way.
Rafia says that she is continuously learning new recipes and mastering new products. She says that as the customer flow has increased she wants to expand and delivers across all the districts of Kashmir. She said that expansion will help her give employment to others too which she thinks is a way to give back to society.
Rafia thinks that more and more women should discover their passions and develop them into profitable ventures. According to her, many business ventures allow women to work for themselves, run their businesses from home, care for their families, and make money.
She advised the young women to venture outside of a select few professions and investigate Kashmir's massive entrepreneurship market.
Rafia expresses gratitude to each of her clients, friends, and family members for their support during her journey and inspiration to do better every day.