In August 2017, REBA MARIA ALEX was on a phone call with her friend, who wanted a cake for a special occasion. Ten minutes into the talk, she realized that her passion could be converted into a ‘bake’iful business!
With immense support from her family, friends and Church members, this idea was achievable. A month later, in one of her cherished ‘Mother-Daughter’ drives, Reba found the perfect name for her passion and thus, ‘The DESSERT THEORY’ was born.
In a light-hearted conversation with Feba M. Abraham for the #VoLocal campaign, an initiative by News Aur Chai Media, Ms REBA, the Founder of ‘The Dessert Theory’, talks about how her idea transformed into a reality.
Reba, is a Chennai-based Architect and Artist, who has loved baking since childhood, under the watchful eyes of her mother and grandmother. She used to bake a lot while she was in college. Her desserts made many faces happy and satisfied. As a result, she planned to continue the same after college and while waiting for job opportunities in the field of Architecture. Even without much investment, she managed to bake tasty desserts for her family’s and friends’ special occasions.
When she finally decided to start her business, she faced criticism for giving up on architecture. But, that did not shake her determination! “At the end of the day, family and friends are the only ones who will support you completely,” said Reba.
Starting with her logo, she laughed and mentioned that she had to draw (a lot!) to arrive at the perfect one finally. Being a person who loves lots of swirled cupcakes and dripped cakes, she wanted to keep her logo simple, but attractive at the same time.
When asked about her sources of finance, that was where her father stepped in to help his daughter out. She discussed with her family regarding the cost and price, that is when she decided to start out small by tapping her friend circle. With the available resources, she made one or two cakes every week.
With her passion never going down, her business started experiencing a steady growth. She added that “With Experience being the best teacher, we gradually built up on the finance part of my business.”
She notes down various observations from Anna Olson’s (a renowned baker and also her favourites) online videos. She prefers a quiet place to turn her sketches into final products, by not compromising on any of her promises made to the customers. On certain days, she ends up prioritizing her work more than her own health. But, like she had mentioned, “You must be available for your family and friends too. Keep a check on how their day is.”
Her parents evaluate her work daily, and her father keeps a check on her progress and shares his opinion about her desserts. Her mother also goes all out to help her on hectic days. But, it is her elder Brother, Aben Koshy Alex, who is her biggest (and harsh too!) critic. “He is very particular about how things are made. He really wants me to deliver my best! In short, all of us mutually help each other out in their respective businesses.”
When asked about her recipes, Reba was all excited to state that she likes to improvise a lot of the traditional recipes. One such improvisation is her ‘eggless red velvet cookies’. She came up with this dessert for all those who couldn’t consume egg and to make it more appealing she ‘glazed’ the cookies with cream cheese. She got inspired by seeing doughnuts getting glazed and which got her thinking, “Why should doughnuts have all the fun?”
Another improvisation which was widely received by her customers is the classic ‘Theobroma Cake’. Her elder Brother gave her specific flavour ideas to bring out a twist to this fine cake.
“Anyone can venture out with similar menus. But the kind of critics and opinions that I get makes me pay attention to even the tiniest details. I believe that is what makes my desserts unique. At the end of the day, I strive to make my customers’ day better through my desserts!” said Reba.
Till 2019, Reba’s ‘Salted Caramel Cakes’ and ‘Chocolate cakes & cupcakes’ were highly demanded by the customers.
But after the lockdown, ‘Theobroma Cake’, ‘Fudgy Brownies’ and ‘Strawberry Cheesecake’ started picking up the demand! However, the others are still in demand. “I am indeed overwhelmed by the love and response shown to these desserts by my customers.”
Customers usually place their orders with ‘The Dessert Theory’, either by calling her or by messaging her through Instagram handle. “Talking directly to my customers enables me to pay more attention to what they require.” For example, she prefers baking desserts without fondant. In case, her customer requires fondant, she is ready to prepare the same as well.
When it comes to the delivery, she mentioned that the customers collect their packages with the help of reliable delivery apps (like Dunzo). She uses the app if the customer is in a foreign country or is lacking technical knowledge. In case of bigger cakes (like tier cakes) in terms of size, she prefers to deliver the same herself.
She uses platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp to promote her business. Earlier, she used to regularly take part in bake sales and set up stalls at schools’ and colleges’ events. She used to interact face-to-face and help people who intended to opt for baking. She recollects that her desserts have been so much in demand that it crossed the borders of Chennai pattanam to nearby regions and even to Italy!
In July 2020, Reba initiated ‘Fudgy Friday’ wherein she baked and sold a box of fresh and crusty fudgy brownies. Through this, she wanted her customers to buy and get a chance to taste her artwork. “I am almost ready with the recipe for eggless brownies,” she says.
Further on, she will try carrying out this special sale on specific Fridays and also announce in the Instagram stories adding an element of surprise.
Alongside baking, she discovered her skills to pack and also to create boxes, to keep up with the customers’ orders. She smiled and added, “I guess you can say these are the perks of being an architect.”
For the business’ future, she is slowly planning to sell jars of sauces (like salted caramel, choco fudge, strawberry jam, etc.). Reba excitedly then told, “This will be similar to the Fudgy Friday initiative and will be slowly implemented in the last week of July 2020, based on pre-orders.”
Furthermore, expansion plans are also in the talks for this artistic baker. Although savouries are not part of her line of business, the customers who are well aware of her cooking skills, order full meals from her for special occasions. Lasagna is one which has been received well by her customers.
“One thing I did notice is that my desserts are being used as gifts by my customers to make their loved ones’ day better.” Placing her trust entirely in GOD, she is definitely all in to carry out her duties to the best of her abilities.
To order scrumptious desserts, check out her Instagram page here: @the_dessert_theory
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