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Photo credits: Aviva Baig
Isolation wasn’t easy for any of us, and though it may seem to be in the past now, many good things did come out of that strange quarantine period. I came across this Instagram hashtag called Isolation Creation. A strange tag for sure but one that I fully understand now.
When the world stopped, one had to find how to entertain oneself when life seemed exceptionally boring. This is a look into how I created a small business in lockdown to virtually occupy my time and bring a smile to the melancholic faces. Here’s how it all started.
Pre-Covid: As a food blogger (@crumbsinlondon), my content relies upon a sole activity which is going ‘out’ to eat. As a university student, my stomach is accustomed to mainly grab and go foods as well as socialising around a restaurant and bar table. So when I found myself having heard the news while devouring some Chip NYC cookies that my country is shutting down its borders and I must return to my home in New Delhi, I realised a whole other meaning to the word home-bound. I knew that mine and everyone else’s restaurant days were over for a long time.
The quarantine period showed many of us the fascinating appeal of a once rarely used room…the KITCHEN! Everyone has their own opinions as to why cooking up a storm became a phenomenon during Isolation. Food as a coping mechanism is a powerful tool hence as a pick-me-up after a difficult day people would eat. Cooking as an activity could feel like a marathon taking up the span of a whole day or even feel like a sprint with quick 30-minute meals. Therefore, people took this hobby on, in hopes of enhancing their productivity. And, of course, food as fuel is also a significant factor; it serves a purpose; thus, people are also forced to exploit its functionality.
For me it first started out innocent, a friend and I decided to ‘Julie & Julia’ it and followed one of Nigella Lawson’s great cookbooks ‘Kitchen’. However, as an only child with a single parent, I found that I had a lot of time on my hands. Hence, I unceremoniously ditched my friend and in turn Nigella too and turned to baking (a lot). I, of course, started with the Quarantine Banana bread (which actually found itself fallen off the balcony because of my father’s poor photography placement skills). Slowly, from banana bread, I transitioned to slightly more technical bakes such as apple galettes, cherry clafoutis and cinnamon rolls.
Baking did help me adapt to the changing social media landscape as I no longer had any content to post on my food blog from eating in restaurants. I then slowly but not so subtly transformed it into a baking blog. However, living in a house with just three individuals led to baking as not a very feasible activity. My family worried about their health after we started going through a cake every second day. So, it was either stop baking or start selling them? It literally started from that simple question. Thus, I took home-cooking a step further and opened up a home bakery. Five months in and @crumbsindelhi is still going strong. Opening a small business led me to understand the economics behind everything. I soon became a one-woman army armed with a single oven whilst also having to be my own accountant, manager and publicist. The responsibility to deliver a product you made to someone is a great responsibility, and I feel grateful every time I am thanked. It’s safe to say having a home bakery is not an easy task: last-minute order mix-ups, Nutella tarts crumbing and 40+ cookie batches burning have all happened. Dealing with unruly customers as well as the overly enthusiastic ones is slightly exhausting, but the end product is a relief.
Discovering a niche for marketing, I was able to increase my customer reach beyond just friends and family. Appealing to a particular audience within my community enhanced sales immensely. I started my own Instagram page, made an aesthetic logo on Canva and created a menu with classic food items but also delicious goodies that involved a lot of chocolate, Oreos and Nutella. I was able to reach out to the local paper’s Instagram page and got myself promoted there. Finally, I was even able to create a viral product from the kitchen by recreating Dominique Ansel’s famous cookie shots; which essentially is a chocolate chip cookie resembling a long shot glass coated in chocolate.
I took my small business one step further by contacting local packaging shops and created a box that would be identifiable with my brand and design: a classic red cookie bag and a white box so you know you’ve just ordered from us. My Instagram page was the biggest driving force for sales. You eat with your eyes as much as with your taste buds. Hence, I hired a friend to take professional pictures of all the foods. This led me to be introduced to the world of food styling as well!
Customer service is a pain in any business, but I also learnt that if you are friendly, approachable and accommodating people will recommend you to their friends. Also remember to reply fast, before people change their mind! Most of my orders actually come around 1 am when the cravings hit, so have your phone handy at all times.
Cooking in quarantine has not been all that bad. Sure, we’ve had some fallen cakes, broken Banoffees and real Eton messes but cooking has proved to be a form of enjoying the little things in life. Plus, the extra income doesn’t hurt either.
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