Zakeeya Mitha is a pastry chef and owner of Sugarlicious, the dessert store notorious for their wide range of ice-creams wrapped in delicate French macaron shells. This bubbly business woman will be at the 2019 Muslimah Today women’s conference, where she will be discussing “Inspiring the home grown business: The story of Sugarlicious”. The 2019 Muslimah Today women’s conference will be taking place at the Durban Botanic Gardens Conference Hall on Sunday, 15 September. Tabloid Newspapers spoke with Zakeeya about her experiences thus far

Zakeeya Mitha

Tabloid Newspapers (TN):
How did your journey with Sugarlicious begin?

Zakeeya Mitha (ZM):
I have always loved baking and I started with baking cakes at home for friends and family, as a side business. In around 2012, the French macaron caught my eye and I wanted to bake it. On my first try I didn’t expect failure and when it didn’t turn out like I expected, I made it my mission to perfect it.

Fortunately, I got it right after a few attempts. In 2015, I noticed that ice cream macarons were trending in Asian countries and I started experimenting with ice-creams and flavours. We launched the ice-cream macaron at a local event and left there with such a positive response that we knew that we needed to expand the business further.

TN: How has your business grown since it’s inception? 

ZM: We started out at markets and it wasn’t always an easy sell. A few years ago, foodie markets were not a thing here in Durban and sales were sometimes slow. We are so grateful that our loyal customers loved our product and as demand grew, it became necessary to expand into a store. We now have two stores in Durban, a production kitchen and we are opening a store in Johannesburg soon. 

TN: What are some of the challenges that come with running your own business?

ZM: There are so many challenges and meeting these challenges is alway a good learning experience. It helps to have a sense of humour and faith in any business. Our challenges are unique to our business, we have consistently struggled with stock losses due to load shedding, delayed freight or power outages. It’s disappointing but everything happens for a reason and we are determined to remain positive in all situations. 

TN: What have been some of your greatest achievements in your career thus far?

ZM: For me, going back to school 15 years after high school to study as a patisserie chef was an amazing experience. It serves as such an important function for Sugarlicious and myself with regard to product development and production. 

TN: Have you always enjoyed baking?

ZM: I have always loved baking, some of my happiest memories are experimenting in the kitchen from a very early age with baked goodies. Sometimes it was great, sometimes the neighbours dog wouldn’t even eat it.

TN: How has your family supported you with your career? 

ZM: We have the most amazing family and we would not be here without their constant support. Fortunately, they live close by and they are always there to help with lifts, midnight order packing and food! 
TN: What are some of the pastries you make at Sugarlicious?
ZM: We currently do ice-cream macarons and French ganache macarons. Now that we have moved into a production kitchen and have more space, we have been working on new products. 
TN: What is one of the best selling items on the menu?
ZM: Our burfee ice-cream macaron has consistently been a crowd favourite. 
TN: What advice can you give to other women who are thinking about establishing their own business, but don’t know where to start?
ZM: I always tell women to just start, even if it’s a small start. Take that first step and keep trying. There will be days that are discouraging, the first official market I did was with French ganache macarons and I came back home with 95% of my stock. No one wanted to try the macarons and while the few who did taste and enjoyed it, the sales was not even enough to cover my costs. It’s so easy to get discouraged and give up but don’t. Keep trying and things will come together. 
TN: You are one of the speakers at the Muslimah Today Women’s Conference. Can you highlight some of the things you will be discussing at the event.
ZM: I hope to inspire women like myself who are starting up at home and following their passions. I will touch on some of the most important lessons we learnt growing Sugarlicious from a home-based market stall to where we are at now.
TN: Who is your inspiration?
ZM: I am so lucky to be surrounded by inspirational women. There are so many women who are doing amazing things from the women selling vegetables on the streets, to those in high powered positions each one of them are inspiring in their own way! 
TN: What is your favourite dish to make? 
ZM: At the moment I am enjoying experimenting with new exciting flavours and products. 
TN: Favourite quote?
ZM: My current favourite quote is, ‘Great things never came from comfort zones’ 
TN: If you could solve one problem that women face, what would it be.
ZM: I think that many women unconsciously live in a box and allow the people around them to dim their light out of fear. I would love to inspire every women to believe they are amazing. 

The entry fee for Muslimah Today 2019 is R300 including tea, coffee, lunch, water and a goodie bag.

Sponsorships are available for women who cannot afford this fee. 

Register online here: shorturl.at/tEHRV or call 031 207 6155 for more information.