Aarya’s Kitchen

Ashwini is a modern day diligent woman. Based out of Thane, she conducts weekend culinary workshops. Be it cuisines like Mexican, Italian or appetizers and desserts like sizzlers, breads, ice-creams, Modaks, cakes, Ashwini can teach her students any of these. Her major hits are the chocolate-making classes,fresh cream cakes, fondant theme cakes and jar cakes.

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Aarya’s kitchen’, Ashwini’s official Facebook page took birth about a year ago when Ashwini was herself searching for cooking classes on the internet. It was during one of these searches that she was fascinated by the power of social networking. She uses her page to exhibit her creative works and announce the upcoming workshops. She believes that through this platform she is able to be in constant touch with her students and has strengthened her relationships with her students.

Words about Ashwini’s amalgamation of culinary and teaching skills has spread beyond Thane. Often her classes are attended by students from the nearby districts of Satara, Alandi, Baramati and Solapur. Despite high number of student enrollments only limited number of students are admitted in a workshop so as to maintain a balanced teacher-student ratio.

One of the proud moments for Ashwini is when her students start off their own baking ventures. Being a good teacher is very different from being a likable teacher. If she realizes that some students are not up to the mark she politely sculpts them over time. She does this because she understands how vulnerable these students will become once they enter the competitive commercial market. So according to her doing ones due homework is extremely important.

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She regularly updates herself with latest skills and technologies in the market by attending trending workshops by national and international cake artists.

Behind Ashwini’s successful eight hour long classes are her perseverance, management skills, strong bonds with her students and an immense support from her family.

Her husband, Abhijit, whom she married at the age of 20, is her guiding northern star. It was he who noticed that Ashwini has a knack for cooking. At one point of time, Ashwini’s ‘Modaks’, sweet Indian dumplings, were a major hit in Pune. However Abhijit soon realized while Ashwini spends a lot of effort preparing these while its perceived value is very less. So he advised her to not burn herself out despite high demand. Ashwini mentioned that Abhijit himself accompanies her to places where she can’t go alone, be it conducting workshops or buying raw materials. Voila! He was by her side even for this interview.  Her cute kids Aarya and Ansh who are eight and five years old respectively are no tantrum throwing kids.

Although the weekends are hectic, the family goes out or simply spends time together on Wednesdays when everyone is at home.

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Going ahead, Ashwini aspires to move to a well-equipped baking studio and expand with corporate and wedding cakes.

Ashwini’s greatest motivation comes from the positive feedback from her students and her inner drive for charity. She believes the more she will be able to earn the more she will be able to donate. Her mantra to other entrepreneurs is – “To be a successful enterprise one has to follow their passion and work hard.”

Art n’Cakes

Back in 2012, Amruta went to the USA with her husband on a dependent visa. After staying there for some time as a housewife, Amruta yearned to get out of her monotonous, unexciting routine. She decided to make good use of her OTG to bake cakes not just as a hobby, but also to prepare healthy home made cookies for her daughter.

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The first cake she baked, was no less than a rock. Amruta remembers that even the dog in the neighborhood sniffed and went away from that cake. It is then that Amruta took baking as a challenge. She made up her mind to master this art. She never felt the need to take any baking classes but instead used YouTube and internet as her guide. Through her experiments she explored a plethora of cakes, cupcakes and breads.

Amruta loves to host parties. Whenever her friends came over she would serve them some of her cupcakes. Her friends not only savored these but also encouraged her to go for baking professionally. That’s where she began her five year old journey.

Even after returning to India, Amruta continued pursuing her passion for baking.  She has now mastered the art of baking and also creatively decorating the cake. Her specialty are the floral designs. She tries to add a unique element to everything she bakes. Just have a look at the beautifully done Mango slices in her cake.IMG-20170520-WA0008

Her kids, Aashita and Arjun, totally love the cupcakes she bakes. They are proud of her mom and often bring their friends home for a cupcake party. Being a paranoid mother that she is, she improvised her cakes to be made with wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour as she wanted her kids to eat healthy. Amruta always maintains high quality standards and she has noticed that the customers come back to her for the taste and the good quality.

Amruta even put a kiosk in a mall in Pune for couple of months as a promotional event. At one such kiosk a kid was pleading his father to let him have one of Amruta’s cupcake. Realizing the father’s paranoia about hygiene she let her kids have the cake front of him. The person realized that she sells those things which she would let her kids eat. Once satisfied with the hygiene, he bought his kids some cupcakes. The amazing part was that once he himself tasted the cupcakes, he took four more to eat there and another four as takeaways. Such incidents makes her feel content with what she is doing.

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Marketing was never a challenge for Amruta, she laughed and told that being a Marvadi kid selling items in a local merchant shop during her childhood she is a pro in marketing. However, she feels that manpower for delivering cakes is a bit overpriced and customers don’t agree to pay extra for delivery easily.

