Sugar Shots, a cloud bakery store run by two friends, came to the scene prior to the pandemic and witnessed the growth of homegrown bakeries. Naba Habib Belim, and Arnaz Rahman narrated their story of decorative and colorful cupcakes to COLORS Lamyaa Yushra.
As much as we curse the pandemic for the uninvited guest it brought into our lives in the form of boredom, we all must accept it has helped us to discover some of our hidden talents and hone our skills when the future seemed all foggy. Whether it be picking up an instrument that was getting ancient in our closet, getting artsy with the paint strokes, or igniting our Emma Fontanella skills everyone turned to quirky distractions and it rekindled us to our hobbies in a way never done before. The internet was our savior while we turned to pros in the vicinity of our homes with the trial and errors of a recipe. At the same time, some of us got so good that we felt confident enough to earn some cash from our newly found hobbies. So, it led to a boom of homegrown businesses, baking being a particular favorite. Those who were already in the online businesses before the pandemic just won themselves the time to polish their skills and the results became apparent as their business flourished during the pandemic.
Naba Habib Belim and Arnaz Rahman, two friends who happen to be partners in baking, met at a tuition center during their A-Levels with little to no idea that one day their friendship will take them on an interferential journey.
“When I met Naba it was love at first sight for me. I might sound like her boyfriend but honestly, the way she carried herself and her strong personality was something that fascinated me. I decided I had to be friends with her. We instantly clicked on our love for food, especially desserts because we love making sugary delights,” Arnaz Rahman said playfully.
“Well, we love feeding our family and friends. We tried recipes from online and soon we realized we wanted to do something about the fact that we love feeding people and spreading the love that comes with a bite of something sweet. So, we thought that okay, we have a few skills and YouTube is always there to help us if we get stuck with something. Why not? It’s going to be a good shot,” added Naba Habib.
In 2017, they took a leap of faith and started unofficially among their friends and family. Sometime between the same year Naba Habib acted on impulse and opened a Facebook page with the title “Sugar Shots”. “After creating the page, I called up Arnaz informing her about the page, and from there onwards Sugar Shots became official. It was a very abrupt decision, and we didn’t plan on anything,” Naba Habib explained.
At the time Sugar Shots started, there weren’t many competitions in the industry but that did not limit the challenges they faced both professionally and personally, and as the saying goes small obstacles are part of the journey to make it even more alluring. “I belong to a conservative family and my parents were not very supportive in the initial days of our business because they were concerned about how I’d manage my studies and the business together. Naba and I are the only ones working, so from getting the raw materials from the vendor to collecting the orders and then preparing the order itself it’s all of us. It’s very difficult and you must be very patient to deal with all that work. So, their concern was very understandable,” Arnaz described.
The lack of family support from Arnaz’s end brought a whole new hurdle for Naba as she took charge of buying the raw materials and keeping tabs on the orders flooding in. “Arnaz did not own a mobile phone and it became all the more difficult as I couldn’t reach her at any point of the day except her landline, nevertheless we managed until we became undergrad students and by then Arnaz bought a phone as well.”
Time is a great healer and Arnaz’s parents are proud and happy of what their daughter has achieved through her business. “I am very grateful for that and it’s a nice feeling to make them proud.”
The personal struggle may have been reconciled with time, but the professional challenge awaited them and the major hurdle was delivering the baked delicacies to customers properly which was greatly felt by the duo. “We did not have so many delivery services the time we started unlike now which we see here and there. Dessert delivery is particularly a very tricky thing. It’s very sensitive to temperature, so we did not have any delivery service and hence we did not serve a lot of people around Dhaka city, our orders were restricted to Dhanmondi. We were only doing pickups from our Dhanmondi point. Then thankfully last year we found a very good delivery service and we are using them now.”
Agreeing with her business partner, Arnaz recollected how some pages had a bad history with delivery services and Sugar Shots luckily had few mishaps to add to their journey. “As far as I recall I think we had one incident, but we recovered from it and took it as a lesson for our future.”
Sugar Shots specializes in cupcakes and cakes conjuring up unique and decorative cakes with Dulce de Leche a hit among their customers. When you look at their menu it’s hard to resist the thought of devouring ourselves into a sweetened land. One thing that catches our attention is the vibrant frosting and the beautiful combination of hues they bring into their cupcakes which takes us back to our childhood with a tingling of positivity fluttering in our stomachs. “If you look at our Facebook page you will realize we do not repeat the same frostings for our cupcakes. It’s a matter of mix and match. When Naba comes up with a combination we apply that in our cupcakes and vice versa. Baking is like an art, and you have to think like an artist to make it look appealing, something we preach in our menu,” Arnaz detailed it out.
Since the duo began their little dreamy operation, the market for homegrown cooks and bakers has grown at large with the availability of ingredients at the click of their fingertips. The competition has become dearer with young girls taking to the pedestal to make something out of their hobby during the pandemic. When asked about the competition they are facing the partners in baking responded saying, “The pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for us in the sense that we got ample amount of time to concentrate on our business with our classes shifting to online. The competition has grown fiercely but the pandemic gave us the time to polish our skills and utilize them in our desserts. Small businesses have suffered but by the grace of Almighty Allah, we have a loyal base of customers, and last year our business saw the brightest light of day. We received orders of 600-800 cupcakes for events, which was a huge deal for us. We also work with 10 Minutes School and have delivered them some of our assorted array of cupcakes for their events. Delivering those huge orders of cupcakes sort of gave us the feeling we have come a long way since we embarked on our journey three years ago and we were on the right track.”
Young bakers and cooks are setting a benchmark through their small-scale businesses and with the recent journey of Kishwar Chowdhury at MasterChef Australia a sense of accomplishment has created a buzz among home cooks who are passionate about cooking to nurture this hobby into a profession. While cooking platforms in our country remain limited, it deprives our aspiring cooks of showcasing their talents on a larger platform. “The absence of a platform is greatly felt here. It’s not like we do not have cooking shows but inviting a celebrity chef from abroad exposes us and the hidden gems that are decaying at home get an opportunity to showcase their talent. If baking competitions are held annually then it might encourage people to come out and it might reveal how much we are missing in this arena,” Naba Habib further emphasized.
The risk taken by the duo Naba Habib and Arnaz Rahman is an example of a dream we all aspire to take with a friend who also happens to be our business partner and honesty is the ingredient the girls have been adding to their business mantra. “Honesty is something businesses should prioritize over everything. When you are doing business with someone it’s so important not to lose sight of our goal and I believe Allah watches over everything we do and this practice seems to have become a luxury in this time and age whilst for us, it comes naturally,” concluded Naba Habib and Arnaz Rahman.