Nirmala is such a talented person when it comes to baking. She has created a beautiful company called Pumpkin Bakes which makes the most heavenly cakes in the world! Nirmala is also one of the kindest, most generous people I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. I always knew she was a special person but she really stood out as a shining star during this Covid pandemic. Nirmala is ALWAYS willing to help those in need. She is a person you can rely on whenever things get tough.
Can you tell me about your baking career?
It started as a hobby actually. I was an Emergency Dept Nurse in San Francisco for 12 years and my job was stressful and busy so on my days off I used to bake cakes and cookies to destress.
At what age did you know that baking was a passion of yours?
The only cake we ever baked at home was vanilla cake in the pressure cooker with the sand bath in it. I still have happy memories of smelling the cake as it baked and we kids were desperate to get a bite of it as soon as the cake cooled. I loved art as a kid but it was never encouraged. My teachers used to tell my mom that painting wouldn’t take me anywhere. Of course like every middle class family, the pressure is to score well and get a job, so baking was never part of the plan.
Can you tell me about your business and how it started?
I baked at home like most families do in the US. I was curious to try new things and the hospital staff became my guinea pigs and sampled everything I baked and gave me feedback. One day my husband just popped the question “If you were not a nurse, what would you do?” I said: “I would be a cake artist”. Later that year my husband enrolled me in the pastry programme at the San Francisco Baking Institute as a birthday gift. I juggled working as a nurse on the weekends and attended baking classes on the weekdays with my 3 year old baby. Once I moved to India I baked my daughters first birthday cake, followed by cakes for friends in my apartment and from there my business grew.
What are some valuable lessons you have learnt as an entrepreneur?
Do what you love. It’s better to so do something you love and fail rather than not even trying and regretting it. There is nothing more rewarding than working for yourself and employing people.
Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
My husband. He has always supported me and believed in me. My entire family thought I was crazy to resign from my high paying job and start baking cakes but my husband never doubted me even once.
How do you balance work and parenting?
Balancing work and kids is the beauty of working for yourself. I go to the bakery after my kids leave for school. I try to get the maximum amount of work done so by 4 pm I am back home; just before the kids arrive back from school. Due to Covid things have gone haywire but my husband and I share duties and I’m blessed with a wonderful nanny whom the kids love and she overlooks everything at home. I also have my sister who lives across the street so if I have a busy weekend with orders, she comes over to be with the kids and they do fun stuff together.
What have your parents taught you that is invaluable to you as a Mother?
Always be financially independent, be a strong person mentally and emotionally and believe in god.
What are the most important lessons you want to pass onto your children?
Be honest, kind and empathetic. No matter what profession you choose you must learn to respect others.
You are a great inspiration to me and many others. How do you intend to keep inspiring our generation and the next?
Taking little steps each day to make a difference adds up. I continuously try to update my skills and make better cakes and try to improve the balance between my work and the kids. I became a pastry chef at the age of 34 and worked weekends and took care of my son. Anything is achievable if you put your mind to it. Don’t follow the crowd, lead the pack.
What are your goals for the future?
I want to be one of the best wedding cake artists in the country and start a scholarship for underprivileged girls to take up nursing as a career.
What are your hopes for the future of India?
I dream of a more tolerant India where women and children are safer and nobody goes to bed hungry.