Today, we are going to share yet another success story of a home baker turned Healthy Baking Recipe Creator, Baking Trainer, Food Blogger, Author and Product Reviewer. Meet Sonia Gupta. Her journey started as a worried mother of a foodie child who wanted to ensure healthy eating habits for her family grew into a passion and further into a full-blown venture known as AnyBodyCanBake. She is on her mission to help home-makers become home-bakers and learn the art of baking at home without using harmful chemicals and preservatives. So far, she has trained more than 2000 people through her hands-on and online courses. She was one of the 15 judges for India's Top 100 Home Bakers. We had a chance to chat with Sonia Gupta and get to know her journey.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What was life like pre-baking and how has baking shaped it to be now?
I am Sonia, and I was born and brought up in a small town in Punjab. I completed my Masters in Maths and started my career as a science and math teacher. Unlike many here, I do not have a professional degree in food, but I think food is in the blood of every Punjabi.
Life pre-baking was just a regular and boring corporate 9-5 job. Wake up, send the kid to school, tea, breakfast, work, come back tired, dinner and finally crash. When there were stints when I was not working, days were even more annoying. The baking bug bit me when I moved to Pune in 2014. Since then, every day seems to be bringing something new to me. I have my mind on an experiment always. And I am loving this!
2. What inspired you to start "Sonlicious" and subsequently Anybody Can Bake? Tell us about the community of bakers that you have helped create and the bustling Facebook group that you run.
Sonlicious happened for a reason. My child is a big-time foodie. This drove me crazy. No matter how much I would tell him that outside baked goodies are filled with preservatives, he would figure out a way to eat them. I was left with no choice but to find a solution to it, so baking happened. But when I started sharing my experiments, what I found that it’s not just me. Every mother had the same problem and they were looking for similar solutions. Initially, "Sonlicious" was only as a sanity check to my recipes, but moms started connecting with me and started showing their interest in baking at home.
Gradually, we rebranded ourselves with new name AnyBodyCanBake. I also took up the mission to help mothers learn the art of baking and further my mission of ‘HomeMakers to HomeBakers.’
I wanted to find a viable way to ensure that I can help everyone who connects with me. That’s when I started my Facebook group, with the sole purpose to serve people. Today it is home to more than 40000 bakers around the globe. I ensure that no negativity prevails in the community, ensuring these are immediately restricted or removed. Since 2018, I have been running a series called #BakeWithBaker. It is a fortnightly event where I go live and demonstrate one of my tried and tested recipes. People then bake along and I help them with technique as they do so.
3. Was it hard when you started out to learn baking and all the other skills like blog writing and video making? What advice would you give to upcoming and aspiring bakers and content creators?
Hell yeah! When I kicked off, I had a few choices. First was to join a baking diploma or degree course and learn baking. But that wasn’t possible because I had to take care of my house and my child. Going for a course for 6 months to 1 year was not possible. The other choice was to join some one-day crash course and gain knowledge. But the more I looked into it; I found that most of the courses were just about teaching recipes. Nobody really taught the science of baking. And for me, it was important to know why I am doing what I am doing.
So I was only left with only one choice. DO IT YOURSELF. I spent weeks and months with failures and had time to think about what went wrong. I read a lot, I experimented a lot. Every failure lead to another experiment until I succeeded. Slowly I found my way. Today I am a successful baker, but it took a lot of hard work to reach here.
Blogging was also completely new to me. Fortunately, Amit, my husband, helped me take care of the technical and functional part of blogging, which gives me the time to come up with new recipes for the blog and courses.
i, I decided to launch my online courses. But there were many issues while starting off, especially with the video teams that we hired. We had to then do this also ourselves. I gained a lot of experience in photography and videography and Amit learned video editing.
Now, Amit and I as a team can do a recipe video from start to end for anybody. To facilitate budding food entrepreneurs, we have recently launched a service for this too.
The lessons I learned - Create a business to serve others. Create content that has value for others. Find a possible way to assist others. Your business will automatically grow. And this is my two cents to every aspiring content creator and baker.
4. Tell us more about your Online Baking Marathon which ran throughout September of 2019 and again planned in 2020! This is a novel concept that we’ve never seen before in India.
Thank you for recognizing the 30 Days Baking Challenge! There are no equivalent courses in baking anywhere in the world, and we spent almost 6 months of research and brainstorming about this. Our goals were:
- Create a course that has value for everyone in baking, literally everyone.
- It should be pocket friendly.
- It should be online so that everyone can reap its benefits.
- It should cover the science of baking and not just recipes (for only recipes, I have my blog).
- It should not become a dormant course like every other online course, which averages around 3%.
This is how we came up with the idea of the 30 Days Baking Challenge. It included 30 exclusive recipes across the board and 30 lessons on baking science. We ensured that it was priced aptly to encourage everyone to learn. And to make the learning complete, we give lifetime support. This brings momentum to the course when people are able to get support in real-time. Amit adds a lot of fun and humour to the group and our participation level in those 30 days was around 50%. Over half of the batch baked all the recipes with us within those 30 days. About 40% of people participate in weekly assignments and earn the certificate.
