A Sweeter World with Zainab Illyas

The LONG GAME Episode 59 with Sandra Scaiano A Sweeter World with Zainab Illyas

Zainab Illyas is an artist when it comes to desserts. Her specialty is French macarons, and she creates beautiful, expertly crafted custom treats. She calls her cafes “community cafes” and she brings that notion to life in her business, building relationships and supporting her community. As a women-owned business, hers could have been shut down by COVID. But she flourished. So what did she do to ensure that her brick-and-mortar business continued to succeed during the pandemic? Listen in today for this different entrepreneurial perspective. 

From Zai’s perspective as a brick and mortar business owner, she shares:

  • How she got into baking, starting in her childhood home in Sri Lanka

  • Why she transitioned into baking French macarons

  • The importance of passion to keep you moving forward

  • Her switch from home baking to opening her first shop

  • The ins and outs of building a business while raising children

  • We also talk about how social media fits into a brick and mortar business:

  • Forming a team with her husband and why you need a team to build a business

  • Making use of existing relationships to support building the business

  • How relationships became a pillar in her business and how she created that atmosphere

  • Her philosophy of giving support to local contractors

  • What changed when she opened a second location of the café. 

    Zai discusses how things changed for the business during COVID. Despite the pandemic, she launched a new location in September 2020. She shares how she made it work. 

    Zai shares that waiting for the “perfect time” can be a mistake. 

    What’s involved in scaling the business and training people for growth? 

  • Moving from a one-person hobby to where she is now, with two locations and ready to open a third

  • How a successful opening taught her that she needed to find help

  • The hardest part about training people to bake her recipes

  • The importance of a growth mindset

  • How she created the systems so the business would run smoothly

  • The difference between training in-person vs online

  • We also dive into more about her custom products: 

  • How art plays a role in her baking

  • Learning through trial and error and why it’s important to learn from your mistakes

  • The process for adding more offerings to the menu

  • Her brilliant idea for using macaron shells that weren’t perfect

  • The power of creativity and resourcefulness when you’re an entrepreneur

  • Adapting to current trends and customers’ needs and how that can increase your business

  • We wrap up talking about Zai’s social media presence and her current strategy on different platforms, especially Tik Tok. More than anything, she has fun with it! It’s a great way to express yourself and connect with people. 

    In the end, you need to enjoy your work for it to succeed. 

    Links from Today’s Episode:

    Zai’s Website

    Instagram of Zai

    Zai’s Facebook

    TikTok of Zai