"I don't feel like an entrepreneur yet, I still haven't even had a day off, I'm tired but it's a “good kind of tired” situation!"
Natalija Čukman, a Kul IN alumni, had dreamed of opening a pastry shop for a long time. With a lot of dedication, joy and invaluable practical advice and ideas she got through professional training, she made it! Read her story to find out how education can be the catalyzer you need for a great business plan.
MY OWN PASTRY SHOP
Tell us something about yourself, how did you decide to dedicate yourself professionally to pastry?
- I graduated from the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management. For a long time, I worked at a completely different job and had no contact with professional pastry. And still, hospitality industry had always been present in my life because my parents were small business owners. The whole family was into it, we would often go to restaurants and we were interested in gastronomy. I even had the idea of opening my own restaurant, but in the end my love for desserts and ice cream prevailed and I decided on a pastry shop.
When did you start thinking about opening your own pastry shop?
- I started thinking about it even before I came to Kul IN. I actually enrolled at Kul IN with the intention of opening a small business of my own. I wanted to be my own boss, it's in my core, my dad has always been an entrepreneur, and the idea of focusing on pastries and ice cream came as a cherry on top of my entrepreneurial plans.
What does the process of opening a pastry shop look like?
- It took me a long time to settle on a location. The next step was getting the ice cream machines, refrigerators, showcases. In the end, we focused on interior decorating, making recipes, drafting the menu etc.
What can people get at your pastry shop?
- For now, we are focused on ice cream, an Italian type of ice cream. We work with Italian pastes that have 99% of the original product. Fruit ice creams are made from fresh fruits and syrups, while others are milk based. We only use fresh milk and cream, so the ice cream is softer and creamier than your mainstream, standard ice cream. We have also introduced refreshing, summer cakes to our menu recently, e.g. poppy seed and raspberry cake, carrot cake, fresh cheese cake (only fresh cheese, no spreads), tiramisu and pana cotta with blueberries, choco-almond cake that we serve with ice cream and that's it for now but we will be adding things to the menu every week.
Are you glad you embarked on this business adventure?
- Interior decorating is still ongoing so I haven't had the time to think about that too much. I don't feel like an entrepreneur yet, I still haven't even had a day off, I'm tired but it's a “good kind of tired” situation. I'm glad I opened this pastry shop and I think I'll open another one in the future. My goal is to set up an ice cream kiosk with showcases next year. We are also already thinking about introducing waffles with ice cream and an ice cream sandwich to our menu. I always have something new to add and I have nothing to throw out! We have 15-18 flavors, but some guests already have "their" ice cream flavor which they order every time, so it's hard to decide which flavors to leave out of the menu in the future. It is necessary to keep records, we do inventory once a week and everything is going smoothly. When I know what I want, I completely lose myself in it. I wouldn't change a thing, I just don't look at life like that, I always look to the future!
What advice would you give to someone considering opening a small business?
- You should believe in yourself and be persistent. Before the opening I was thinking this is already too much - I was already tired, but when we opened, and I felt empowered. So, one should not give up. If you have an original idea, it will be a great foundation for all other ideas. My parents are my inspiration, help and support, food should be a family business after all. Just recently, my whole family came to visit me and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw them sitting in my pastry shop, amazing.
What was the most beautiful moment in you entrepreneurial career so far?
- Everything has been great, but the best part is when I get encouraging feedback. Almost everyone is delighted with the taste of the ice cream, you know, ice cream pastes can be dosed between the minimum and maximum doses. I always put the maximum dosage in and everyone recognizes it and says that the taste is rich and that every ice cream is unique. Everyone wonders how it is possible that my ice cream has little in common with commercial ice cream. The secret is that we make ice cream every day, I put it in the showcase and I can proudly say it was made three minutes ago, that is not the case with big manufacturers.
If you have entrepreneurial aspirations as well, check out our Culinary Management and click here for more information.
What was your Kul IN experience like, what will you remember the most?
- Everything was great, a completely new experience. I have always worked with people before, and I was surprised at how comfortable I was working independently in my unit. I didn't expect it but I enjoyed the isolation from the world that this job provides even when you are surrounded by people.
How much did Kul IN help you achieve your dream?
- Kul IN was a great experience and I'm glad I enrolled because if I hadn't gone to Kul IN there probably wouldn't have been any pastry shops in my life – there is no way I'd be ready for that venture. I got many new ideas, found my path. I have gained the knowledge and confidence necessary to embark on this adventure. Of course, before Kul IN I read a lot and educated myself. However, being in the practicum every day, making ice cream on my own is a lot different from reading about ice cream, and more helpful, obviously!
Program: Professional Pastry and Confections