More women in Goa are starting businesses. Many have been doing so not out of choice but out of sheer compulsion or to fend for their families during the pandemic. But do you think this should be the only reason to start a business as a woman entrepreneur? The answer is a definite no! More women should start businesses because they want to and not because they have to. This can only happen with an improvement in social parameters in Goa. Though entrepreneurship has become a new trend in the state, it has untapped the largely progressive and potential contributors, that is women. There are many Government schemes no doubt to support women entrepreneurs but the willingness to take a plunge is very scarce.
This means we need education and not the kind of education you are thinking about right now. It needs to be practical knowledge. We help women tap into their potentials and teach them how to simply start a business and run it locally. We boost their optimism and appreciation for new opportunities towards a more gender-inclusive entrepreneurial society in Goa. With women willing to take the plunge, we get blessed with success stories. One such story is of Anoushka Fernandes, the founder and creative mind behind ‘Sugarlicious‘ in Goa. Being new to Goa when she shifted here for education, she didn’t let obstacles bring down her motivation. With the desire to follow in her father’s footsteps in business, she successfully started and has been running Sugarlicious for over 8 and a half years. Living the Goan dream, Anoushka believes that Goa has taught her a lot and contributed to her current success.
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Sugarlicious specializes in celebration cakes, cupcakes and cakesicles, and hampers for special occasions. We had a chat with Anoushka to learn how she managed to kickstart a passion into a delicious and well-recognized business in Goa. The excerpts of our conversation are below.
Tell us a little about yourself
I’m Anoushka Sequeira Fernandes. I’m 29 and married for almost a year. I was born and brought up in Dubai. Came to Goa in 2009 to pursue my bachelor’s in commerce from SS Dempos. I then did my MBA in HR at Goa University and was selected to be sent to Ingolstadt, Germany on a student exchange program and spent 6 months in Germany. I love to travel, cook, meet new people and eat good food. And I love DOGS! ( I say hi and bye to them ). I am an only child and my husband is my best friend, my guide, and my biggest cheerleader. My parents are the reason and motivation behind Sugarlicious.
Why did you choose to move to Goa? What did this experience bring you?
Every summer vacation we would visit Goa without fail to meet my aunt and other relatives. Higher education in Dubai was expensive so I knew that I had to come back to India. Mumbai was not my cup of tea. The trains, pollution, and population gave me nightmares. Goa was the ultimate destination for a person like me. But, it was way different from what I expected. The language was a barrier! I couldn’t understand much or speak Konkani. I even had to request a professor mid-class to speak in English because I couldn’t follow. It was difficult making friends at first but by the time I reached my third year of college, everything got better.
The move taught me how to be independent, strong, fend for myself, and be my own friend. Goa taught me a lot and gave me a lot and still is. And I always believe in, whatever happens, happens for the best.
How did your passion for baking start?
As vague as this sounds, it came to me one fine day. I was fascinated by a sister duo back in Dubai who started off from home and eventually opened up their own bake store. I woke up and decided to bake after scouting for a recipe. I did it once, it was a success. Tried twice and thrice, because it could even be a fluke. All tries, fortunately, turned out good and I decided it’s time. I told my father I would like to start a business in this, and being a businessman himself, he always wanted me to be my own master. He encouraged me and that’s how I kickstarted.
What inspired the name of your business?
A lot of baking stores in Dubai in 2012 had the word “Sugar” in their brand names. I thought Sugar was a lucky word and wanted to have that in my brand. So we paired sugar with a lot of words until my mum came up with ‘Sugarlicious’. And I loved it. And it stuck!
What do you like in pastry that you cannot find in other culinary fields?
The creative outlet! Cakes allow me to show my artistic side. I love when clients let me have my way with designs because that’s when I believe a cake truly becomes customized and yours.
What was the greatest challenge you faced while starting Sugarlicius in Goa?
In 2012, there were not a lot of specialized stores dedicated only to selling bakery essentials. The cake scene was limited to basic bakeries and nothing was specialized per se. My father would get me cake tins, boards, etc from Mumbai (Arife at Crawford Market). I couldn’t drive and at that time I wasn’t familiar with Mapusa and roaming around. Also, tutorials and videos were not as vast as are now. Social media in Goa was still up and coming. I remember some of my college mates didn’t even have a Facebook account.
Who are the pastry chefs you admire most?
Can I say no one? I like the work of every chef. Everyone’s work is unique and everyone’s work has its own trademark. Offhand I can name Aditi Shukla, Ana’s Cake Studio, Sugar Daddy Bakes, Sugaholic and the list goes on!
What is your preferred step in the baking process?
I think I cannot choose one. I love making fondant figures. So that’s something I can sit with for hours together and not get bored. But the most favorite part has to be putting the cake together. Putting the Elemis and figures onto the cake. That’s when the cake comes to life.
What kind of dessert does Sugarlicious specialise?
We specialize in celebration cakes, cupcakes and cakesicles, and hampers for special occasions.
Where do you find your inspiration for each of your creations?
From anywhere! References, vectors, photographs of people.
At which point do you think pastry turns into art?
It starts becoming art once you finish frosting your cake. Up until there, everyone can do what you’re doing. Once it comes to getting elements together and making it work, that’s when it represents the cake artist’s individuality.
How has the response been from Goans and other customers towards your products?
I’ve been in business for the last 8.5 years. I am blessed and grateful to have been able to survive this long. The response has clearly been terrific! I am now organically reaching clientele from other states and for me, that is a great thing.
At first, people were apprehensive about fondant cakes. But with western exposure and wanting to be on par with a trend, people have gradually accepted fondant wholeheartedly.
How do you think pastries will evolve in a few years?
I honestly cannot even say. Cakes have gone from being basic to being extravagant. There are gravity-defying cakes and cakes that move and cakes made into human figures. I cannot really imagine what’s next!
Could you describe your worst baking disaster?
Oh my god, Jonas! This incident is etched deep in my brain! I’m never going to forget and am definitely going to remember it till the day I die.
My father had just passed away a couple of months before this incident. This was the second or third big order I had. My mum was in Mumbai sorting out dad’s stuff. And I was alone in Goa. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind and took the order so lightly even though it was two-tiered. The cake was to go out at 5/6 pm and my cakes had just come out at say 1/2 pm. I don’t know why I took it so lightly or what was I even thinking. I managed to put something together. But it came apart at the venue and the client was pissed.
My kitchen had buttercream everywhere because I was working in a panic-stricken situation. Butter on the cabinets, on the fridge, countertops. I called a family friend who realized I was in a bad situation and got some help and cleaned up the place. To date, I feel guilty and when I have big orders I’m still a little anxious.
How can our readers stay connected with you and your brand?
Where do you picture yourself in 5 years?
I want to still have my own store. I had a store that I had to shut in a year’s time because I was mentally and physically drained out and I realized I couldn’t do this by myself even though my husband, then fiancé, was helping me so much. It was eating into my savings and I was getting married that year. So I learned my mistakes and don’t regret them at all.
But yes, I had the cutest store and three years later people are still telling me they miss the store. And I miss it too! I miss meeting people. I miss the positive and happy vibe it gave me. So I guess I will revisit the store when things get better.
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