The number of online social media pages selling desserts is countless, making it difficult for any single brand to create a niche. And yet, Pastryarchy, launched online on a whim in 2019, has carved out a successful space in the fast-paced online dessert market. They are primarily present on Instagram with their Pastryarchy101 handle and "endorsing a world system run by pastry" tagline.
Sure, their desserts taste better than most other competition, but that is just part of the story.
One of the key factors is their vibrant online presence, where they appear to share a nurturing relationship with the customers. Without the help of external agencies or sponsored ads, Pastryarchy already has over 7,000 followers on Instagram.
"There are other stores with more followers, but even with 10,000 followers, you get a maximum of 100 customers. But I feel like our followers are extremely interactive and are interested in what Pastryarchy is doing," Kazi Naveed, manager and co-founder told The Business Standard.
"We let people try it [Patryarchy products] out and sometimes we put it in an assortment box so people can try it. The benefit of having an online business is that everything is always available. Also, there will always be someone out there who will like it," Elma Arifeen, the head chef and co-founder told The Business Standard.
From the start, Pastryarchy took a different approach to investment and growth. Instead of starting with a huge team and industrial equipment, they kept their initial investment small, which included counters, a fridge and a freezer.
Ingredient-wise, they did their best to locally source all their ingredients, which helped the budget to stay cost-efficient. Even today, the only ingredients they import are chocolate, cream, cheese and gelatine.
"From the very beginning, the very first investment, it took 2 to 4 months to break even, but we have a few recurring investments," said Naveed, adding "Pastryarchy was not set up like any other regular business you'll find here. It is more like a baby that is growing with us."
For a while, the duo were the only two people behind this business. "There was a lot of hard work involved. For the first two to four months, we were the marketing team, we were the chefs, we were the physical labour involved," Elma recounted.
Naveed added, "I would sometimes even do the deliveries myself."
Instead of expecting instant profit, they took the decision to nurture the brand early on in its journey. And it is still difficult to measure their profits exactly, as they often reinvest in their business.
A dynamic duo
While Naveed holds a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering with Management from the University of Edinburgh, Elma finished her Bachelor's in Economics at Brac University. She later went to France to get her diploma in Cuisine and Patisserie from Gastronomicom International Culinary Academy.
The duo launched Pastryarchy when both were on the hunt for jobs but nothing panned out.
"It started on a whim. When I came back, I applied to a few places such as upscale hotels to work in the pastry section, but did not find their HR approach to be satisfactory," said Elma.
Pastryarchy receives 15-20 orders on average during weekends and six to eight orders during weekdays. This does not take into account the rush during seasonal periods when desserts are in high demand.
"Per product, there is a profit margin of around 30%," said Naveed. And "since we have launched we have delivered, maybe, way over 10,000 orders," added Elma.
Pastryarchy is a high-tier dessert brand, meaning its price tags are pricier than the average online dessert store. Their cheapest desserts, the lemon meringue tarts, go for Tk300, and the most expensive item on their menu, a custom glazed mousse box, goes for Tk3,600 but can vary depending on customisations.
And yet people keep coming back. So what's the secret?
"You will always have a place if you always concentrate on your product," Elma said. "If your product is the most important thing for you, you will always have a place in the industry."
Pastryarchy distinguishes itself through very creative aesthetics and a variety of uncommon flavour combinations.
"We try to use a lot of uncommon ingredients, one of them is roselle leaf," said Elma, adding, "I've been doing this for a really long time, so I have some intuitive knowledge of how ingredients work and interact with each other.
So what was their biggest order to date?
"It was one order for birth announcement boxes," said Naveed. Elma adds, "It was a custom-made box made to display eight desserts with a drawer full of confectionaries. 200 of the boxes were supposed to go out. It was the biggest challenge of the year till now. But every Valentine's Day, Christmas and wedding season, we face similar challenges."
A house of creativity
With a small yet dynamic team of 11 (including the two co-founders), Pastryarchy is all set to thrive in the future.
Faseeha Saarrah, one of the venture's first employees, had a diploma in Parjatan on professional baking and finished her three-month internship at Pan Pacific Sonargaon when she saw an ad on Instagram by Pastrychy for hire three years ago.
"I like working with Pastryarchy. I get to learn something new every day. I can also communicate while working, I learn new things from Elma, and there are times when I can make my own suggestions and she considers them as well," she said.
As a business that relies on creativity, skill, communication and teamwork, Faseeha said the team successfully cultivates a motivating workplace environment for culinary professionals and enthusiasts.
"The plan for Pastryarchy is a little bit different, we don't necessarily want to be a cake shop. Some day, we want to open an indie-style cafe. We also want some of our products to be on the shelves of superstores. We plan to open a school one day, but this plan is the furthest away from us right now," the co-founders said.