Oct 03, 2023

Mixing dreams and flour: Neha’s bakery startup with SYB!

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
~Colin Powell

Neha Mehta, the founder of Cakes N Chemistry, a Mumbai-based cloud kitchen bakery, was a participant in the Start Your Business Programme of S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR). Neha is trained under several international master chefs in patisserie and cake art.

Recently, Neha was invited for a session on Entrepreneur Talk, a part of the SYB programme. In this session, Neha shared the challenges she faced while starting her business.

The turning point

Neha belonged to a well-educated, happy family, was pursuing Biotechnology, and planned to study overseas and become a scientist. Life was great, until one fine morning, her father, who was the sole breadwinner of the family, passed away. Concerned relatives suggested her family to sell off the well-established business to be able to meet the financial requirements, however, Neha impulsively decided to continue her father’s business.

Luckily, her uncles were in the same field and went out of their way to help her, and her mother understand the business. They worked 18 hours a day, and were able to achieve the same sales figure as her father did, within 3-4 months.

This indeed was an enormous achievement for the family!

I always saw myself doing a regular job, never a business. I had absolutely no clue of how business worked, and what it entailed. I had, to be honest, never given it a thought. But now, since I learned how it worked, and more importantly – I made it work,
I knew at that moment that I wanted to do business in life!

~Neha Mehta

The passion was missing…

Although she knew that working out of the manufacturing unit was not her calling, Neha did it anyway, and successfully too, since that was their only source of income. She also continued studying. Movies like Taare Zameen Par and 3 Idiots were released that encouraged people to pursue their passion. This validated what she had been feeling all this while. She explored multiple avenues, however, nothing seemed to work in her favour. With a number of setback with regards to her career, she felt aimless and depressed. But success comes to those who are resilient, and unstoppable. At the darkest time of her life, divine intervention came into play!

And then, there was no looking back!

I had gone to my niece’s birthday party and saw a stall there that said “Decorate Your Own Cupcakes!” I had never touched a cupcake or an icing medium before that. I went to simply decorate my cupcake, but the amount of fun decorating and distributing it among the guests was unparalleled.

~Neha Mehta

She finally knew what she wanted, and went for it . To her surprise, her kitchen was equipped with all the tools and machines, since her mother was equally passionate about baking. Initially, she pursued baking as a hobby, however, when her relatives and friends encouraged her to charge for her talent, she realised that it could also be converted into a business, a side business perhaps, to begin with.

Learned to differentiate & innovate at Start Your Business, SPJIMR

Despite so many hiccups along the journey, she refused to give up. She knew that she was destined for something big, she knew that she wanted to start a business of her own, and so she did! But before diving in head first, Neha was a participant in the Start Your Business programme offered by SPJIMR.

The SYB programme helped her understand the demand of the market and how she could meet it. Other than that, it helped her to grow her network immensely. With the help of this programme, she learned the importance of social media and viral marketing.

She resonated with a session at SYB on “Discover your passion” which, as the name suggests, encouraged people to find their passion in life.

Name, fame, and wealth – everything is important, but what truly counts is whether or not you are truly happy! I know the kind of restlessness I felt when I had still not figured things out, as compared to now, the happiness I feel pursuing my passion every single day! My cafe is open 365 days, and there are times when I am working for 18 hours a day, but because I LOVE what I do, I barely feel the exhaustion.

~Neha Mehta

Her biggest takeaway from the SYB programme was the need to constantly innovate. Neha opened a proper cafe and patisserie called Cakes N Chemistry, at a prime location in Mumbai. The two years after the launch were pure bliss! It was the phase when social media bloggers and Instagrammers were gaining popularity, and Cakes N Chemistry had become a hub for them.

Food bloggers would flock in every day, we had tables reserved for bloggers/ vloggers who have now become big-shot influencers. We had such great reviews on Zomato. In fact, Zomato might still have pictures of that cafe.

~Neha Mehta

To differentiate herself from other cafes and competitors, she innovated “Mango Freak Shake” which got the people lining up for hours outside the cafe.

Mango Freak Shak

We would open up at 10 AM, and we would see an entire queue of 40-50 people lined up, right from 8:30-9:00 AM, for the Mango Freak Shake. And just with that one innovative product, I made 10x the business I would make on a regular day. Another surprising thing that happened was – a group of 6 Australian girls on a 15-day vacation to India, happened to read a blog/ watch a vlog with our mention, and made an effort to visit Cakes N Chemistry to check out our desserts, especially the Mango Freak Shake.

~Neha Mehta

Chocolate-coated popcorn “Rainbow Popcorn” was another innovative product that Neha innovated, which also went viral like the previous product. Cafe owners around the same place tried to meet her to understand what exactly was the secret behind her products going viral.

When there were a few reviews regarding the Rainbow popcorn on social media, the Curly Tales team approached us to cover our cafe, FOR FREE! Ask them to cover your cafe now, and they’ll charge a bomb!

~Neha Mehta

Innovation was the only thing that she did consistently, and that got her the desired results. She had but had to close it down during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Neha chose to innovate, and reinvent again, instead of succumbing to the circumstances! She started a cloud kitchen, which had its own challenges..

The way we did sales pre-pandemic, was very different from the way it was done on the cloud model. The sales had also dropped to one-fourth of what we were originally doing. That’s when I was willing to innovate. I spent time to understand the cost for each product, especially my star products, to relook at my menu – the products that I could discontinue, the ones I could push more. I really got a lot of time to think and create a brand new menu.

~Neha Mehta

This entire process of innovation and reinvention made Neha realise the mistakes that she had made previously, changed the business model in its entirety, and also made it profitable. She now feels like she has good business and financial knowledge, as compared to when she had kickstarted her business.

Start Your Business Programme by SPJIMR

Neha Mehta is a great example of how important it is to have a never-give-up attitude. She faced a lot of roadblocks when she initially started her business but she never gave up on her entrepreneurial spirit. She developed a business out of her hobby of making cakes.

The SYB programme helped her to identify business opportunities in baking and develop a proper business idea to expand and scale up. During her time in the SYB programme, she developed a network of successful individuals, who deeply inspired her.

Her major success story includes serving celebrities, influencers, and big corporate companies such as Accenture, Johnson and Johnson, High Media Labs, Facebook, and Instagram. She was interviewed by Radio Mirchi, Entrepreneurs of India, and Start-up India magazine.

See what the other SYB Students have to say…

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