At BrilliantRead Media, our aim is to bring to our community some of the unique and compelling stories from the start-up ecosystem. As part of this endeavour, we invited Shivani Malhotra for an exclusive interview with us. Shivani is a passionate entrepreneur, baker and Founder of Bisou. Let’s learn more about her background, her inspirational journey and her advice for our growing community!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Shivani:
Talk us through your background and your journey as a women entrepreneur, please;
I did my schooling and graduation from Chandigarh which also is my birthplace and further pursued my MBA from ICFAI Business School in Hyderabad. My plan was well thought out – finish my MBA in sales and marketing, get a job in sales and climb the corporate ladder.
In my corporate career, I have had the fortune to work in various sectors – advertisement sales, telecom as well as real estate. I have always been a confident and passionate individual. My skill set has always complimented the work I have pursued and has pushed me to make a difference at my workplace.
Although work was great at my last real estate firm, Cushman & Wakefield, I was hankering after that sense of fulfilment. I’d heard so many mentors talk about it, life coaches instructing you to follow your heart.
But on the corporate racing track, the brain always wins and the heart is usually left at the pit stop. So, I took a step back, listened to my heart, looked for my calling and that’s how Bisou was born in 2020. I am, so they say, a home-baker/home-entrepreneur.
My relationship with baking goes back to my childhood where either my grandmother, my mother or my aunt would be baking for me and my brother. I would default lick the mixing bowl! The sweet-sweet aroma of a cake baking at home is indescribable. I fell in love with baking there and then.”
While growing up, I would usually bake for myself, mostly to cheer myself up. Like any other hobby, it gave me joy. I loved following a recipe, the process and the reward it gave me. During one summer in America some years ago, I also had the chance to learn baking professionally in Los Angeles through a course with some of the best pastry chefs. In recent times I started baking for friends and family and it strengthened my relationship with food and baking.
I started inching towards baking as my profession. And that’s how I started baking every day, perfecting my recipes, constructing my menu and one fine day, I was finally ready. I was ready to launch myself and my humble idea into the big wide world. And I haven’t looked back since.”
What attracts you towards entrepreneurship instead of a corporate career?
I never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur. For me, my job and my home were safety nets that kept me tied down. When I thought of baking for a living, it really did scare me. I was putting myself out of my comfort zone, and jumping into an industry that is already pretty competitive.
But I took the plunge and chose to be my own boss, pantry boy, logistics manager and salesman. My husband navigated me through all the self-doubts that I had, was resilient when I was wavering, and even volunteered to be my Chief Tasting Officer! It’s taken a lot of hard work, courage, dedication and most of all, belief in my product to make it out there.”
I have a limited menu, my products are rustic, a little rough around the edges, but the quality of ingredients going into a simple vanilla pound cake will wow you with the first bite you take. And that’s my whole USP – desserts that look amazing seldom taste as amazing. Take a dessert home from Bisou and you’ll be wishing it never finishes.
‘Bisou’ is such a unique name; talk us through more about it, please. Our audience would also love to know what kind of problem you are solving?
In all honesty, credit for this goes to my husband. He also has a creative mindset and after a lot of brainstorming, we came up with Bisou. Bisou or Bisous translates to “Kiss” in French.
I have had the fortune to go to some nice quaint bakeries in Marais, Paris tucked away in alleyways. And so, I wanted a name that would remind my customers of a home-style French patisserie.
In Delhi NCR, there are a lot of commercial and old bakeries. The younger generation is now travelling the world, soaking in new experiences every day and hence has a very evolved palate. I wanted to give my audience comfort flavours entwined with trendy desserts made with the best of ingredients available.
What is the must-haves at Bisou?
– Lotus Biscoff everything – think cheesecake, celebration cakes, cookies, cupcakes, you name it.
– I keep adding specials as the seasons change so that I can take advantage of fresh produce – keep a lookout for my fall menu -out soon!
– Baileys Irish Cream cupcakes
– Bundt cakes
During this COVID-19 crisis, what are the measures you have undertaken to continue your business without disruption?
As the business was born during COVID, each safety measure was taken to ensure that clean hygienic food is dished out from my kitchen.
~ I have a separate baking kitchen within my home used by me
~ The product has literally no other human interaction besides me – hence consistency and safety aspects are ensured.
~ I use Uber as my delivery partner so that human touch is eliminated altogether – no delivery partner touches my packed product.
How do you manage to keep going despite the challenges? What drives you?
Usually ‘caking’ has 2 stages. The first is the blah stage – where the base is being constructed and the cake is just getting structurally stable and study. The second is the pretty-me-up stage – and that’s what drives me.
I love seeing my final product. I keep imagining layouts, placement of ingredients, where I want even a flower to sit on the cake. I love seeing the smile on my customer’s faces when they first receive the box of goodies.
I just want to keep at it despite the challenges of working from home and hope to have a quaint little café of my own one day. This vision is a strong driver and is constantly shaping who I am today.
Who do you believe has been the biggest source of motivation in your daily life?
My rock, my husband has been a constant. He always knows how to balance between supporting me and giving me my space to be who I am.
He pushed me to do this, invested in my start-up and now, with things going well, stands proud with his chest puffed out.
My 3-year-old Shih Tzu – Magic, is all the good luck I’ll ever need in whatever I do.
You are always positive and motivated, what keeps you going?
My motivation comes from reading because I enjoy it. I am positive because I know my hard work results in putting a smile on someone’s face when they eat my desserts.
I learn something new every day and that’s the beauty of being a self-taught entrepreneur. I genuinely enjoy what I do know and that’s my biggest motivation to stay positive.”
In your opinion, what are the keys to success?
According to my, each individual is unique and with every unique lock, comes a unique key. For me, I feel I am still on the path to success.
Being successful for me right now is simply to wake up and have every single hour of your day mapped out.
And to reach there, I know what I am putting in every day:
1) Being diligent and understanding the responsibility of being an entrepreneur
2) Standing up for myself
3) Being curious and asking the right questions
4) Accepting your failures and keep going back to the drawing board
BrilliantRead is committed to bringing stories from the startup ecosystem, stories that reshape our perspective, add value to our community and be a constant source of motivation not just for our community but also for the whole ecosystem of entrepreneurs and aspiring individuals.
Note: If you have a similar story to share with our audience and would like to be featured on our online magazine, then please write to us at [email protected], we will review your story and extend an invitation to feature if it is worth publishing.