BEIRUT: What better innovation than something that goes straight to the stomach. Nahlan Saade, a fashion design graduate, has in just a few years built "Better from Scratch," making her culinary mark as an entrepreneur.
The start-up delivers homemade pastries that promise the basics of home cooking every time.
"From my kitchen to yours, Better from Scratch is a bakery that always strives to deliver the freshest and most creative desserts to satisfy as many sweet tooth cravings as possible," Saade told Annahar.
Saade is a fashion merchandise graduate from the "Fashion institute of Technology" in New York. In parallel to her futher studies she started her own initiative Better from Scratch at the age of 20 after her return to Beirut, whereby she produced desserts from scratch and had them delivered. Although these two paths are not very similar, she believes that many of her courses helped her target and reach potential customers.
"A lot of people ask if I will ever work in fashion and I honestly do not know. I'm still 22 and I have a long road ahead of me so I'm always keeping my options open and perhaps I can integrate both fields in a new and innovative way," Saade said.
What drove her to follow this shift in path was the fact that when she made desserts for her friends over dinner, they would later on ask her to make them again for their special occasions. This led Saade to create Better from Scratch given her longtime passion for cooking.
"That was when I decided to start something small from home and have it run on a delivery basis and launch it through social media," she said.
Saade learned the art of cooking by practicing new recipes from cookbooks, learning old family recipes, websites, and watching YouTube videos. To add to her baking and business knowledge, she took decorating classes in New York to strengthen her start-up skills.
Saade's entrepreneurship ended up launching quickly as word about Better from Scratch spread with rapid speed to locations throughout Lebanon. Her small-business hobby turned into a full time job. As the orders started to increase, she started taking part in culinary exhibitions and events.
She attributes the rapid popularity of her start-up to several factors; the support of her family, her familiarity with baking, her personality and loyal satisfied customers. She considers herself a positive and determined person. Even if at times things were not going as planned or as she hoped, such as having a slow month, she has never thought once of wanting to close down. Instead she looked at new ways to bounce back and come off stronger.
Saade added that it is always important to connect to the customers and understand what it is they like and what they are looking for because this way she can offer more ideas if their initial proposition is not feasible.
"Working closely with the customer is a must, in order to see how we can achieve their vision," she said.
Saade recounted how Better from Scratch was initially launched through social media; Instagram and Facebook. Her account hit the one-thousand mark after only four days, and recently the number escalated to 14 thousand, all done without paid advertising. Therefore, she believes that social media is one of the most powerful new tools when executing a business concept.
"What also helped my business grow was since the majority of my customers were students, this led Better from Scratch to take place in many school and university bake sales for exposure," she said.
A key factor that contributed to Saade's business growth is that literally everything is made from scratch, hence the name – Better from Scratch. She considers this is what made her business different from other bakeries and she highlighted the importance of keeping it that way.
"Since I started the business, there have been several offers from various suppliers on readymade mixes that are both more efficient and cheaper than doing everything from zero. I have declined, and made a vow that no matter how big the start-up grows, we are sticking to our traditional method," she said. " People can tell the difference in the taste and people have told me about how the noticeable rich taste of the chocolate was, as an example."
A benefit of Better from Scratch being a home start-up was that it proved a great way to cut costs. But later on when she started growing and her company became a registered one, Saade set a goal to open her own shop post graduation.
This has led her to markedly save profits each month.
But with every good side, exists is a negative one. The disadvantage she faced was the difficulty in separating her personal life from work. "I remember the first month I did not see any of my friends, not even once. I was working for continuous hours, usually until 3 or 4 am, and sometimes I even pulled several all nighters," she said.
But Saade isn't working now just by herself, which has helped her preserve the struggle of balancing lives. Now, with cooking partners, she is emphasizing more the decorating and branding part of business, testing new ideas and communicating more with customers. On very busy occasions such as Valentine's Day or Christmas she has more helpers come in as part timers to can manage with increased volume of orders.
She told Annahar: "This business has 'nourished' me tremendously, I learned to be patient with customers. I was also overwhelmed by the amount of work which tired me."
This has helped her further realize how important maintaining a balance between her personal life and her business was, in order to always have the same passion for the job as when it first started.
"You never want to let your job feel like a burden because this is going to make you de-motivated and this is going to show in the quality of your work," Saade said.
As for her future plans, Saade is in the process of working toward opening a store which she finds "very exciting." She said that there are concepts in the works, designed to expand the brand in a new and unconventional way.
"Details will be revealed soon," Saade said.
Annahar's "Faces of Lebanon" is an occasional series that takes a look at the talented young people who work, study, live, and dream of a future in Lebanon. We encourage you nominating candidates and telling us their story. Send your nominations to: Facesof.Lebanon@annahar.com.lb
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