Women Entrepreneurs : Natasha Joel : Sugar Mama

Natasha Joel completed her B.Sc. in Chemistry, Botany & Zoology. Currently she is pursuing MSc IN Human Development. She started her venture Sugar Mama in Bangalore.

Experience in the field: 7 yr

Insta Id: sugar.mama_banglore

1. How did you come up with the name ‘sugar mama’?

It came through wordplay. I was with my friends and I had baked a ton of stuff for them that day. One of my friends made a comment about how I‘m always carrying treats and always baking for everybody, so I became their ‘sugar mama’. The name stuck after that. When I decided on starting this venture, I didn’t really think twice about what I wanted it to be called. 

2. When was the first time you remember baking something?

It was back in 2012 for a Mother’s Day program at church. I was helping one of the ladies bake cupcakes, that was the first time I baked anything. 

3. Who do you look up to in this industry?

A family friend who is a home baker. I learned a lot from her, she is the reason I got into baking in the first place. I was always in awe of her baking skills. I always thought baking was an expensive affair, but she showed me how to spend less without compromising on the quality of the products. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would have picked up a whisk. Besides her, I draw inspiration from a lot of other home bakers that I have had the pleasure of crossing paths with. I think I’ve learned more from them than I have from anyone else. 

4. How did baking become your passion? 

Once I started baking, I didn’t want to stop. I love feeding people and when I saw people enjoying what I made, I knew that this was my calling. My grandmother and mother have always enjoyed feeding others. And I think that somewhere, that trait got passed on to me. Besides being a stressbuster for me, baking has become my way of spreading a little more sweetness in this world.   

5. How do you handle customers who ask you to lower your prices or request huge discounts? 

I don’t appreciate it personally. It’s quite disheartening, to be honest. I try my best to handle them in a professional way and explain why lowering my prices or giving big discounts can put me at loss. You’d be surprised at how many people argue about this and even go to the extent of demeaning my bakery. I’ve been told on multiple occasions that because I’m a home baker, my products should not be priced like this when established bakeries are cheaper. I try my best to stay calm in these situations. I try not to engage in these discussions because there’s no point to them. They don’t understand the hard work and effort that goes into the process while preparing everything by hand.  I usually decline these requests. However, if the customer makes a genuine request or if it’s a bulk order, I do offer them discounts. 

6. How do you use social media for your business?

I started selling my cakes offline way before I started my Instagram page. I started my Instagram page very recently, after taking a few baking classes online. People wanted me to share my stuff and wanted to know what was coming next. So, one of my students suggested that I put myself on the internet so that I could reach more people. My business is more word of mouth, I get more orders offline than I do online. 

7. How do you keep a work-life balance?

It’s definitely challenging. I used to take orders on a daily basis and even do last-minute orders. But that led to a lot of stress, and I burned out quickly. Once I started my master’s, I realized that I couldn’t do that anymore and that I need to balance both areas. Now I have a rule of placing orders three days in advance for all customers. Big orders are limited to the weekends. 

8. What do you find most challenging about being a home baker?

One of the most challenging is making space for yourself in the business world. There are so many competitors out there and they are all equally talented. The starting phase where you are trying to make a name for yourself is the most challenging. Secondly when people are comparing prices. I’ve to explain to them that I’m using the best ingredients and there’s a lot of effort that goes into making their orders, that’s the reason why the prices may vary. Another challenge I face is finding the right balance between studying and handling my baking business. It can become a little overwhelming, but I’m figuring it out. Sometimes I’ve to put baking on hold coz I have an important project at college. It’s all about figuring out a balance that works. 

9. How do you stay up to date on the latest trends and flavors?

I constantly experiment with my baking- the flavors, the styles, and the products. Anytime I come across something interesting or a new recipe, I have to try it. I find that experimenting and trying new things is so important to stay in line with the new and changing trends. 

10. Which was your most challenging baking order till now? 

I had an order from a family friend for 100 cupcakes in three days. It was a mid-week order and it was placed last minute, so I had to balance my college work and baking. Going through the entire process was crazy from baking to frosting and then packaging. My mother and brother were a big help and stayed up late to help me finish the order on time. 

11. Which flavors do you find are the most popular among your clients? 

One of my most famous cupcakes is my “Oh for the love of whiskey” cupcakes. Since the flavor is new and unique, they have their own little fan base. I have customers coming back and ordering them over and over again. I’ve realized that these quirky flavors become bestsellers very quickly because you don’t really find them anywhere else. It’s like my signature flavor now. 

12. What advice would you give other women entrepreneurs from your experience?

You’re going to have a lot more critics than people who cheer for you. But don’t let this hold you back. If this is your dream if this is your passion, you need to believe in yourself. Believing in yourself is the first step, if you don’t believe in yourself then how do you expect others to. If you want something you have to go out and get it, it isn’t going to be easy but don’t stop. 

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