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UAE: Don't skip on dessert, say Dubai's female entrepreneurs

Purva Grover /Dubai
purva@khaleejtimes.com Filed on June 24, 2021

Nora Hoermann, Riwa Khan and Elaf Patel. (Photos/Supplied)




We speak to three UAE who sell desserts aka joy.

Who doesn’t like a sweet bite, after dinner or sometimes as a mid-day snack as well. A dessert a day is enough to cheer us up on a gloomy afternoon and is just what we need to add the icing to a celebration. Ever wondered what makes individuals set up a shop that sells desserts aka joy? We speak to three female entrepreneurs to learn more about the flavours of their journey.

NORA HOERMANN, FOUNDER, LILLEBITE DUBAI

Nora Hoermann, founder, LilleBite Dubai was raised in Germany and spent 13 years between San Francisco and New York, where she completed her undergraduate degree in International Business and MBA. In New York, she started her first company consulting small and mid-size companies. In 2020, she opened LilleBite Dubai and recently expanded to Galleria Mall, Abu Dhabi. When Nora is not baking, she mostly enjoys spending time with her three children. LilleBite’s bite-sized, hand-crafted mini-treats include signature cupcakes, muffins and brownies, and more. She created the signature dishes in her kitchen, without compromising on taste, especially as Nora herself is celiac.

Do you remember the time when you decided to pursue the work of ‘desserts’ as a profession?

I always used baking for stress release. So, in 2019 I decided to make a profession out of what I already love to do. I wished I could say there was much thought behind it. Instead, I just kind of jumped into the cold water.

How did you decide upon the brand name, LillleBite?

I had lunch with a good friend of mine and was trying to explain the concept to him, that all desserts would be bite-sized to be able to control portions and have multiple taste experiences, etc. We ended up talking about Gulliver’s Travel and the character’s experience on the island of Lilleput. Well, one joke led to the other and LilleBite was born.

What’s your favourite dessert?

My favourite dessert is ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby was my staple mid-term and finals support during college. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and salty.

An entrepreneurial lesson you wish to share with future entrepreneurs.

Be prepared for volatility. Things never go as planned and you have to learn to roll with the punches.

What are the lows and highs of running a ‘sweet’ business?

Running a ‘sweet’ business is a tremendous opportunity to be creative, aesthetically and in experimenting with ingredients. Sourcing has at times been a challenge. We always wanted to offer people a sugar alternative or wheat alternative, whilst also keeping the integrity with taste. So, sourcing natural sugar replacements and high-quality wheat replacements that also taste good was challenging.

A local dessert that you can’t get enough, or wish to come back to Dubai?

I wished IHOP would come back to Dubai. I loved their All-American pancake breakfasts.

RIWA KHAN, FOUNDER AND BRAND DIRECTOR, MAJAMA

Riwa Khan, founder and brand director, Majama, hails from India and was raised in Dubai. She went to the university in London, it was at that time she realised how consuming gluten and dairy harmed her health. She returned to Dubai and in 2019 created a line of desserts that were completely vegan and gluten-free. Today, the range includes dairy, gluten and sugar-free ice creams, cakes and cookies. Majama is committed to the use of real, high-quality natural ingredients such as plant-based milk, natural sugars, fresh fruit and produce.

Do you remember the time when you decided to pursue the work of ‘desserts’ as a profession?

When I removed gluten, dairy and eggs from my diet, my dessert cravings went through the roof and it was so hard to find satisfying options. So, I decided to make them by myself and they turned out to be good. When I saw that so many people were in the same situation as mine, I knew these desserts choices would make a huge difference to people’s lives and they would be able to enjoy a sweet bite without feeling uneasy and of course, without the guilt.

How did you decide upon the brand name, Majama?

We wanted a name that expressed the fun, joy and happiness that comes when eating the desserts. Majama is a Gujarati (regional language in India) word, which means enjoying or having fun.

What’s your favourite dessert?

Iranian Noon Khamei, it’s a whipped cream puff pastry that was a huge part of my childhood. We practically grew up on it. My dad used to buy them for us so often, and we loved him for it! I’ve been working to create a vegan and gluten-free version of the same.

An entrepreneurial lesson you wish to share with future entrepreneurs.

Having trusted advisors and someone you can bounce ideas off with is very important. Also, there will be tons of moments of doubt, whether it is before you’ve started, or during your journey, where you’ll question and overthink almost every decision. My best advice is to just do it anyway. You will learn to trust yourself more over time.

What are the lows and highs of running a ‘sweet’ business?

Dessert businesses are very seasonal, which I think is both positive and negative. Sales spike during holidays such as Christmas and Eid, and whilst that’s exciting, it does result in inconsistency. Since we serve a special range of desserts (including refined sugar-free desserts) that are just as, if not more, satisfying than regular ones, it’s an awesome feeling to observe our clients relish a dessert without the negative consequences, especially if they are allergic or intolerant to certain ingredients. A negative would be the cost and availability of organic and natural ingredients in Dubai.

A local dessert that you can’t get enough, or wish to come back to Dubai?

Date Ma’amouls are delicious! And at Majama, we make a vegan, gluten and refined sugar-free version that tastes just as good, if not better than the real thing.

ELAF PATEL, FOUNDER, SUGARGRAM

Elaf Patel, founder, Sugargram knew that making desserts was in her blood and took her passion for sweets to its next level when she enrolled in a professional pastry course after graduating from school. She worked briefly with a B2B pastry kitchen before pursuing a Bachelor’s in Communications and Media Studies, American University of Dubai. In 2019, she launched Sugargram, a brand that makes delicious and fun bite-sized cupcakes, cakes, candy, and cookies, et al.

Do you remember the time when you decided to pursue the work of ‘desserts’ as a profession?

It’s always been such an obsession for me that I don’t think there was a conscious point where I decided to pursue it.

How did you decide upon the brand name, Sugargram?

Since the idea behind the brand was to do online deliveries, and it’s meant to be something you send (like a telegram) it felt like the best possible fit.

What’s your favourite dessert?

I think nothing beats a classic cheesecake.

An entrepreneurial lesson you wish to share with future entrepreneurs.

To have fun with whatever they’re doing! I think if you enjoy the process then it translates to your end customer as well.

What are the lows and highs of running a ‘sweet’ business?

My favourite part is being included in people’s celebrations. To see how much love and thoughtfulness people put into their dessert choices is very heart-warming. Also, the tasting process is always a good time. The worst part is running out of stock. Especially during big occasions, disappointing for anyone who wants to order it!

A local dessert that you can’t get enough, or wish to come back to Dubai?

I think any dessert I’ve had on holiday that has a special memory related to it. I think the Funnel Cake would be a fun thing to come to Dubai.

author

Purva Grover

Purva Grover is a journalist, poetess, playwright, and stage director. She made her debut as an author, with The Trees Told Me So, a collection of short stories. She is the editor of Young Times, a magazine that empowers the youth in the UAE. She conducts fortnightly writing workshops, author interaction events, open mic sessions, etc. for the writing fraternity in UAE. Her stage productions have been recognised for their boldness, honesty, and unique voice. She is backed with a post-graduate degree in mass communication and literature. Born & brought up in colourful-chaotic India, she writes in English and currently resides in Dubai, UAE. You can stalk her on Instagram @purvagr and say hello to her at purvagrover.com