Amidst all this, Amruta is not settling for what she has. She is aspiring for more. Amruta is working on launching something unique in the Indian market, which it has not yet seen. She also wishes to open a school of baking. As time passed by Amruta also started a page on Facebook- Art n’ Cakes. She dreams of making this as a brand.

Amruta has recently joined a corporate firm, to get out of her comfort zone and to increase her social network. She works as an auditor in the morning from 4-12 am, spends time with kids in the evening and somehow still manages to professionally bake and deliver cakes. She says it’s her passion for baking that drives her and also the unconditional support from her husband and mother in law. Despite being occupied the whole day, Amruta makes a point to take out at least half an hour out for herself. She even shared a secret for a healthy skin – to religiously apply a cream on face before going to bed.

Amruta shared a simple yet powerful message for all, never give up and follow your gut feelings. One motto which Amruta live by “When nothing’s in your control trust Kanha (Lord Krishna), kuch na kuch to ho jaega (something or the other will happen) ”

The Crazy Baker

One and a half years after her daughter’s birth, Sindhu Murali, a resident of South Pune, yearned to find her identity and became a “Crazy Baker”.

Finding her calling didn’t come easily to Sindhu. She traversed through divergent phases in life. From being a Purchase Head in private company where she took care of contract purchase of anti-corrosive materials to setting her priorities around her 3-year-old preschooler to being a Home Chef serving South Indian food for an online food delivery system, Sindhu has donned it all.

“My father used to bring us small cakes from a bakery near our house and then one day he bought an oven. My mother wasn’t the technology savvy person so I took up the task of baking in the house along wcake 12ith my grandmother. I baked for the first time in my 6th standard.” Ever since then it is baking that she enjoys and which offers her peace of mind as it lets her explore her creativity.

Sindhu has been a Home Baker for about a year and a half now. Years of experimenting with baking basic cakes and cookies gave her the confidence to venture in this foray without the need to pursue any professional baking courses. She offers cakes, cookies, cupcakes, brownies to her niche clientele in the central and southeast Pune. People adore her vegan multigrain diabetic- friendly oat cookies. Her Naughty Cakes has a huge fan-following among the youth. “If you don’t want it, that’s okay. But I can’t make a modest one!” comes her reply to a conservative client who wanted a ‘toned-down version’ of the naughty cake. Although demand is always at its peak for her bakery orders, Sindhu is very particular about the quality of cake she delivers – a major reason why her clients come back to her. A client even postponed her birthday celebrations only to celebrate it when Sindhu could make a cake for her. To keep improvising her cakes, she attended a fondant modeling class. For those of you who are new to baking – fondant modeling is the use of fondant to decorate cakes.

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Her extremely supportive family is her secret ingredient. Her in-laws support her in the household chores and manage the child when she is baking while her husband keeps track of accounting and helps in delivery. Even little Sniktha makes tiny fondant balls for Mamma’s customized cupcakes. Her clientele has become an extended family. She laughs to tell that her neighbors Kavita and Vinod offer her free PR services as she has been baking cakes for them for nearly three years for almost all the happy occasions in their life. It is moments like these that keeps Sindhu up and jolly. She doesn’t overburden herself with orders all the time but chooses to do it of her own accord ranging from baking 20 cakes a day to none for two weeks.

A healthy support group in the form a closed knit Home Bakers Community has helped her in knowing the ins and outs of the trade. These participants help each other with the technicalities, share tips and tricks and are ready to give suggestions as and when required. Members keep updating each other about places with economical raw materials, they buy raw material in bulk from bigger cities (instead of Pune) and share it among themselves. They even pass on orders in case they are not able to deliver it themselves. At times, one grows better in an uncompetitive environment where the focus is on contention from the work delivered rather than being ahead of the rat race. Sindhu thinks on similar lines. At present, she is thoroughly enjoying her work and doesn’t get fettered by any competition.

IMG-20170502-WA0008Sindhu also shared with us the challenges which are faced by the home bakers. Some of the perennial issues are customers’ nagging about the higher prices charged by home bakers as compared to the commercial bakeries. She explains that novice customers do not realize that the home bakers offer better quality and fresh products as compared to the bakeries. Other daunting tasks are the procurement of raw materials and manpower for an affordable and reliable delivery. In one of her deal to deliver 100 cupcakes for a baby shower, Sindhu was bogged down by the humid weather. The Monsoon air would not allow the fondant to dry and she had to keep the whole room warm using bulbs and oven for days to deliver the order. In another experience, she learnt that about 200 cupcakes, 100 brownies, and 20 jar cakes would be wasted as the flea market for which she had been preparing for two weeks got canceled at the eleventh hour. But again her support group came to her rescue. They offered her to put up a stall for free in front of their restaurants in high-class locations. This opportunity not only restored Sindhu’s faith in destiny and humanity but also helped her network with the elites in the posh locations.

Sindhu ended with a wonderful advice for all the women entrepreneur – Women can fly to what height she wants to, by always keeping in mind her roots. There were times when her patience was tried and tested but then she learnt that one cannot please everyone. “So stand up for yourself and never lose yourself for anything”, she said.