Ask those who bake and they will tell you that it’s a source of sheer joy and rejuvenation. Our next #mompreneur, Ashel Sandeep swears by this adage, too. Based in Bengaluru, the tennis enthusiast, worked as a software developer, until she decided to turn her passion into her profession. She founded Ashel’sBakingHeaven four years ago.
Ashel’sBakingHeaven originally focused on organic customised cakes and bakes. She has now created a large network in the region, offering customised healthy and unique looking cakes for birthdays, parties and weddings. SheThePeople.TV spoke with Ashel Sandeep about baking, the challenges she faces at work, her love for tennis, motherhood and more.
What led you to become a professional baker?
Honestly, I didn’t have any thoughts on becoming a professional baker until a few years back. It’s now been four years, and so far, it has been a great learning experience. I have had the opportunity to try out several career options in life and baking is one of them. I entered the field because of the way baking made me happy and engaged. I used to bake for my daughter and family and it brought me joy. Soon, I started baking for friends and several others. And, that’s how Ashel’sBakingHeaven was born. It’s been more than three years and going strong. And now, it feels really nice receiving all those wonderful feedbacks, appreciations and compliments on your bakes. That helps me stay constant, too.
When your passion becomes your work, you’ll never be bored.
Tell us about your lawn tennis experience?
All thanks to my parents for offering me the space to grow in an independent environment. I started playing tennis when I was five and went on to play my first state tournament when I was eight. I earned my first prize money for my first national level tournament at the age of nine. My parents gave me full freedom to choose a career at such a young age. Indeed, it really helped me boost up my overall confidence. I have played professional tennis for national and international circuits. My highest ranking was five in India in under-14 categories. We need an open mind to welcome creativity and wider thinking. Our parents, our peer group, friends and relatives play a huge role in it.
We need an open mind to welcome creativity.
What are some of the signature products of your brand? Which one is your personal favourite?
Apart from the regular cakes, my speciality lies in healthy organic bakes like a sweet potato cake, pumpkin pies, pumpkin tarts, zucchini bread, strawberry cobbler, avocado bread, gluten-free avocado chocolate cake, sugar-free coconut flour keto cake or bread, low carb carrot cake. I like experimenting with new recipes, modifying and working on a single recipe, clubbing two or more recipes, bringing out new flavours.
It’s important to use highly good quality ingredients because, it is not just about the taste and appearance but also about your health. For example, the real original vanilla extract has many benefits like anti-inflammatory properties, fever reducer, mental health booster, cholesterol stabiliser, antibacterial properties, antioxidants. The cheap imitation vanilla that you get from the market doesn’t have even 1 per cent of vanilla in it, it is made out of synthetic vanillin and a lot of chemicals.
What are some challenging cake ideas that you have executed to date?
To get neat and perfectly layered cake is the most difficult part of cake making. The cakes are so fragile and delicate and you need a steady hand and extra care while handling it. Another challenge is perfecting a technique. When you look at a beautiful cake, you can only imagine the hard work and the hours of practice involved in it. Initially, I had a tough time dealing with this beautiful medium called ‘whipped cream’. Sharp edges on whipped cream cakes were such a craze like two years back and it took months for me to reach the level that I am at right now. Dealing with different types of buttercream, ganache, fondant cakes, 3D cakes, sugar flowers, wafer paper flowers, painting on cakes, every idea is a new challenge. What helps me get through is definitely patience.
Being a baker, what are some of the challenges in life and how do you deal with them?
Today, 90 per cent of people bake and an oven at home is not so uncommon anymore. Yes, it’s a hobby for many. But, when we talk about professionalism, it’s my job and I have to take it seriously every day. Thankfully, I’m blessed with some really loyal clients ever since I started my baking venture.
One big challenge is to create a chain of loyal customers and meet their expectations every single time.
Unlike two years ago, access to good quality baking materials and products has increased in the market. It was relatively very low earlier. Another challenge I face is the transportation of cakes. Like I said earlier, the cakes are fragile and it takes a toll on you while transporting cakes safely withstanding the traffic, pollution, bad roads, etc.
Your advice to women who are considering baking as a full-time career?
I would say that it’s important to take it slow and steady. Another crucial factor is to concentrate on giving the best you can offer. Women are highly creative, there’s no denying that so those stepping into this industry must explore their inner creativity, bring out unique dishes/products which appeals the most to them first.
This is the food industry and there is nothing like ‘word of mouth’ when we talk about baking, too.
As a female entrepreneur and a mother, what in your opinion works best when it comes to work-life balance? What do you have to say about the stigmas attached to working mothers in the country?
What works best for me is the equal thought-process that my family and I share. I have a beautiful family, which understands what I do and, most importantly, why I do it. A strong family is like a strong base, it really helps you make better choices. If not many people, you need at least one person in your life who constantly encourages you.
What works best for me is the equal thought-process that my family and I share.
Coming to your second question, I believe the society is, of course, very demanding. And, it will be a lie if we believe that there aren’t any stigmas attached to working women. However, sheer belief in oneself and an understanding in the family will help get through the obstacles.
A home functions as a home only when each member of the family decides to work on it on every single day. How will there be an equilibrium when only one side is trying to balance out?
What role has motherhood played in your journey?
I’m sure everyone will agree that motherhood is a true blessing. It’s a state of selflessness and unconditional love flowing. My life completely changed ever since I embraced motherhood.
The best part is that while my life revolves around my little one, I also have the space, energy and patience to walk on my own path of fulfilment through my work.
What is that one piece of advice you would like to share with fellow mothers who are aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would say that there are always going to be hurdles, tests and hardcore challenges on the way, which will make it difficult to continue your journey. It’s ok to fall and trip over hurdles, but most important is to stand up tall and cross them. Overcoming these hurdles is what counts as a success. There is no end to achieving, so ignore the negativity and focus on sheer hard work.
It’s ok to fall and trip over hurdles, but most important is to stand up tall and cross them. Overcoming these hurdles is what counts as success.
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