Meet the home baker who survived cancer and turned her passion into a Rs 8 Cr revenue business
In 2016, Jasmine Lulla was undergoing chemotherapy in Indore. The woman entrepreneur's cancer diagnosis had come as a shock: just when her baked confectionery brand Cakes N' Craft was planning to expand beyond its two stores. Her foray into India's $7.22 billion bakery market, with her brand of designer cakes, was at stake.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the disease that killed 7.8 lakh Indians in 2019. For any entrepreneur, running a business while combating such a life-threatening disease may seem incompatible.
But Jasmine showed exactly why she could have her cake and eat it too.
She tells SMBStory:
"After my cancer diagnosis, I rested only during the chemotherapy process. When I wasn't being treated, I was working and following my passion for baking with Cakes N' Craft."
Describing it as the toughest stage of her entrepreneurial journey, Jasmine maintains that baking was almost like a meditative place where all her troubles went away.
Cakes N' Craft founder Jasmine Lulla
She continued to bake and keep the brand's product line running. With the help of her husband Manish, Cakes N' Craft expanded to more stores. As her business' health improved, so did hers.
In a year, she beat cancer.
What started as a baking project in Jasmine's home kitchen is now seeing daily sales of 500 to 600 cakes and a revenue of Rs 8 crore, she says.
Today, Jasmine is still on medication, but she and Manish work full swing to manage Cake N' Craft's 15 stores.
Jasmine (right) with her husband Manish (left)
Where it all began
Jasmine grew up in Bhopal where she first developed a passion for baking. "I baked my first cake when I was in the seventh grade," she says, adding, "I eventually decided to wanted to get into hotel management."
However, her parents were against it. They believed that a girl shouldn't be involved in the hotel management industry.
Jasmine ended up doing a Bachelors in Business Management in Indore and got married.
Then, she decided to revisit her passion for baking and started making cakes at home in her kitchen.
She baked designer cakes, i.e, custom cakes made to order in various shapes, sizes, and flavours. According to her, this was concept still new in Indore.
"I made anything from a Minion cake to a gravity-defying cake. Red velvet and Nutella were also popular at the time," she says.
She started off with just one baker, but soon realised she needed more resources. Her designer cakes were a hit, and the orders were flowing in. Jasmine needed more bakers and a bigger space to fulfill all the orders.
She was 33 when she moved out of the home kitchen model and officially started Cakes N' Craft. She bootstrapped it with around Rs 20 lakh, and moved into a store.
A Cakes N' Craft gravity-defying cake
Cakes N' Craft started to make designer-crafted culinary products, premium macaroons, gift hampers, and chocolate-filled savouries.
As the designer cakes are made to order, their pricing depends on the effort needed to make them. For instance, a gravity-defying cake takes Jasmine anywhere between two to four days to make.
Even though most basic ingredients are bought form local wholesale markets, gravity-defying cakes require special ingredients and structural components that are often imported.
Such a cake costs her around Rs 1600 to Rs 1700 to make (not including the extra time cost).
Jasmine charges around Rs 2,500 per kg for this kind of cake -a price much higher than the basic cakes which she retails for Rs 800 to Rs 900 per kg.
A bigger slice of the cake
When her husband Manish joined the business, the duo decided to fulfill the growing demand for designer cakes by opening more stores. They availed a business loan from the Madhya Pradesh government to fund expansion.
Cakes N' Craft did not purchase stores; it granted exclusive franchises to stores and trained chefs to maintain quality and standards.
"We have a centralised kitchen where we train the chefs, and also send our head chef to the franchises to ensure uniformity," Jasmine says.
A Cakes N' Craft outlet
This was around the same time of Jasmine's diagnosis, but she stood strong and saw the expansion through to stores in Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, and Raipur.
Besides 15 physical stores and a plan to have 50 in 2020, Cakes N' Craft is reaching out to potential customers online.
According to Manish, Instagram is a platform crucial to helping customers discover the brand. "We are also present on Facebook and other social media, including Twitter and Pinterest.
Cakes N' Craft soon plans to sell on its website. The brand will host all its design options online and buyers can pick from them to create their own, custom cake.
"We will deliver the cakes too. All of this is coming in a month or so," she says.
The brand's venture into the online space comes at a time other bakeries and homemakers have entered Indore's designer cake market.
"There is more competition now that the market has expanded. Nowadays, many others are doing designer cakes well. However, when it comes to basic cakes, the competition doesn't matter because designer cakes are our focus," Jasmine explains.
Looking back at her successful journey in spite of her brush with cancer, she says:
"I believe that all challenges should be faced boldly. No adversity should come in the way of or affect your work, especially for budding women entrepreneurs. A bold approach can help you overcome anything."
(Edited by: Palak Agarwal)