By Nora Bahgat
My name is Nora and I currently run a small business called Nora's Bakery that is based in Mississauga, ON, Canada.
I started my business right in the midst of the pandemic in April of 2020. However, my passion for baking started as a 10-year-old when I took a baking class in middle school.
At the time, I learned how to make chocolate chip cookies and brownies and I'll never forget the first time I started baking these cookies at home - they came out completely burnt, the fire alarm went off and I almost burnt the house down!
I remember other times when my dad would critique my work and, no matter how good I felt it was, he would always have feedback and suggestions for improvement.
As frustrating as this was for me, it honestly helped me to continue to perfect my recipes over the years and to continue to improve. I also continued to persevere and pursue my passion.
For example, I continued to take more courses throughout the years, like baking classes in my high school along with cake decorating classes at Michaels Arts and Crafts Stores.
Then, I wanted to pursue a Cake Decorating Diploma at George Brown College but my typical Middle Eastern parents, of course, wanted me to pursue a degree program!
So I ended up studying Graphic Design at OCAD University and did a minor in Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation.
Currently, I'm also working towards completing a Cake Decorating Certificate at George Brown College. Overall, it worked out well as I was able to take all these skills that I have accumulated to use within my own business.
For example, I use graphic design to help me with marketing, design event posters, special promotion posters, business cards and much more.
I also used the entrepreneurship minor to put together my own business plan for the business and it assisted me to figure out how to start the business and how to operate it legally. I also use the Cake Decorating Certificate program to assist me with custom cookie and cake orders and for sculpted cakes and wedding cake orders.
Another aspect that helped me to start my business sooner than I was expecting were some government funded programs such as Business in the Streets (BITS) and the Starter Company Plus Program where I was honoured to receive a $5,000 grant that went towards the commercial unit from where I operate my business. It also helped with marketing costs and getting the opportunity to become a vendor at various festivals throughout the summer.
Though it wasn't easy opening my business and even though I quickly went broke at some point due to lack of productivity and attempting to run my business full time right from the beginning, I'm still ever so thankful that I made the decision to start the business a lot earlier than I was anticipating to.
This is because I remember wanting to first spend 1-2 years working a full time cake decorating position and then working a full time graphic design job at some point as well so that way I could have enough funds and experience before I start the business.
However, I'm glad I didn't wait that long because if there is one thing I learned in life is that you shouldn't wait for that perfect moment to arise to finally open a business as this will simply never happen. You'll just keep procrastinating and never find the perfect moment.
For example, my dad has been wanting to open his own restaurant business for quite some time but whenever I ask him what is taking him forever, he always tells me that he is waiting for the perfect opportunity.
I even remember a time where I wanted to open a partnership business with my family, where my family could focus on savoury items and I could focus on baked goods but I'm thankful that I didn't wait for my family and decided to pursue my own path.
Even though my family is supportive of my business for the most part, they definitely want to see it grow and prosper a lot faster but the reality is that it takes time for a business to grow, especially a food business.
Today, my business is loved by many and people love my product offerings which makes me ever so thankful and hopeful that my business will slowly start to grow with time.
In fact, I recently got nominated and selected for an award by the Canada Business Review Board where I'm now labeled as one of the top bakery businesses in Canada for 2021. This is super motivating for me and gets me excited to continue to persevere and grow with time.
Lastly, I'll never forget years ago when I worked at McDonalds and had started my own YouTube channel at the time and one day someone spotted my name tag, searched me up and commented on one of my videos that I worked at McDonalds.
I remember, at the time, my parents telling me to close my YouTube channel and stop putting myself out there due to Islamophobia. In fact, I remember my dad making me quit my job at McDonalds as he feared for my life as a result and felt people would eventually follow me home one day and he didn't want me taking the risk to work there any longer.
Though I ended up quitting that job, I'm happy for all the other amazing new opportunities that came from it and I'm glad that I didn't let that situation affect me and my future.
For example, I'm still on YouTube and I still make YouTube videos, from time to time, and I film videos with my face in it all the time on my social media pages which, if anything, has actually helped me to start obtaining more customers as I find people love to see behind the scenes of a business and the one behind everything.
It acts as an engaging component of my business and inspires me to continue wanting to make more and more behind-the-scenes videos and Instagram Reels, Tiktoks and more. I'm ever so proud of bringing my dream of opening my own business to reality and cannot wait to see where it takes me next.
This article is reprinted with the permission of the website Islamophobia.io where it was originally published. Islamophobia.io is an Emergency Response Tool designed for Muslims and allies for outreach using digital storytelling. Although storytelling is a common tool, having adedicated repository using storytelling to counter Islamophobiais the fresh offering. Said stories provide nuance and context which will immediately help fight Islamophobia.