This course is a live example of my strong belief in serving people. When your intentions are honest, people get the same vibes and they feel it. I feel proud when people talk about our course in various forums and recommend it to others.
The 1st season started on 1st Sept 2019 with 359 people on-board. We delivered the 2nd season in Feb 2020 and now gearing up for Season 3 which is scheduled for May 2020. We already have 350 people signed up for it at the time of writing. If you'd like to sign up for this challenge, then click on the button below:
5. What is your signature goodie to bake, and why do you love baking it?
My 100% whole wheat bread. 100% whole wheat bread is possible, but the story behind this worth noticing. When I started my baking journey, I noticed that everything in the market is made with “Maida”. I realized that people don’t bake with Whole Wheat. Why?
I started looking for solutions. The more I spoke with people, the more they discouraged me. “100% Whole Wheat is not possible”, this is what they told me. Some then suggested me to work with some portion of wheat and then rest with maida. But the researcher in me was not satisfied. If there is a problem, there has to be a solution. Unfortunately, I failed to get a solution from external sources. So I had to find it myself, and I did!
Let me tell you a story. I was in my 100% Whole Wheat bread Master Class in Bangalore. I had a student who had completed a 3-year diploma from a reputed institute. She said -
“In my three years of diploma, we were told that 100% whole wheat baking is not possible. When I saw your workshop post, I decided to find the truth. I initially felt that you are misleading people because that’s what my 3 years of learning were. So I joined your workshop for a reality check. And I am really surprised that what my 3 years of diploma could not teach me, you taught me in just 6 hours.”
6. What made you shift your focus to healthy baking? Do you think a lifestyle change is required in India with the way we eat?
I think “healthy” is largely a “misunderstood” term between people. Some confuse it with your body shape, some confuse it with ingredients that you eat. Some feel that eating millets is healthy, some feel gluten-free is healthy.
To me, everything that our grandparents ate was healthy. They lived stronger and healthier than us. And that was for a simple reason - they generally ate whole grains and only ate at home. They made food with completely safe ingredients with no preservatives and harmful chemicals. My healthy baking is on the same lines. Eat whole grains, bake at home, no toxic chemicals and preservatives.
When you are going to give nourishing food to your body, it will gradually become healthy. Whether you eat Ragi, or Jawar, or Wheat, eat whole grain, that’s where the nutrition is. With an altered lifestyle, it is very necessary that we adopt healthy eating habits.
7. You conduct workshops across India, how is that like? Is it easy to manage blogging and other online content work alongside travelling for workshops?
It was certainly not an easy task.
In 2018, I travelled on 44 weekends for my workshops. It was definitely taxing, but I had a mission. When I travel during the weekend, I lose 4 days of productivity which I could have used for other work. The remaining three days are when I devoted time to my other activities.
But soon we realized that there is a better way to complete this mission of ‘HomeMakers to HomeBakers’ - that’s why we gradually moved online. It improves our reach, helps us deliver more content, increases our reach and helps us focus more on customer services. Customer service is the core of our business.
8. Do you have any upcoming workshops that our bakers and readers could take part in?
30 Days Baking Challenge – starting 3 May, registrations open until 12 April. Click the button below to register for the Challenge
30 Days Blogging Challenge – Starting 1 May, registrations are on. Click the button below to register for the Challenge
30 Days Home Baker Challenge – Registrations are on. Click the button below to register for the Challenge
For details about my other workshops or classes, please check https://homebakers.co.in/baking-classes/, as it is constantly updated.
9. You’re a judge for the Top 100 Home Bakers Awards held by homebakers.co.in! What do you think of the initiative?
I think you guys have given wings to home bakers in India. The home baker space is crowded. To zero down on a home baker was a complicated process for the end-user. Because of the lack of authentic information, it was only harder to pick the right baker.
India's Top 100 Home Bakers ranking has helped remedy this lacking. It will enable more customers to make educated choices, and I am sure it is going to boost the home baking industry. I truly enjoyed being a part of the event as a judge. I was pleased with the transparency you had with the participants and your methods to keep the outcomes unbiased.
10. How do you think the home baker industry will progress in the next few years?
It is only going to get bigger and better. Home bakers need to ensure that they stay true to their quality. They need to find ways to stay away from the rat race and avoid undercutting. For those starting out, it might be difficult to get business for the first year. Bide your time, but stick to the quality. I also see that most of the Home bakers start out of sheer passion, but completely miss out on the business aspect. A business needs to be treated like a business and just like any other business, one needs to focus on its positioning and marketing.
11. What do you think of homebakers.co.in as a platform which brings bakers and customers together? What effect do you think it will have on the industry?
What you guys are doing is building a bridge between the customer and the seller. This bridge is only going to ease out the buying process. If I have to search for a review of a software product, I can Google it. If I have to find a review of a company, I can go to Mouthshut and now if I have to find a review of a home baker, I can turn to Homebakers.co.in.
That is Sonia Gupta's inspiring story. To keep getting inspired, do not miss out to get the latest updates on our events, blogs and newsletters on https://homebakers.co.inClick here to find online baking and cake decorating classes.