Pujan Manandhar, CEO of Sweet Treats Cakery, lays down some ground rules. First, it has be delicious. Second, it has to be made with the finest of ingredients. Last, and equally important, it has to be visually appealing.
“There are many companies that make cakes. But our cakes, I believe, are works of art,” he says, adding that his company specializes in customized designer cakes that are stunning to look at.
And, indeed, their Instagram page (sweettreatsnepal) is testimony to that fact. Made with fresh, quality ingredients, the cakes are crafted to perfection. There are cute little cream models of animals, avengers, unicorns, Nepali couple, etc. sitting on what look like actual tree stumps, igloos, and cushions. Even simple cakes have intricate designs that make them look like paintings.
“I was always fascinated by art. I used to draw and paint in school. But it was in grade eight that I really took to baking,” says Manandhar. Initially, Manandhar started making cakes for his family and friends. Then, slowly, he learnt more tricks of the trade by watching YouTube tutorials and bake-offs on TLC.
Manandhar was supported by family, mainly his father and his wife, since Sweet Treats Cakery’s official launch in 2015. But, over the years, he has had to hire more people as the cakes became really popular at weddings. The largest one he made weighed 100 pounds.
Manandhar has a bachelors in computer science but his heart is in his designs and art. As bleak as things might be at the moment for small businesses, he intends to keep at it for as long as he can.
He wants to try and take the business to greater heights with renewed zeal and work modules. Manandhar had plans to expand his company this year, but he had to put them on hold because of the pandemic. For now, he is just glad that business is slowly picking up.
The only reason he will stop doing what he is loves—which is crafting cakes that perhaps deserve space in a gallery—is when it becomes financially unviable for some reason.
“I will never compromise on quality. I would rather quit and pursue something else than make something that doesn’t look, taste, and feel absolutely perfect,” he says.
What are the challenges of running an online business?
The biggest challenge is Nepal is definitely managing the logistics. There are so many things you have to take care of when you run a business. It’s quite a task to be able to stay on top of it all.
In our case, delivery can be really difficult because the cakes have elaborate designs that require careful handling. Most of the times, we need two people to deliver a single cake.
Procuring raw materials is another issue. It’s difficult to source all that we need locally. Many things have to be brought in from India and that’s not always feasible. It increases the cost price. That’s not good for any business.
How can you ensure a business stays afloat despite the hurdles?
First and foremost, you have to be clear about your vision, about what you want from your business and the market you are planning to cater to. Then, you have to be ready to do what it takes. You also need to be ready to invest in and build your brand. It takes a lot of effort. Patience and consistency are crucial here.
Pre-covid, our sales figures were really good. We have had orders for as many as 100,000 pieces over the weekend. But the pandemic affected us all and we still haven’t recovered the losses we incurred during the lockdown. Business hasn’t picked up yet. But we are all in this together, and now is not the time to give up.
What do you think a business needs to do to be noticed and succeed?
You have to make sure your brand is visible and though advertisements definitely help, the sustainability and success of your brand will depend on your clients.
I have realized there’s nothing more effective than word of mouth. And, for that, customer satisfaction is key. We offer a 10 percent off voucher with each delivery, to be used during the next purchase. This little gift is our way of appreciating our customers. This works to our advantage as we see people post photos of the cakes on their social media pages and spread the word about us in their circles.
Another way to make sure another business doesn’t outshine yours is by never compromising on the quality of your products or services.