Ayesha Akhtar is the young founder, a Certified Pastry Artist & Chocolatier behind Passion Bake, an Oakville-based bespoke custom bakery. With a sense of humor, a DIY spirit, and an artisan pair of hands, this entrepreneur has won many accolades from being a Cake Star Ambassador to being the Lindt Easter Macaron Champion!
What does Passion Bake do, what kind of products/services do you provide?
Passion Bake is my bespoke affair where everything is handcrafted with love from scratch. We specialize in Handcrafted Chocolate, French Macarons, Entremets, Occasional Cakes, and Hi-Tea. We take pride in using the highest-grade products and fair-trade chocolate to prepare our authentic French and Italian recipes. Passion Bake is known not only for the elegant desserts and savoury but also for our product’s beautiful presentation and packaging, ensuring every creation is wrapped with ribbons and pearls to perfection.
Brief description of your background.
I am a Certified Pastry Artist and a Chocolatier. However, I prefer using the word ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ when it comes to Passion Bake. I feel the amount of hard work that goes behind the scenes involves support, dedication, strength, and commitment, which comes from my husband and children on a daily basis. We are in this together and thankful every day for where we started and how far we have come.
My struggle goes back a long way. To fulfill my dream and passion for pastry and confectionery arts, I traveled to Italy and France to take my skills to the next level. I hold a Baking and Pastry Arts Management degree and currently doing my Masters in Advanced Chocolate & Confectionary.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I grew up in a third-world country where women were submissive yet strong. However, I grew up in a home where women had the freedom to follow their dreams. In my opinion, some women do deserve an opportunity to be celebrated not for one day but every single day because some life is tough. Gender equality is essential and often goes unrecognized even in the developed countries.
The metaphor behind gender discrimination has been there since the world came into existence and goes back to Adam and Eve. Despite persistent inequalities in civil, economic, cultural, political, and human rights, women deserve to be honored for how far we have come towards achieving equality in the workplace and entrepreneurship. International Women’s Day may mean different things to different people. My father was a broadcaster and supported women’s empowerment.
He also had an advertising agency where he made documentaries and worked with NGOs on domestic violence against women. The global focus may be different, but it all comes down to recognizing human rights without segregating the gender differences at the end of the day. The world is constantly evolving, but we all know that this is a constant fight that is inevitable. We hope and pray that the world realizes the rise of the woman is not man’s fall. Let us all be an advocate for gender equality.
Did being a woman affect you in your journey as an entrepreneur?
I can not say that it affected me. If anything, it only helped me grow and succeed. I look at the positives first. We are in a very hard-working industry where there is a lot of competition, and almost everyone’s work is remarkable. Thankfully, in the professional world, the majority of the people I have come across are the kind who push you to reach for the stars.
During my internship, all the male co-workers were extremely helpful and accommodating. They would not let us lift anything heavy or that required more work. My academic journey has also been very smooth. My Colleagues, Chefs, Professors would all go out of their way to help out when need be.
What do you like to do in your free time/ any fun facts about you?
I love being productive. That is one of my biggest strengths. During my free time, I love to drive with a nice cup of coffee; I love to read, learn, and share the knowledge I have. I love creating and testing new recipes.
I enjoy sitting down with my children, engaging them in some fun activity, or baking. Since their childhood, I kept myself very rooted in their lives. They are all great artists/bakers. Some fun facts: we love to travel, go Camping, RV’ing, Snorkeling, and Deep-sea diving.
When did you think of starting a business, how did you accomplish it, any challenges, and any help from friends?
When we launched Passion Bake, we were in awe at the kind of response we received within the first two days, and then it just took off. We were new to Toronto at that time and did not know many people.
It was just word of mouth and we were amazed at how reviews went viral on social media. I had not seen that before. We were pre-booked two weeks in advance within the first few days of starting up.
How has covid affected your business?
Besides the shortage of commodities, we did not face any challenges. That is also because we were not hoarding. God blessed us so that despite the influx of orders, we never had any inventory shortage. If we would, things just thankfully worked out.
I’d rather say, Covid kind of helped us grow smoothly. Since people were home-bound, they ordered food and tried different items. It worked both ways.
Passion Bake will be selling their handcrafted chocolate bonbons and macarons gift boxes nationwide and plan to increase their sales to 40%. They will also be reinstating their classes as soon as the pandemic restrictions are lifted.
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