Monday, November 21, 2011

It's not always rainbows and butterflies

 Today, I thought I'd talk to you about something that's very personal, but I hope this information helps you! 

I get several e-mails and phone calls everyday from hopeful pastry chefs/bakers and all of them want to know the same thing; what is it like running a business and will going to culinary school help my career? Of course it will. But is it the only thing that will help you? Probably not.

 Ever since I was 16, I knew I would run my own business. I had a vague idea (actually too many ideas sometimes) on what this business would be. But, it was only much later that I found my calling. While I was getting a business degree, 2 classes really appealed to me, and almost everything I learned in them stuck. These were Entrepreneurship and Leadership. Entrepreneurship excited me - creating business plans, finding new markets, it was almost like creating magic. We learnt about start ups. What to look out for, the correct way of doing things, qualities that define an entrepreneur. We learnt that it wouldn't be easy. We learnt about different entrepreneurs ; the success stories and also the ones that didn't quite make it. Business school was followed by culinary school. Here it was all technique. Butter, sugar, flour and eggs became my best friends. I spent hours and hours with chocolate. My feet hurt, sometimes they bled. My back was almost always sore. I always looked tired. But, I loved it. I loved learning. I could stand for hours watching my chef temper chocolate. It was beautiful, almost mesmerizing. 

So, why am I telling you this? Even after all that, nothing, absolutely nothing could prepare me for starting my own business. 
I knew what should happen in theory. I knew my product. I knew my market. Should be easy right. It wasn't. The reason I'm writing this post is because I want you to know that it's going to be hard. So prepare yourself accordingly. This is not a fairytale. You have to work extremely hard and face set backs almost on a daily basis. 
For nearly a year after I started Le15 I had no life. I worked from 8 am to 11 pm every single day. Days off didn't exist, weekends didn't matter and you can forget about holidays. Sleeping in meant waking up at 9 am. I started losing touch with friends and relationships suffered. I was 23. It's been almost 2 years now and I've evolved. Everyday I learn new things, things about myself, about people I interact with and this industry. Having an idea and implementing it is easy, doing it consistently is the challenge.
If you're passionate, dedicated and know exactly what you're getting in to; this is the most rewarding experience one can have! Don't be afraid. For every bad experience, I've had a good one. For every, um, evil person (I've met a few ok) I've encountered, 3 angels have walked in to my life. 

To see your ideas in action, to have all your hard work rewarded, to see people appreciate what you do, is fulfilling. When an 8 year old comes and tells you he wants to grow up to be like you, the back pain disappears and all those nights you couldn't go out with friends don't seem to matter anymore. 

I have a long long way to go and a million things to achieve before I can call myself a successful Entrepreneur. For now, things that bring me immense joy are walking in to the kitchen every morning and seeing my staff working with beautiful smiles on their faces, watching my parents' eyes light up every time they proudly talk about Le15 and yes, every time you send me an e-mail or call me and tell me how much you appreciate what we're doing at Le15, makes up for everything! And I wouldn't have it any other 

 Some Pointers: Things I've learnt in the last 2 years (and some things that I really should learn!)

- Sometimes learning how to say No is more important than saying Yes.
 - People will get jealous. People will try to pull you down. People will make you think you're not good enough. Don't listen to them!!! 
- Have everything written on paper and ALWAYS consult a lawyer because people will try to cheat you (sigh, I'm still dealing with this one)
 - Find a support group. For me, this is my family. I discuss everything with them. You need a sounding board (and a reality check) 
- Have faith in yourself.
 - Learn to accept your mistakes and say sorry. 
- As cliched as it may sound - follow your gut! 
- Listen to your mother (or mine, she is always right) 
- In the end, everything always works out. It has to. 
- Keep a diary and write every idea down.
 - Imitation is the highest form of flattery (when people start to copy you, you've arrived!)
 - Keep learning and updating yourself with the latest in your industry. Knowledge never goes wasted. 
- Be open to new ideas. Ask people if there's a way to be more efficient and effective. 
- Be kind. People will always remember how you made them feel.
- If you can help someone, go out of your way to do it. Good Karma always comes back.
- Smile. Always smile. 


  1. Aww..lovely post! Tell me this was after we spoke that day :D

  2. congratulations Pooja and wishing you much success. this is a beautiful yet very honest and informative post.

  3. Really Nice post Pooja. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Rarely have I seen posts on what goes behind a bakery business. Inspired!

  4. Thats the kind of thing i like to read in the morning ... good job ...

  5. Very informative and honest post, love it

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Lovely Post. Loved your pointers :) i have been a huge fan of Le 15. Good luck :)

  8. i will use this as my motto! hopefully in the next 5 years i can give u a little competition :-)

    Tanvi Maniar
    Assistant - A Perfect Bite

  9. loved reading this Pooja. very earnestly written. admire your spunk and what you have done. without you wouldn't have non what those colouful disc at Sydney were ...keep up the great and inspiring work

  10. Wow ! admire the determination and planning that went into setting up your business, good to see some refreshing honesty and the bare bones. Kudos

  11. You've done amazingly well. The one thing that always struck me about you was your smile. Love it.

  12. Thank you everyone for your support! A lot of hard work goes in to starting any kind of business and I just wanted to highlight that :)

  13. Nice,enlightening post ...your hard work has been rewarded well.

  14. though I dont know you personally but everything you have written here and your honesty inspires me. believe in each and every word of yours.

  15. Thanks for this post. Honest, inspiring and brave. more success to u! :)

  16. Just what I needed to read today, thanks so much for this honest, inspiring post - you are awesome!!!

  17. Beautiful post. I loved the honesty with which you wrote it. I can definitely say that cause I have felt a lot of those emotions myself in last one year. I am running a bakery 'The Cherry Tree' in Lucknow for the last one year. Seeing your staff smiling and working every morning is the best feeling of being an entrepreneur.

    Hope you reach greater heights in the future.

    P.S. I am yet to taste your macarons. Heard so much about them!

  18. Hi Pooja,

    Fate is pretty funny - this post has everything I needed to hear. I am your ardent fan and I have read this post before but today its made so much sense. Its exactly the kind of push I needed. Thank you.

    If this pays off, I have you to thank.

  19. i recently got to know about u and u r the living example of my dream.
    I am a home baker and going to join Le Cordon Bleu Sydney in a few months.
    this post has given me the much needed inspiration. thanks a lot...
    if u get the time please check out my blog
    and if you have some more time let me your thoughts...

  20. info. you provided is really helpful......
    specially second last line...
    "Good Karma always comes back."
    it should be true....hmmmm...

  21. This is so inspiring! Something I really needed!! You have always been an inspiration!! Thank you Pooja!!!

  22. you just soo inspire me pooja !! thank u for this post!! :)

  23. Today, I needed it the most. I was very much depressed and my confidence level was zero. This has boosted me up and filled me with a new energy. I love you pooja dhingra. Thank you. :)

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  29. Hi Pooja,
    I'm also 16th now and I have many plans of becoming a pastry chef and your story has really helped me to know that it will not always be rainbows and butterflies but I will try my best to be like you someday because you are my role model

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