Tell us about yourself
I am Iram Moazzam, a mother of two naughty boys aged 6 and 9. I have been running a home based fondant cake business “SMALL CAKES, BIG SMILES” since past three years in Islamabad and have recently shifted to Lahore.
Before I started my business, I was working as a freelance writer from home for EXPERT PARENTING AND PREGNANCY MAGAZINE and Express tribune’s Sunday magazine “Ms.T”. Basically I am a gold medalist of the first batch of Masters in Human resource management at University of Punjab (2004).
How did you come up with the idea of Small Cakes, Big Smile? What was your motivation behind this venture?
During my student life I was a very career oriented person and believed that women should not waste their degree and potential. So at the end of my last semester Descon IT24 (Lahore) offered me a job as HR Officer which I had to leave with a heavy heart after 6 months because I got married and shifted to Islamabad.
My mother in law had a kidney transplant and suffered from diabetes and BP so being her only daughter-in-law I strongly felt that my responsibility towards house and tending to the needs of my new family outweighed my own wish to work in corporate sector. (Sadly, no one in my susral (in-laws) ever acknowledged or even considered it as a sacrifice).
After having kids I started writing articles on various platforms and soon was approached by EXPERT PARENTING AND PREGNANCY MAGAZINE to work as their feature writer. I wrote for them from home for three years during which I also started writing the cover stories for Express tribune’s Sunday magazine “Ms.T”.
Meanwhile I won first prize at an essay contest held by U.S Consulate general Peshawar on the topic “Violence against women” and received a mobile phone and certificate.
In the endeavor to promote a positive image of my beloved Pakistan I started writing travel articles about its various cities on an American website “WE SAID GO TRAVEL.”
I also entered an International short story competition which was held by an Irish website and among hundreds of writers from all over the world, surprisingly mine was the only entry from Pakistan. I deliberately weaved my story “OTHER SIDE OF THE PICTURE”, to lift the image of our country in the eyes of the world. It won third position and 50 Euros prize money.
Baking was my hobby and after learning fondant art, my friends who tasted my fondant cakes went crazy and encouraged me to start a cake business from home.
“Who will place an order? People don’t know me and I hardly know four families in Islamabad”, I chuckled at their apparently ridiculous idea. But they pushed me into it and thanks to Allah, without a single advertisement the name of SMALL CAKES, BIG SMILES spread by sheer word of mouth.
One cake would fetch two orders and I felt ecstatic each time a new client approached and told me that he had eaten my cake at some one’s party.
Any challenges that you faced that proved to be an obstacle?
Working from home has its pros and cons. My experience is that you can focus better on your work if you work from office. While working from home you are taken for granted by everyone around, be it your family, relatives, maids or neighbors.
One has to learn to deal with entertaining last minute family plans and arrival of un announced guests who think ”Chaltay hain, wo to ghar pay he hoti hay”.
Secondly, when UNICEF was celebrating its 70 birthday they asked me to do four fondant cakes on various themes like stunting, sanitation etc. but I had only one and a half day to go about it. I worked day in and out, making boxes, rolling fondant, baking and decorating cake.
A friend helped me with baking but still due to excessive hand usage my wrist swelled and I was diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome. I had to take a break of three weeks.
Is it hard being a woman with an idea to accomplish?
Yes! We as Pakistanis have a long way to go to break the stereotypical attitudes that are engraved in our minds which provoke such comments like “Tumhain kaam ki kia zaroorat hay, kitchen daikho aur bachay palo”.
“Tumhain kaam ki kia zaroorat hay, kitchen daikho aur bachay palo”.
The words of my uncle who is a Harvard graduate, still resonate in my ears “Isn’t your husband’s earning enough for you that you want to start a business of your own?” Male chauvinistic ego fails to understand that the word “self -fulfillment” can apply to women as well. Not all women are contented with spending half a day in kitchen.
“Isn’t your husband’s earning enough for you that you want to start a business of your own?”
Any advice for those who have ideas as great as yours?
Never stop chasing your dream. Do give it a try. After all, how would you know if you never tried?
In the current mindset that most in-laws possess, when a bahu announces that she wants to do a job, the whole house feels threatened by this change. “Who will make gol rotis for us if she is out to work”, “who will entertain our guests if she is busy making cakes for clients in the other room?”
“Who will entertain our guests if she is busy making cakes for clients in the other room?”
You will need a lot of support from the family so seeking your husband’s support and confidence in your plan of action should be your top priority. If he is with you, you can sail against the winds. Turn a blind eye towards family politics. If you pay heed to such hurtful comments, you will never be able to achieve what you desire. One of my favorite quotation is “Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal”.
Secondly, always try to exceed your customer’s expectation. Never trade your work ethics for money.
Thirdly, always try to fulfill your social responsibility. Every once a while try to benefit those with your skill who can’t afford to pay for your product/ service. Allah rewards such efforts manifold.
Describe yourself in three words.
Patriotic, hardworking, perfectionist.
How do you manage work life balance?
Planning and my husband’s cooperation!
Planning on daily, weekly and monthly basis to achieve my long term goals. I am up and about at 6:30 am and right after dropping kids to school I start baking. While the cakes cool, I make frostings and fondants so I try to complete my major work before kids’ home time. Then if I have to resume my work I do it in evening after kids are done with their homework and busy playing. I manage my FB page and answer client queries at night after kids go to sleep.
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