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Friday, December 04, 2020

Female Foodpreneurs: Fareha Raida Islam on her love for chocolate and cheese

Awestruck by the popular movie ‘Charlie and the chocolate factory’ as a child and engrossed by my love for chocolate and cheese, I had dreamt of opening my very own chocolate and cheese factory one day. Two decades later, I have molded and materialized the idea into a chocolate and cheese-themed restaurant. Back in 2010, I had missed a year of school when we moved to the UAE. I invested that year in culturing my love for baking and cooking, experimenting all day with a wide range of quality ingredients. Since then I have been developing my own recipes.

During my early days at University, one night while I was planning a chocolate and cheese-themed restaurant as a post-retirement venture, my father came across it and told me he had come across the right location for it. He encouraged me to come up with a business plan and pursue it immediately. Just like that, Jerry Bees was born in September 2016. We started as a small to go shop with small seating and soon we were compelled to expand to accommodate the overwhelming demand of our beloved clientele.

I did not have any formal training in this industry but I have been acquiring multiple skills along the way, learning an entire trade. I had the chance to rehearse my hobby of interior designing in my restaurants, designing the first floral and pastel themed restaurant in the country in 2017, which had become a hub for photo-shoots. I was overjoyed when Jerry Bees had taken part in my University’s food festivals and the crowd was so overwhelming that I had to hire additional people to manage it. Getting featured in popular print media and having regular celebrity clients like Shakib Al Hasan have also been elating. Jerry Bees has grown tremendously as a brand and along with it I have also seen personal and professional growth. Above all, my biggest achievement, inter alia, has been the love of people that I have acquired.

Nothing good comes easy and I have seen a lot of struggles as well which ranged from minor everyday troubles to major unforeseen setbacks like the unfortunate Holey Artisan event of 2016 and the COVID-19 pandemic which has been heavy on the restaurant industry. Overcoming a multitude of obstacles in the last four years has made me resilient and knowing that the achievements make the sleepless nights worth the hustle gives me the courage to keep moving forward.

Despite the ground realities and challenges, I like to dream big. Many people adamantly claim Jerry Bees to be a foreign franchise and I certainly take it as a compliment. However, my goal for the long term is to make this Bangladeshi born brand international. In the meantime, I want to see Jerry Bees branching out all over Dhaka city as well as sprawl to other major cities in the country. I also have substantial social plans affiliated with the brand which I will be manifesting over time.

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