Sonali Shah is a professional home baker in Surat, Gujarat, India. She is also the founder and the chief baking artist of Surat-based home bakery LeChocoWoco. Sonali’s journey with baking started when she was a 13-year-old young girl. She drew inspiration from her Mother who also helped her learn the basics in baking. Armed with all the necessary skills and experiences, Sonali decided to become a professional baker a few years back. The first order that came her way was during the birthday celebrations of her cousin. The event became a success for Sonali which eventually pushed her forward to chase her dreams. Since then she never looked back.
Sonali Shah started LeChocoWoco on September 19, 2014. Presently, it is a home based venture but Sonali has bigger plans to start a shop. The young entrepreneur dreams of having a shop where people would come and cherish life and dessert without counting calories. And we believe every big step starts with a dream!
Sonali Shah of LeChocoWoco joins us today in this interview session with conflatingVisions to share her story.
Hi Sonali, welcome to this interview session with conflatingVisions. To begin with, please tell us a few lines about yourself.
Hi! I am Sonali Shah, a simple girl from Gujarat with simple thinking. I am a teacher by profession and a baker by passion. Currently working as a teacher at an institute. I have an interest in photography too. I love to explore things whether they are places or recipes.
How did you learn baking?
Well, I am self-learner and have never gone to any baker school to learn baking. I learnt the basics of baking from my Mom as from childhood I used to see her baking and decorating cakes for our birthdays. And yes, of course, YouTube is my teacher.
My inspiration for baking which keeps me alive to try one more time even after failing enormous times is my mentor and Chef Anil Rohira who is an international pastry chef and chocolatier. His innovation doesn’t make me to give up. I am proud and happy to be a self-learner though I am not doing advance level.
At what age did you bake for the first time? How was the experience?
I first baked my first cake in my vacation time when I was 13 years old. I started my journey by wheat cakes only. When I baked first, it remained uncooked. So I again kept in the oven and within a few minutes, it got burnt. I made first chocolate when I was 15 years old with my Bhabhi and Mom. I kept my first exhibition of home-made chocolates and decorative Diyas at my place only.
What motivated you to become a professional baker?
It all started with baking at home for my family with basic flavors. I love to try new variations and new flavors. My journey as a professional baker started with an order of cupcakes for the birthday party of my cousin. After that, I started getting orders as a professional baker and LeChocoWoco came into existence.
Sonali, please tell us about LeChocoWoco.
LeChocoWoco is a home bakery in Surat. We aim to produce freshly made and high-quality cakes and chocolate products for all our customers while encompassing the utmost standard in customer service and value.
LeChocoWoco delivers quality baked goods and handcrafted chocolates to customers in Surat every day. LeChocoWoco has positioned itself to be one of the most popular wholesalers and retailers of handcrafted chocolates in Surat. The products that go out from LeChocoWoco are influenced by both European and Asian baking traditions.
The list of products are cakes, cupcakes, exotic chocolates, deserts, hampers. It’s a one-stop solution for healthy bakes.
What are some of the signature items of LeChocoWoco? Which one is your personal favourite?
Sprouts chocolates, caramel cupcakes, dates chocolates, red velvet cakes with butter cream, chocolate cakes with cottage cheese frosting with full of fresh fruits are some of the signature items of LeCocoWoco.
My favourite is caramel cupcakes, chocolate cake with cottage cheese frosting with full of fresh fruits.
Commerce and creativity both are integral part of a business. Tell us how do you handle both these aspects of your business?
Creativity is always there, but when it comes to execution, it’s really difficult. Sometimes I want to try with different designs, but customers aren’t ready to pay so have to land up in basic ones with a different design. So no cakes look the same. Customers always see the price but never think about the effort that goes in for making a designer cake that is actually fresh and healthy compared to the cakes from the local bakeries. The difficult task is to maintain both requirements and efforts to come up with the desired outcome.
Narrate some of your success stories.
I recently worked for Shott on their second anniversary. Shott is a popular game zone in Surat. I completed the entire order in 6 days which included 1000 boxes of chocolates with branding, printing of boxes with the company name which was done in Mumbai as Mumbai vendors are best for it. After printing, the empty boxes came from Mumbai. I finished by putting in chocolates and delivered to my client. This was my first biggest corporate order.
Second was once a client ordered a cake for his fiancé’s birthday and they completed 5 months of their engagement on that day. So he wanted a theme cake that too without fondant. The cake was going to travel a one hour distance from my place. As it was my first time, I was scared with the thought whether the cake would reach safely without getting melted. But fortunately, all went good and the client right away messaged me that the cake was so good in look and taste that no one could stop eating after having one piece. He rated and posted reviews on my Facebook page too.
During last Diwali, 10 kg chocolates were specially ordered from Japan. The client came through word of mouth publicity.
What are your future plans to scale up the growth of LeChocoWoco?
I love baking from home but thinking to open a small shop catering to cakes, chocolates, cupcakes and few exclusive and healthy desserts. I want to introduce a wide range of healthy products that would also taste good. I want to tie up with event planners. Also, my website is in process and would be up soon.
If you are given the option to fix a failure of yours, what would you do?
Failures are part of life, learn from them and never give up because you may fail many times. Stand up and show the world by getting success. I would try to fix my failures and if they aren’t getting fixed then will come up with better things.
Anything else you want to share…
Use your time wisely. Keep learning, keep experimenting and just don’t give up. Never compromise on your quality by taking more orders out of your capacity. Use resources wisely for a better taste.
And, one last question of this session Sonali, if you have had one wish…
To do a baking course from a renowned baker school in London and to have my own studio with all the required amenities.