By the time pastry chef Nabeelah Cassiem, was eight years old, she had a dream – to own a coffee shop and deli. Nabeelah’s vision saw her baking creamy and decadent cakes and ‘fancies’ which would be on offer alongside her mom’s delicious savoury pastries. The owner of Creamy Creations still holds this dream in the forefront of her mind as she bakes and supplies goods to a variety of businesses, corporates, and private customers.

Nabeelah was born in Athlone, but has lived her life in Stellenbosch. After finishing high school, Nabeelah completed her qualification as a pastry chef at the Swiss Institute of Hospitality before going on to work as a pastry and sous chef at restaurants and wine estates including Big Easy, Delvera, Vrede en Lust, and The Lord Charles Hotel before spending six years at Coopmanshuijs Boutique Hotel. It was while in this position that Nabeelah started baking on order, slowly growing her own customer base and registering Creamy Creations as a business in 2019.

Taking the leap
As a wife and mother, Nabeelah had already been questioning whether the long hours required in the hospitality industry were what she wanted in the long term, and just before the Covid-19 lockdown she decided to resign and focus full-time on her own business. “I was really nervous about leaving my job and just working for myself, but in hindsight it was the best thing I could have done. If I had not started focusing on my own business, I might have been one of the people in the hospitality industry that was stuck for months without a salary or a job,” she says.

The Idas Valley resident describes her products as “Homemade Goodness” and her products range from biscuit selections to ‘fancies’ and cakes. If you like a sweet treat, then you are part of Nabeelah’s target market – and while most of her clients are in the Stellenbosch and Helderberg area, she has customers throughout the greater Cape Town, Winelands, and Boland area.

Stellenbosch residents and visitors to the town can purchase Nabeelah’s mouthwatering products at the recently launched CoCreate Hub, located at 7 Victoria Street in the heart of the town. The Hub’s deli stocks products by local entrepreneurs – celebrating a feast of local flavours.

Building Business
The Nedbank-funded Ranyaka Building Business programme has been invaluable to Nabeelah as she formalised and began growing her business. The workshops all add value and contribute to establishing Creamy Creations in the market. From legal and tax workshops to learning more about Google Sheets, and marketing your business on social media, the Ranyaka workshops add to the entrepreneurial skillset. Nabeelah also specifically mentioned how Ranyaka assisted her in ensuring that she met all the Health and Safety requirements as a food preparation business.

Striking the balance
For Nabeelah, the challenge is to find the balance – keeping her clients satisfied while at the same time working to improve her products and keeping on trend. As her business grows, Nabeelah appreciates opportunities to meet and be inspired by other entrepreneurs. Being an entrepreneur is not new to her though, as her mom Rasheedah’s savouries and pastries financed hers and her siblings’ education. She has seen how hard work and commitment can be financially rewarding, and has had an excellent role model for perseverance in your own business.

A business lesson that Nabeelah has learned is the importance of being confident enough to ask for payment, at least in part, upfront for services. By asking for a deposit, she makes sure that her expenses are covered so that cancellations do not result in her being out of pocket. She believes that small businesses are extremely important to the South African economy because “they are an important part of job creation. Small businesses fill the gap and sometimes come to the rescue when corporates can’t retain staff. They also play a big role in keeping money within the local economy and uplifting the community.”

Overcoming adversity
Family has been a driving factor in Nabeelah’s journey, and her father Amien was her “right-hand man”, taking on all of the small day to day tasks and doing deliveries so that she could focus on her core business – baking. Tragically, Nabeelah lost her dad to Covid-19 in South Africa’s third wave and her family suffered additional loss as her mom’s brothers also lost their lives to the virus. Having to carry with ‘business as usual’ while grieving is challenging, but Nabeelah described how all of her siblings have rallied around – despite their own commitments – to make sure that everything gets done.

When asked to offer some advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Nabeelah said,” Don’t be your own worst enemy. Keep going. The sky is the limit. If you have passion and are dedicated, you can follow your dreams. Know what you are working for and why.”

To contact Nabeelah, email or call 079 543 4984.