How a baker built her 25-year home business
"I've learned to embrace my lack of formal training because it’s what sets me apart from everyone else," says Roshan Samtani
Roshan Gopaldas-Samtani is quick to admit that she does not have the flair many pastry chefs have. But she still has an ace up her sleeve: her lack of culinary schooling. “I realize that the business I am in is very competitive,” she says. “There are budding pastry chefs with some serious talent emerging all the time. But I believe that if you’re really good at your craft, there is always room for everyone. I have never felt intimidated. In fact, I have learned to embrace my lack of formal training because it’s what sets me apart from everyone else. More than presentation and fancy techniques, I am all about the taste and flavor. It’s what I know and all I know.”
Samtani says that when she was eight years old, she would always lock herself in the kitchen, just like her mom. “I wasn’t interested in cooking, but I loved to bake and I learned the basics from her.” Instead of reading Nancy Drew and teen novels, she buried her head in cookbooks. She was self-taught and relied mostly on home experimentation to enhance her craft.
As a practicum for her communication arts and business management course in De La Salle University, her group set up Chocoholics, Inc., which produced and sold chocolate truffles and brownies. “It was successful. And I guess I just took it from there, making desserts for family and friends, then friends of friends.” It was during college when Homemade by Roshan was officially founded and by the time she graduated, she was already a successful entrepreneur. More than two decades later, she is still a force to be reckoned with in the local dessert scene.
Indeed, there is no shortage of good pastry chefs and confectionaries in the metro. Even the number of home-based food businesses has grown in just over the last few years. Competition is tough. Luckily, for Samtani, the biggest of her worries is filling the orders pouring in on a daily basis. “I am very fortunate to have a loyal clientele that is not price conscious. It allows me to make quality products using quality ingredients each and every time,” she says.
“I wasn’t interested in cooking, but I loved to bake and I learned the basics from my mom,” says Samtani.
“I never substitute or use low-quality ingredients. If I have to source the item abroad, I will do it. Consistency is key. For example, the cookie that you fell in love with the first time you tasted it, has to taste the same each and every time after that. And I guess that’s why people keep coming back.”
Her success is remarkable. In fact, it has forced her to set up another kitchen to work in as well as occasionally turn down orders. Still, she has no intentions of expanding or going commercial.
“I have always been a home baker. I never advertised or did any marketing for my products. I bake because it’s my passion. I do not want to open a shop, deal with the stress that comes with running a business, where sales and numbers will matter more. This is also why I have never joined bazaars or trade shows. People learn about my pastries through word of mouth. If I am unable to fill an order, I turn customers away because I would rather lose the business than give them something substandard. And I would like to keep it that way.”
Samtani confesses that she does not have a sweet tooth, yet she comes up with some of the most delicious cakes and cookies this side of town. For many years, people have been knocking on her door hoping she would agree to open a shop in a prime location or join food events. But her mind is made up and she knows her heart is in the right place. There may be a wide range of pastry options available these days, but she is confident that people will always go back to the familiar taste of her desserts for the overwhelming feeling of comfort and satisfaction that they bring.