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Baking the World a Better Place: Now You Can

Maya Bekhazi NounIt's not about the recipes, or vanilla sponge cake versus chocolate, or square layers versus round. For you, cake is the medium to create memories and happiness. The satisfaction of being a cake designer or a pastry shop owner is hearing love stories, making kids smile and contributing to people's happiness. Can you relate to this? Then you are a lover for French cuisine, you perhaps want to start your own patisserie; you want to be able to share your fondness and for sweet and delectable French treats such as the millefeuille, tarte au citron, choux a la creme, le merveilleux and macaron.

And you are probably eager to know what it takes to make that happen.


BIM POS is lucky to catch up with Maya Noun who generously opens up on the keys to success in the patisserie business that you are about to read in a while, and stay tuned for when she shares with us also the main challenges of the catering industry in the country which will be coming up on BIM POS news section before long.

Exciting enough, Maya Noun is a serial entrepreneur whose projects in the F & B and hospitality sectors are on the crest of the wave right now; she is the General Secretary of the Syndicate of Restaurant owners in Lebanon, most likely overseeing the largest number of restaurant ventures in the country. Noun was awarded the Best Woman achiever in hospitality in 2010 and she was chosen to represent Lebanon in Woman Entrepreneurship forums in many countries. She is an ex-financier, a mom, a foodie, a consultant, a founder of many concepts in Lebanon and the Gulf Region and most recently of The Food Studio and Curli Q, and a true ‘Business Warrior.’

So, it is no surprise that the cake is worth the candle at Curli Q in Hamra Beirut. It first opened its doors in October 2015, after long research and development period of 2 years; Curli Q offers a unique kind of cake, unique shape, unique texture with lots of flavors varieties and sizes.


How did that all happen? Below are some guidelines that can help you successfully open your own pastry shop;


Develop Passion and Gain Knowledge

Gain more knowledge on different international pastries by learning about the different recipes and the history behind them, and researching on other patisseries, especially the kind and quality of food they offer, as well as how they do business. Food has always been my passion, and the only way I gained knowledge on food in general and specifically on pastry here is through practicing, taking courses, travelling and discovering; and nothing beats the learning experience I uphold through “trial and error.”


Create a Business Model

I have so far developed more than 25 concepts in Lebanon, the Gulf and Africa. First we study the market, identify gaps, then develop the concept with passion, and at the end manage by numbers. Curli Q was an intriguing concept to develop. It’s through several trips to Southeast Asia and Wetsern Europe that the concept was born, and hence we went on a journey to develop the exclusive oven sets of equipment and ovens especially tailor-made for the product and the concept. “It’s a cake, not a French style, not an American style; it has its own international style.”

So yes, every business venture should have a business model. You should identify who you want to market your products to… find a good location ‘a welcoming neighborhood,’ determine the budget you will need to put up this kind of business, decide on staffing, acquire the necessary supplies and ingredients, and come up with a good way to get your name out there.


Consider Finances Very Well

When in need of financial assistance, you will have to present your ideas well. Whether it is a family member, a friend or some other investor, see to it that you point out all the important details so that they are assured that your patisserie is worth investing in. While everyday materials such as flour, butter, eggs and cream don't cost much, ovens and other baking equipment are very expensive, so you'll need large amounts of start-up financing.

Also make sure you turn to those whom you really trust with such a risky endeavor. Financing for me came from my personal funding and some friends who I have all the confidence and faith in.


Manage the Legal Part Precisely

Aside from having a good business model, it is also important that you follow a legal business structure. For this reason, I had to consult an attorney, as well as an accountant, to discuss all the legalities that come with opening a patisserie. This also includes registering my business and getting all the necessary permits.


Source your Ingredients and Equipment

Make sure to source your ingredients well. Use fresh and quality products to be able to bring out more authentic flavors with your pastries, which will definitely help you have an edge over the competition. I personally travel a lot to attend most of the important food and beverage exhibitions around the world. Nonetheless, almost everything is available in Lebanon.


Price your Baked Goods Smart

Pricing your product should take into consideration not only the cost of supplies and the time it takes to make the goods, but also should include things like clean up time, packaging, and time spent promoting your business on social media etc; all counts. And this goes back to how you initially create a business model or plan, at this stage you will be sure to define your business, set goals, find ways to generate revenue, list expenses, identify your customer base, and examine your competition or the market price range.


Be the best, the first, or the only one

That is a huge thing; be original! These two words might seem like generic advice, but to survive, you can’t be a carbon copy of your competitors. “Be the best, the first, or the only one baking the kind of treats you make,” and “if you can be all three of those things, that’s even better!” This starts by knowing what kind of competition you have in your area and working to set yourself apart. Do they offer nut free cupcakes for instance or is it only your pastry?


Hire Help

Thought it is quite challenging, yet profoundly very important. We have a hard time hiring help because we do not want the quality of our products to suffer. And this is the reason I keep hands on management strategy and make sure to overlook every single detail. While you hire you want to make sure recruits are trustworthy and have the capability to learn. It is all about setting the bar really high on how you want your food to be baked.

Don’t Ever Underestimate your Marketing Strategy

Let’s face it; we have to be fabulous marketers nowadays. Learn how to effectively market your business and see to it that you emphasize what you have over other patisseries and pastry shops. We use a lot of social media campaigns, a lot of personal networking, a lot of PR, we offer to associations and charity events as well. Your initial and on-going marketing strategies will hopefully result in a steady stream of repeat customers; and as you finally open your doors, remember to constantly monitor your progress and make adjustments accordingly.


Finally, Maya Noun says that she wouldn’t want to emphasize less on the importance of maintaining focus over customers and making their experience count through proper follow up, personal communication. “This also brings us to the need for diversifying the business to grow and keep attracting new niche as the product line is constantly expanding,” she adds.

… And Noun’s advice to start-ups who are planning of launching a patisserie:

You have to have the passion at heart, the business in mind, the perseverance and determination in character; and you are set up to go!

Layal Dabbous

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