June 3, 2017
By: Habiba Elhady
The number of women home-based small businesses in Egypt is on the rise. The declining economic situation has contributed to the influx of work-at-home moms, but many corporate employees are also leaving behind lucrative jobs to a more relaxing work environment. Sarah Arram, founder of Bakeaholics, a leading cake decorating company, knows exactly the stress, the long hours, and the mental drain associated with the corporate environment. She’s has been there, done that.
A computer science graduate, Sarah worked as a software engineer for major multinational companies. But despite her professional success, she quit her job to follow her passion for cake decoration. “I love computers and technology, but, I got bored with the 9 to 5 job.” A free spirit, Sarah no longer found the job “mentally stimulating.” Baking became her therapy after a long stressful day at work. “I knew I found my true calling,” she said.
Sarah developed an appreciation and interest for home baked treats from the time she was a child growing up in Saudi Arabia. She still remembers coming home from school and the house would be filled with sweet aromas of her mother’s baking, “especially the mouth-watering caramel scent of my mother’s famous upside down pineapple cake,” she said. Today, the airy sponge cakes and fruity citrusy pineapples still trigger her childhood memories.
The software engineer became obsessed with baking. She watched television shows and read books to learn more about it. She started experimenting in the kitchen, baking and decorating cakes. She even bought baking products and tools from the United States that weren’t available in the market. “I knew this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” she explained. But with her scientific mind, she knew she couldn’t do it professionally without learning the craft from the experts.
Her decision to quit her job and “give up a successful career to become a baker” was not well received by her friends and family. “At first, it didn’t settle in very well with them, especially my parents. But they finally came around and understood how important it was for me and became very supportive,” she explained.
With an eye for art and a passion for baking, cake decorating was the perfect choice for Sarah, as “it combined both crafts.” She traveled to Dubai to learn the professional techniques of cake decorating, “which is different from pastry and culinary arts,” and became the first certified Wilton Method Instructor in Egypt.
When Sarah started Bakeaholics – which is accredited by Wilton USA as a certified training center – to teach cake decorating techniques, “only few people knew about cake decoration, its potential, the tools, the products, the technicality. It wasn’t a big thing as it is today.” Sarah believes that Bakeaholics, is the key reason for introducing the art of cake decoration in Egypt.
Today, Sarah is an icon in the field of cake decoration and food art in Egypt and the Middle East, but as always, the road to success was tough and challenging. People’s skepticism of new ideas made it even harder for her “to introduce a new concept, change the market, convince people that their ‘ordinary cake’ is not enough anymore,” not to mention her fear of failure and rejection. But as most entrepreneurs do, she “took a leap of faith and put everything into this project. And it was totally worth it,” she added.
Like many of us, Sarah had had several baking disasters before she mastered the art of baking. “Baking is a science as well as an art, and this is where my computer science background came handy, because successful baking starts with proper measuring. And the fails kept getting less by time,” Sarah explained.
“Running a successful business is very rewarding, but running a successful business that you love is beyond rewarding.” Sarah has been managing Bakeaholics for almost 7 years now “and it feels great.” The job is vibrant and exciting and every day is a new adventure. “One day I am preparing with my team for a new course, the next, I am teaching a class on how to make a masterpiece wedding cake with life-like sugar flowers. The next day we are recipe testing, or preparing a business plan for the second quarter of the year.”
Bakeaholics is far more than just a cake decorating school. Over the years, it witnessed homemakers who had earlier given up their professional careers and were trying to venture into the business world with “delicious homemade dessert.” It saw many women joining the training programs to start home-based business, to support their families, or simply to “satisfy a desire for self-accomplishment and success.” Sarah is proud to have “contributed positively to the ongoing success stories of her former students who became experts in this field and are currently running their own businesses.”
When asked to describe the Bakeaholics’ experience, Sarah said, “Bakeaholics is an eye-opening experience, it’s whimsical and magical, it’s a form of self-expression like you have never seen before. You learn how to make art that you can share with your loved ones, and they can all have a piece of your craftsmanship.”
Sarah is also working to develop online video production tutorials, “which could also become a book in the future.” Sarah doesn’t regret the decision she made years ago to quit her job and chase after her dream. In fact, it was the best professional decision she made in her life and she encourages other to follow their dreams too. “Following your dream is always a good idea, if you didn’t get what you wanted, at least you’ve done something you love,” she said.
** All photos courtesy of Bakaholics and Sarah Arram’s Sugar Art
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