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Friday, December 04, 2020

Female Foodpreneurs: Zainah Zahir on making her customers happy one dessert at a time

Indulging into happiness is what triggered the inception of ‘indulgent_life’; my Instagram page that promotes positive living and passionate eating. Hi, I am Zainah Zahir Majumder, a Nutritionist by profession and a baker by passion, and here is my story. Being blessed with a mother who instilled in me the joy of cooking; to be more therapeutic than a daily chore, always intrigued me to try different sweet and savory recipes. Her ‘secret recipe’ for brownies always left me mesmerized even after indulging in it throughout my life. As far as my memory goes, brownies and mixed fruit custard were always my mother’s go-to-desserts, whether it be for a casual meal among friends or even dinner parties, or a light snack.

Baking was something I enjoyed, but it was not something I thought I would be so engrossed in. The game-changer was the COVID-19 pandemic. With the ongoing lockdown, I was spending most of my time playing with my pets, gardening, spending quality family time, and the usual Netflix binge-watch. It was on one fateful afternoon, I decided to test if I still had my hand in baking since I had been out of it for a few good years whilst completing my higher education in London, UK. After a few hours of labor, the brownies turned out beautiful, almost successful replicas of my mother’s recipe. I was content to a point where I thought of sharing some photos on a Facebook group called ‘No Diet Today’ where fellow quarantined food enthusiasts and chefs share their photos and recipes of their home-cooked meals. When I first posted on 3rd May ’20, I was taken aback by the tremendous response I received – 233 likes and 63 comments within 24 hours (Alhumdulillah!). Initially, I had inquiries to share the recipe, then came the orders from the comment section to my inbox. After a few phone conversations with my sister and friends, I decided to take the orders, and thus started the journey of ‘indulgent_life’. 

I have always been a selective eater. I don’t eat what doesn’t appeal to me, let it be street food or a Michelin star restaurant, and naturally, I choose the best ingredients for my baking. Yes, that makes the price point on the higher end, but my only goal is to serve exactly what I would eat and not compromise on taste. I have certainly gained a few kilos and burnt a few cakes, but sourcing ingredients during this pandemic when imports are limited, is a real struggle, especially when shopkeepers are hiking prices. Furthermore, baking for extended periods, singlehandedly starting from mixing to packing, running on 3-4 hours of sleep, along with irregular food habits, have really taken a toll on my personal wellbeing. But at the end of the day, when I find overwhelmingly positive reviews from my customers, it makes my efforts totally worth it and gives me a renewed sense of confidence.

‘Indulgent_life’ runs totally by word of mouth. I only take orders that I can deliver without compromising quality and my brand’s goodwill. My first sales were on 4th May ’20 with only 2 batches of brownies (yielding 50 pcs), now I am selling hundreds of baked goodies daily comprising of assorted cookies, banoffee pie, banana bread, gojas and more. I believe my biggest achievement in this journey has been the number of returning customers that I have attained in this short period of time. There are 3 cherishable moments I would like to share: 

  • Comparisons with reputable confectionaries around the world such as Ben’s cookies in the UK, Magnolia’s in NY and even Chips Ahoy.
  • Labeled the ‘Cardi B of cookies’.
  • Received Tk. 500 extra as a token of gratitude from a customer who felt my products deserved more.

Honestly, I love the comforting pleasure that sweeps through me as the baking aromas take me back to my childhood, i.e. to the simpler times. Baking is nothing short of magic – it is my analgesic. I am currently working on a spa & salon, which will launch next month Insha’Allah. Once that is running, I plan to further expand ‘indulgent_life’.

‘Discipline, consistency and seizing the opportunity’ is how I bake my worries away and turn them into something sweet. Because that’s what life is all about.

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