HOW I TURNED MY BASEMENT PROJECT INTO A PROFITABLE BUSINESS?

A TRUE STORY OF HARD WORK, RESILIENCE AND SUCCESS

As Shakespeare said in his well-known writing, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” They have their exits and their entrances; Life is like a stage, you come on the stage, perform your actions, and then you go away. Strangely, people don’t realize what the act was, and when you realize it, it’s time to go away. When I was in college getting my Computer Science degree, I realized the moment I got out of the program, I must have something in my hand, otherwise, it would be a job war at the end, which I did not want for myself.

During my education, I always used to plan on becoming an entrepreneur, but I was not aware of what I can do to become one. So, I used to work as a freelancer, earn some money, and then I used to invest it in some sort of product for doing business on it. I tried on several plans, but somehow they didn’t work out. But as they say, failure is part of the startup race. The sooner you accept it, the higher you’ll go.

Meanwhile, I graduated, and during that time I knew nothing about how to start a venture of my own. I got a job at S&P Global and it was a night shift job. This continued for a few months when I realized that if I am on the night shift, I can start working on any other venture side by side at the same time during the day before my job starts. One day I was baking out of recreational time while I was still figuring out what my day hustle would be. It just struck me that I bake and was interested in food, so why not try this out as a side hustle. I started baking a batch of brownies. The first batch turned out to be pretty well, but after a few more tries and tweaks, I came to a perfect batch which I shared with my colleagues and friends. I got a very good response. After seeing that response, I said to myself why not start a business out of it. At that time, I talked to my then fiancé, now wife and business partner, that I want to do this, and I have a name for this brand as well. I told her that I want to brand it as O’Brownies and start a business out of it. She really liked the idea and the product, so we decided to make like 15 to 20 batches, and we packed it and distributed them between our friends and their colleagues in different offices in Islamabad. We almost got 95% positive feedback, therefore we decided to make a brand out of it. The first thing we did was to design the logo, and Instagram Facebook page and started to promote it on our social media.

So, we didn’t realize that we might get a lot of orders, hence we were working night shifts as well. Gradually in the first week, we got 5 orders, after that our orders started increasing. So, the situation was, that my wife and I used to handle social media marketing and I used to bake and deliver the items. This combination was going very strongly, when one day, one of our friends posted a review on a Facebook group. The moment it happened, we started to get so many orders that we couldn’t control the incoming flow of orders. This was the first time we realized that there was much more potential in this than we imagined. But not losing hope, we made a system for order tracking and started to note down the orders as people started giving orders weeks later as well. We got pre-orders for the next whole month. This was a crucial time in the development of our brand and our clientele. I used to work a night shift from 5 Pm to 2 AM, and after that when I returned home, I started baking till 9 am in the morning. After that, I usually slept for the next 4 hours and get ready for the office around 3 pm and start delivering the brownies to the clients from 3-5 pm until my office started. This routine continued for two and half years continuously. By this time, our brand had grown exponentially on Instagram and Facebook. We saw how our clients were now taking the product for their loved ones aboard. For the first time a Pakistani brand and specialty were now being offered to people around the world. It was the trust and faith of our customers that gave us the faith. This was the time that my wife and I decided that we needed to now take the next steps in our lives. It was in April 2020, when the pandemic hit Pakistan. We were locked in our houses and our jobs were now working from home. There was a lot of instability about what would happen next. Nobody was prepared for the pandemic. While the world was falling apart, I saw a window of opportunity. We started looking for an empty location. We found a shop in Islamabad and decided to rent space. That is where it all started. We got all our assets combined, we invested into O’brownies, and we were now operational in the market from the basement of our house.

It was indeed a big step in our life, but the journey doesn’t end here. This was just the beginning of a future we didn’t know. That’s when we started developing our marketing plan. We started pushing for social media campaigns, organizing corporate orders, and expanding our revenue streams. The first year was the most crucial, as we were building our product and set our menu. Hiring staff and setting processes in place. This was now so much more than just baking a batch of brownies in the basement. O’brownies is now a business entity serving the city of Islamabad. It was simply working towards one goal, one team, and one vision to make O’Brownies bigger and better. We expanded to include cakes, donuts, sundaes, and much more. There were days we started work at 11 am and used to get home at 11 pm. The strongest trait of a business is a team, a team that is trained and skilled to manage the business processes. My wife and I worked day in, and day out for the past two years establishing our brand. It gives me great hope to see how my little hustle turned into a brand that is now exploring new horizons of expansion, such as franchising and opening branches all over Pakistan. The brand that was created in the basement of my house is now selling chocolaty goodness in the heart of Islamabad.

There is goodness and hope in what you do, if you do it with perseverance and focus, there is simply no stopping you!

Umer Saeed Khan