Mary Das shares how she turned her passion into a small business and went on to win a bronze at the Swiss Cake Festival 2017.
From being a ‘bake-thrice-a-year-baker’ who baked for her husband’s and son’s birthdays and at Christmas time, to be a self-taught cake-decorator, to emerging a winner at her first ever cake competition at the Swiss Cake Festival 2017, held in October in Dietikon – Mary Das has come a long way.
She moved to Switzerland with her husband and three-year-old a decade ago and chose to be a full-time mom. Her son was not very demanding and that gave her enough time to learn German for better integration and working on a hobby.
Mary recalls, “The one thing that really excited me in my initial days of house hunting was the fact that the kitchens here were equipped with a fairly decent-sized oven. This spiked my interest in baking.”
She continues, “Baking with the little one was fun. Rolling out cookie dough and stamping out shapes with cookie cutters kept us happily occupied during the holidays. With time I wanted to try and experiment more.”
With each birthday cake that Mary baked, she tried out different techniques and themes learning from the umpteen online tutorials available on the internet. Over the years, she got better and her friends encouraged her to start something from home. Finally, she decided to move out of her home-baking comfort zone to take on small doable orders.
“I felt the need hone my skills further and be confident in doing what I do. So I did part 1 of a 3-part series called PME Masters Diploma course from the Sugarcraft School in Oerlikon.”
In addition to new skills, Mary learned about the business side of running a cake business. Equipped with knowledge and enthusiasm, Mary registered herself as a self-employed baker and plunged into entrepreneurship. Three years ago, ‘Cake Thérapie’ sprung up on Facebook to showcase her work and have a dedicated business page to officially announce what she could offer.
In the land of professional confectioners and bakers, the competition is strong
Her competition comes from home-based businesses like her own that have around for years and have regular loyal clientele. “I am a very small fish in this big sea of custom cake decoration at the moment, and it would be too brash of me to consider them as competitors. However, one needs competition to up one’s game. It is healthy and necessary. At the same time, small businesses need to look out for each other and build a support system for themselves,” believes Mary.
“A cake is an integral part of many celebrations. And, at the end of the day, many might think this is just cake; but for me, it’s more of an edible art form which adds that extra oomph to your party. I’m always thrilled when my clients refer me further and drop in a good word for me. The most effective publicity is by word of mouth. As for my USP, I try my best to customize the cake and design it for each individual client. I would love to let my work speak for itself.,” she says cheerfully.
A winner at the Swiss Cake Festival 2017
This year, Mary registered herself for her my first ever cake competition at the Swiss Cake Festival 2017, held in October in Dietikon. She states, “The Swiss cake festival is relatively new. It is a platform for cake decorators to challenge and showcase their work. I registered for the ‘Decorative Element Sugar Showpiece’ category and decided to represent India in one of its dance forms: Bharatnatyam, the Nataraja pose.
Mary’s sugar sculpture stood proudly at 38cm tall and was made of sugar paste and isomalt. The exhibits were scrutinised by a jury and individually evaluated. “My Indian dancer was awarded a Bronze. The competition was tough. The talent out there was amazing! I came home, very proud of my achievement.”
A word from an enterprising mother and achiever
“I am still more a mom and homemaker, and just a small bit of an entrepreneur. As most women who look towards going back to work once their child is two- or three-years-old, I too planned to head back to work. Then, we relocated. Between learning to adjust to the different culture, a new and difficult language, and getting to know a new place, along with a toddler; to now, where I have finally found a good way to put my time and skill to productive use, it has been quite a transition.My husband has been very supportive and I’d say, it was quite brave of him to have invested in my very expensive hobby.”
“It gives you such a boost of confidence when you do something for yourself, something that you love. Not only are you proud of yourself, but so are your family and friends. For now, I am enjoying the best of both worlds. Home and work from the comforts of my home. It’s not easy though because at times you end up spending double the amount of time working. But if you love what you do, you won’t complain half as much. After a long gap of not being on a payroll, Cake Thérapie has thankfully provided me with a small anchor to start somewhere and move forward.”
She concludes, “I hope to continue to learn and better myself with time. Practice makes you faster for sure, if not perfect. I believe you should follow the heart because you can never tire of doing what you love.”