Home cooking: A flourishing business
Armed with nothing but grit and an idea, some women are turning their talents into small successful ventures with a little investment in an already existing infrastructure — their homes.
Hiba Mandorah, a 25 year-old mother, who started her own business a few months ago hopes to expand soon. Her business is nothing unusal, but Mandorah’s cupcakes with fancy decorations are much in demand. And it is only mouth-to-mouth advertising that has got her an increased client base from outside her family and friends. Though a graduate in accounting, she said a course in decorating cupcakes proved beneficial to establishing her home business. “In addition to the course,” she said, “my love and talent for baking has set me up with my own business.
Though her business is still not registered yet, she is already looking ahead. She has designed her logo at home — as she did her business to be ready for the day when she makes it big with her own outlet in a food court. But for now, she is working from home, looking forward to that day. She says her family is “very supportive” — both in helping with the baking as well as in selling the product. Though she concentrates on cupcakes, she also takes order for big cakes for special occasions. And these orders are on the increase. She said that participation in the Mother and Child Bazaar helped popularize her business. Mandorah, being Internet savvy, said that being on Facebook had helped her business by increasing its client base. Mandorah, who started by using her own money, charges SR200 for 30 cupcakes plus SR20 for delivery, a price that her customers find reasonable.
In her 50’s Umm Mamdouh, caters for customers both by sewing and cooking. Many who come for handmade materials also buy the homemade food or vice-versa. Most of her clients, who are pressed for time, are teachers and employees of varying nationalities. “I sell different types of Arabic food, including main meals, appetizers, and desserts; basically everything that customers would ask for. Some of the plates are SR50 while others are SR40. I do the cooking by myself with the help of my daughters. My prime concern is to serve fresh food.”
Most of the customers have transport, but Umm Mamdouh takes food to clients who have none. She started her business with the complete support of her children. “I was inspired by a dream in which I was preparing some handmade materials. With the help of my daughter, I saved to start a tailoring shop, which I later merged with my cooking into a combined business. I am doing this to help my family and it is much better than depending on others or taking loans.”
Umm Mamdouh is satisfied with having her business at home and is not thinking of expanding. “I do not intend to take this business out of my home since it would cost me much more and my sons can’t leave their jobs and supervise my business. At present I’m happy with the way it is running and I have my hands full,” she explained.
Umm Zakaria and her daughters are also producing food at home - making and selling Bukhari food. Her 25 year-old daughter is now taking care of the business and the home as Umm Zakaria is diabetic. “My father was the sole breadwinner and was unable to make ends meet. After finishing my primary education, I had to stay home and help my mother with cooking. I had to do this in order to help my other siblings get a decent life and a good education,” the daughter said. Twenty-five years ago, they moved to Jeddah from Madinah, where Umm Zakaria used to prepare and sell food to pilgrims near the mosques. She continued when they came to Jeddah.
With more customers buying, Umm Zakaria’s family stopped selling in the street and sold their products only from home. The daughter said that the quality of her mother’s cooking was what made the business successful. Some buy the food, freeze it and even send it to their relatives abroad.
Others reserve huge quantities for special occasions such as Ramadan and Haj. Despite Bukhari outlets mushrooming all over Jeddah, Umm Zakaria’s daughter said that their loyal customers from the past 20 years are still with them.