My passion for baking started at a very young age. I can’t tell you about the very first time I ever baked because I quite honestly don’t remember, but I do remember what became a weekly ritual at my house starting when I was about five years old. Every Sunday, my dad and I spent our afternoons in the kitchen whipping up some sort of dessert. As he and I sped through our tiny kitchen, my sisters blasted Nancy Ajram (only one of the most iconic Arabic singers) in the living room while my brothers played video games and my mother tried to remain ahead of of the disaster the kitchen would soon become. It was beautiful chaos. We measured, whipped, mixed, frosted and sprinkled our way through our Sunday. But do not be fooled. After all our efforts, we were always left with nothing more than a prepared Betty Crocker vanilla cake mix that was topped with heaping amounts of pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles. But, in my five-year-old eyes, it was worth more than the entire world. My affinity for baking grew with me throughout the years, and I often think back to those Sunday afternoons with feelings of nostalgia as I consider what initially set my love for baking into motion.
After informally taking orders from customers all over Ann Arbor for years, I launched my independent baking business, Confections by Reem, during the summer before my senior year of high school. I was motivated by a mixture of boredom and finally pulled the trigger on something I had wanted to do professionally for years — but it was no smooth-sailing journey. As any small-business owner would, I experienced great highs but also very low lows. There were times when I absolutely thrived and reached heights I never thought I could, and there were times I failed. Over time, I watched my order counts double, triple and even lead me to book out full weekends. Simultaneously, I watched my social media presence grow and gain more traction within my community and beyond. These, as well as countless other achievements, were highs. However, things like the occasional failed cake or various attempts to navigate the complexity of Instagram marketing with its forever-changing algorithm seemed to drown out all previous joy and pride.
Running my small business spurred and intensified notions about myself that I never knew I had. Through all the roses and thorns, one persisted: I never felt qualified or worthy to be in my position. I didn’t feel like I deserved the title of “entrepreneur” or “small-business owner” and quite honestly felt like my achievements were more of a product of luck rather than my own hard work. I allowed my minor failures to define my capabilities and refrained from talking about my business to strangers and even friends and family. But at the same time, I also could not help but question the paradox in my own struggle: How could I be hyperaware of the fact that I was doing so well with my business yet still approach it with so much self-doubt? Out of frustration, I connected with other small-business owners on Instagram, particularly those who carried similar identities as me and were in the same field as me. By interacting with these like-minded women of color and hearing their experiences, I discovered that my feelings were purely a result of imposter syndrome. People of color, some of who carry multiple marginalized identities, are prone to experiencing an increased sense of imposter syndrome. Connecting with these small-business owners helped me understand these insecurities but also motivated me to fight back against them. I actively sought to minimize the extent to which I allow my imposter syndrome to stunt the growth and potential of my business. Easier said than done? Most definitely. I would be lying if I said that my impostorism has disappeared entirely because every day is a constant battle. I began by implementing small goals in my everyday actions and thoughts. While I initially found it challenging to refer someone to my page, I now shamelessly plug my business in any social setting and rant about the work I do to any person who is willing to listen. And although I initially struggled with delegating and asking for help when I needed it, I now take full advantage of any resource that I cross paths with.
I take immense pride in the fact that I am an entrepreneur of color. By recognizing my self-worth and my business’ potential, I regained excitement to do what I do, and it has even managed to spill over into other spheres of my life. I now find myself approaching situations and experiences in my personal, social and academic life with a completely reformed outlook. I am no longer second-guessing my every move or constantly afraid of failure. While I still have miles to go in my journey to becoming the “perfect” small-business owner, if I were to pay it forward and give one piece of advice to any aspiring entrepreneur of color it would be this: Never allow the fear of failure to stop you from doing something you love. Every up and down holds value, so take pride in your own unique journey. True to my new nature, allow me to tell you all about one of my most iconic (and favorite) Confections by Reem treats, the infused cupcake.
My infused cupcakes came to be after a summer trip to one of my favorite cities, Chicago. We visited a small, trendy bakery called Bombobar, where we were served donuts that had miniature, Nutella filled squeeze bottles injected right in the middle of them. It was revolutionary. I took the idea and ran with it but added my Confections by Reem flare. I decided to experiment with the mini squeeze bottles, but instead of donuts, inject them into cupcakes. I filled these squeeze bottles with everything from jams to ganaches to caramels and even cereal infused milk. What initially came off as absolutely crazy became a hit — customers went crazy for them.
The infused cupcake quickly became my signature treat. It defines uniqueness as it’s unequivocally bold and loud. No matter how crazy it sounds, the infused cupcake is what I strive to be everyday: brave, bold and unapologetically me. Since that summer, I’ve sold over 1,000 infused cupcakes and counting, and my business has experienced tremendous growth and expansion. During times of accomplishment like these, I think back to my Sunday afternoons with my father as we blazed through our kitchen with Nancy Ajram and complete chaos in the background, sitting down to enjoy the tastiest Betty Crocker cake after all was said and done.
Feel free to connect with my small business on Instagram @confections_by_reem 😉
MiC Columnist Reem Hassan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org