The coronavirus-induced lockdown snatched away our pleasure of fulfilling our sweet tooth cravings. However, with the Government’s “unlocking” announcement, few of our beloved outlets opened their shutters and the bakeries & home bakers were one of the first few among them.
“Sprinkles – The Cupcake Boutique” in Chennai is one such home baking venture which hit the restart-button in the pandemic. Anusha Erigineni, the woman behind Sprinkles Cupcake, formerly “Anu’s Cupcakes Castle”, took to the lockdown to revive her home baking business to the delight of all her customers and began delivering these sweet goodies across the metro city.
In a light-hearted conversation with Sruthi Bhat, she shares her story.
Started in 2014, as ANU’S CUPCAKES CASTLE, Sprinkles – The Cupcakes Boutique is her second innings at home baking.
An MBA graduate who is obsessed with cupcakes, home baking was never an entrepreneurial option she planned to explore. “The decision of becoming a Home Baker was just out of the blue. Growing up, I never imagined myself as a “HOME BAKER”, to be frank, I didn’t know such a profession existed until I became one,” she says.
Post Graduation, when she was looking for jobs to work from home, one of her friends who had tasted her cupcakes, had suggested her to start baking as her career. “One of my very dear friends Aarthi Manoharan or Aarthi Akka as I call her was the one who gave me my first order of 60 mini cupcakes for her daughter’s birthday celebrations at school on, 10th November 2014 and as a result, “ANU’S CUPCAKES CASTLE” was born,” She recounts.
“I remember every second of that day. Right from baking the cupcakes to delivering them and receiving the feedback,” she adds.
The first order gave her a profit of Rs. 600 and she invested the entire amount into the business to purchase baking equipment and continued to do so till she got herself an OTG oven.
However, she had to take a break from baking in 2017 due to her wedding and resumed operations only in 2020. Baking always brought her joy, and the temporary closure of her design studio due to the pandemic made her turn to baking. “When I told my neighbours and some close clients, everybody wanted to buy cupcakes from me, and few even said how much they missed my cupcakes. So I started baking regularly,” She says.
“In a way, this pandemic gave peace to my inner mind. It helped me discover more about myself and helped me to get back to something that I enjoy doing,” she adds.
“Initially baking something was a nightmare for me. Every attempt I made at baking failed terribly. From filling up the entire house with smoke from my burnt cakes to mastering the art of perfectly baked, soft and delicious cupcakes, it has been an incredible journey I would say. With a countless number of trials, I was learning from every mistake I made and rectifying it, perfecting the baking techniques with every trial. I’m a 100% self-taught baker and a very proud owner of ‘SPRINKLES – The CupCake Boutique’,” she says.
Hailing from a family of businessmen, she had no second thoughts about the revival of her home baking business. “I started my home baking venture completely out of passion, and making money was not the agenda. So, I was never scared, nor did I have a fear of losing. My family has been my greatest support since day one, and now when I told my husband I’m going to take up baking seriously, he was the happiest,” she adds.
Balancing being a full-time mother and baker is easier said than done, and when asked how she manages everything, she says “I plan my orders well ahead. Since I have a baby, planning plays a major role. I usually start baking in the early hours before my baby wakes up. Once they are ready, I immediately dispatch them for deliveries,” She believes in keeping her orders fresh and doesn’t refrigerate them, therefore, drawing all her clients with soft spongy mouthwatering cupcakes.
But being a home-baker and single-handedly managing all the tasks isn’t as easy as it sounds and comes with its own set of challenges. To this day, the most prominent challenge ERIGINENI faces is when it comes to getting the product delivered. Since she does the baking by herself, she has to rely on external delivery partners to deliver the product, and that doesn’t always work in her favour. “There are countless occasions when my delivery partner calls me halfway through the delivery, saying that the box slipped from his hand. Those days are the worst, especially when I have to call up the clients and tell them they wouldn’t be receiving cakes due to uncertain reasons. Even today till the last box is delivered, I remain restless,” she says.
However, the lockdown and the accompanying restrictions have been of help when it comes to delivering cupcakes as lesser traffic means quicker and safer delivery.
Though the pandemic eased out her struggle with delivering fresh cupcakes, it has affected her business in a way like all others.
The primary impact was on the availability of baking supplies. “My hand blender gave up, and I had to get a new one immediately. To my shock, I couldn’t find one in the entire city. I went to every shop in and around with no luck and I to resort to sourcing one from another state,” she recalls her lockdown nightmare.
“I’m also facing issues with procuring the regular brands of cream I have been using for years. They are out of stock, and no one knows when they will get fresh stock. So we have to opt for the available stock,” she adds.
In addition to this, the orders have been dwindling. The main concern being the safety of ordering food online “Though we take all the precautions and bake the goodies with the utmost care, people still hesitate to order. They don’t want to take any unwanted risks. We have a lot of customers saying that the cakes are tempting, but they would order once the corona settles or after the lockdown,” She sighs.
She has come to terms that it is going to take a while for everything to fall back into place and business to get back to how it was before.
But with relentless efforts, she doesn’t wish to stop at this and plans to bring in more flavours and variants “I wake up with a new concept every single day to improvise the cupcakes that I bake. Bringing each concept to reality takes quite a time. The main agenda is To impress the customers with each box of cupcakes delivered,” she says.
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