Start-ups & Entrepreneurship

Everything’s a Cakewalk for this girl !

“I can proudly say I have a come a long way and I have miles to go” says this 22 year old entrepreneur. Meet Mridula Ganesan,a NIFT graduate who runs a bakery at home called ‘Hew and Frost’ and has successfully completed 6 years of making delicious,flavourful,tempting,finger licking cakes. She has desiged and baked cakes for unique themes based on Minions,Harry potter,Vintage ,photography , cakes that look like books,cakes that look like your Whatsapp emojis,puppies,teddy bears,two tiered,three tiered and these are just a few.Her style of baking makes the models defining the theme look so realistic that one wouldn’t feel like eating the cake but preserving it. With more than 300 cakes to her credit,this girl is making heads turn (or should we say mouths water)with her techniques.How did it all happen? Here’s what she said..

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1. Let’s start from the scratch. What gave you the idea to start a home bakery?

“To be honest, there never really was one. Being the curious one, I’ve always found baking exciting and jumped at every occasion where I could bake for my family and friends. But I went to Design college.
Soon after I got into my college, we (the students) were given a chance to put pop up stores during Diwali celebration. Going with my gut, I decided to create cake pops for a bake sale. To my surprise, they were all sold out in an hour’s time and that was when one of my friends came over and asked, “Hey, listen! Do you take orders?”. I replied with a confused expression, “Er, I’ve not got any orders yet”, “Okay then! Here, I want a chocolate cake with wafer chocolates around it for my brother’s birthday”. An impromptu bake sale got me the first cake order.

2. What is your working process ?

“The process really begins with an interaction with the customer. I find out about the occasion, the number of people attending, the flavours and the design. I write all the details down on paper, make a digital note on my phone with a sketch or a photograph of the cake provided by the customer.Then, I work on a timeline, backwards, from the delivery time. Generally, it starts with baking the cake, filling and frosting, draping the cake with fondant and then adding the final details. For cakes with more than one tier, I start planning the components required for constructing a well structured cake, such as cake boards and wooden dowels.

In case of elaborate cakes, the sugar or gum paste details that are not really perishable, such as flowers and figurines are made ahead of time since they need few days to dry. Finally, the cake is assembled a few hours prior to the delivery.”

3. How did you manage to get orders in the beginning?

“Initially, I was really sceptical about managing cake orders and college assignments. I seldom made an effort. But I always made it mandatory to share my progress and the final photograph of the cakes on my Facebook timeline and Instagram handle. Eventually, my friends started enquiring about the photos I post. The number of orders varies every month but once I worked for 30 orders in a row within a month. That is my highest till date.”

4. What kind of events do you work for and which your busiest time of the year?

Birthdays, Weddings, Anniversaries, Farewell, Baby shower, Bridal shower, Bachelorette party, a few ordered cakes to propose their loved ones and of course, just for indulgence.

In a year, I would say ,Wedding seasons keep me extremely busy. All those multiple layer cakes sure is a lot of work.

5. You bake cakes based on customer requests,how is it communicated? What if they are dissatisfied ?
Like I mentioned earlier, I interact with the customer regarding their requirements. Once we are clear with that, I give my suggestions on the flavour (if they enquire) and the design . If the customers buy it, we finalise. Also if the customers are unappeased, I listen to their concern and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

6. How difficult was it during the initial stages of your start up?

“I started Hew and Frost only a few months back. But I’ve been taking cake orders for more than a year. Initially or currently, it’s always a hassle to source the required materials. Some of them need to be shipped from various countries since they are not available in India.”

7. What is the one quality that’s most essential for a home baker?

Attention to detail and Patience. When you have these, you can shine in any activity you do and not just baking.

8. What is your response to people who say “Baking is not a satisfying (in terms of money) profession” ?
Baking is just like any other profession. If managed well, you will get rewarded.

9. What is special about your cakes and how would you describe Hew and Frost?

“Of course. Being a part of something special makes you special. I believe that being a part of every customer’s special occasion, makes my cake special and Hew and Frost is a space for one to expand and express their levels of excitement, joy and emotion. I believe that what I do will create memorable memories for everyone and their loved ones.Hew meaning to carve or cut (also a wordplay with Hue) and frost referring to the cream or frosting.
So my tagline would be,Hew and Frost, Bespoke cakes and sweet treats, Handcrafted to bake/cake your day.”

10. So is it just baking?

“I’m also a Textile Designer. I recently graduated from National Institute of Fashion Technology and currently freelancing. To be frank,I love baking and designing and surprisingly for me, they complement each other. I’m lucky to work with two different mediums every day. Just like how a piece of textile has immense number of possibilities, a well frosted cake or a fondant covered cake is an empty canvas for me to create.”

11.How do you balance both?

“It’s all about managing time, energy and prioritising the work according to the delivery / deadline. I work on my timelines, backwards and plan in a way that I have excess time, just so I can avoid any last minute surprises.
All my nights were spent on baking and college assignments, from night till early morning, sometimes with hardly or no sleep at all, and rush back to college for yet another day. Basically, we must work hard. That’s it.”

12. What’s your advice to upcoming entrepreneurs ?

“Believe in yourself and believe in what drives you to achieve in life as for me , I can definitely state a few things that I believe keeps me going. My passion, because I always find a way to make it happen, no matter what and my mentor. It’s a luxury to have a mentor who can guide you with their knowledge and experience and I’m extremely thankful to Karthika Shravanthi, the founder / creative head of Bakeman Begins. These two are my talent boosters. “

Saying this she showed me pictures of all the cakes she had made and I bid her goodbye after placing an order for a birthday cake. Of course, for myself.

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Reshma

Reshma