I Wanted to Fine Tune My Strategic Vision and to Improve My Management Skills

Bahar Dowlatshahi grew her bakery from a one-woman business operation from home to Tehran’s best-known Cake Boutique.

Bahar Dowlatshahi, Founder & CEO of Sweet Bliss Cake Boutique from Tehran, Iran, is glad she joined the EMBA program now after gaining years of work experience. “Some of the lessons would have fallen by the wayside had I been younger.”

Reetta Räty, 06.10.2017

As her company really began to expand, she realized that it was time to strengthen her formal business management skills.

Here she is now, almost 20 years later. Bahar refers to Sweet Bliss Cake Boutique as "my first child". It was born out of her own kitchen and nurtured not only by her spouse who works as an international lawyer but also by the entire family.

This is how it all happened:

Bahar was working as an administrative assistant for Shell oil company and she was clueless about cooking and baking. However in order to please and impress her husband with some type of "home cooking", Bahar turned to a certain old family baking recipes developed in the 1950-60's in America by her husbands' aunt and a lot of her own ingenuity.

As expected, Bahar now had a happier husband at home. But something totally unexpected also happened.

A couple of days after baking her first carrot cake, Bahar was sitting in one of only a handful of coffee shops in Tehran when a lady who supplied the café with her pastries popped in and informed the owner of the café that she was moving to Italy. The café owner was clearly shaken as to where he would secure his supplies next!

Bahar offered to supply the coffee shop with a novel and at that time unheard-of product, carrot cakes."

Bahar came to the rescue. Bahar offered to supply the coffee shop with a novel and at that time unheard-of product, carrot cakes. For months, she would wake up at five every morning with her husband to grate the carrots, to prepare and to bake carrot cakes before heading off to work at Shell.

People loved her carrot cakes and other American style cakes, the café owner was in heavens and soon other cafés were knocking on her door: "would you make carrot cake for us, too"?

“It was a success! Everybody loved it!”

In order to improve her American and French baking and pastry making skills, Bahar would use every travel occasion in the US or in Europe to visit the fine pastry shops, to register at the leading baking institutes and to further delve into the art of making cheese cake, muffins and other American and French delicacies.

Aalto EE has been in Tehran since 2014

And when she became a mother, Bahar resigned from Shell to concentrate on her new born son and her baking business.

Over time her personal kitchen turned into a small production studio that in turn gave way to a larger and larger production area. Bahar's team has also experienced the growth, from a handful of women to over a hundred men and women.

Later on, her sister, Nassim, also joined the business and as more and more people from Tehran got into the taste of her carrot, chocolate and cheese cakes, she opened her own shops, launched new brands, recruited more employees and offered additional products.

Bahar realized that she needs some formal structures in place and more qualified personnel to assist her."

As Sweet Bliss grew, Bahar realized that she needs some formal structures in place and more qualified personnel to assist her. Bahar know engages financial advisors, lawyers and other consultants to help her to better steer Sweet Bliss.

Although she knew how to bake tasty carrot cakes, how to dress her stores to make them most appealing and how to motivate her employees, Bahar wished to "fine tune" her strategic vision and to improve her management skills and so Bahar decided to join the EMBA program.  

I wanted to get an MBA already when I was young.*

“I wanted to get an MBA already when I was young. I’m glad I didn’t, as now I can understand the lessons and relate to them. I understand professors and can transfer ideas directly to my own work.”

Aalto University Executive MBA program has been available in Tehran since 2014 through an exclusive partnership with the Iranian Business School. It is the first global accredited EMBA program in Iran. Almost an entire group of students took part in the Aalto Executive Summit in Singapore in August.

“For instance, the customer experience module at the summit helped my work directly.”

What's next for Bahar Dowlatshahi; she intends to solidify existing best business practices, to expand her business to other areas in Tehran where the purchasing power is lower but desire for novel and quality bake goods remains high, to develop a line of new and inexpensive products and to add a line of bread and savory baked goods.

Success hasn’t come without moments of exhaustion and despair." 

According to Sweet Bliss' founder and CEO, success hasn’t come without moments of exhaustion and despair. Bahar's own mother has been her best supporter.

“When the children were little and the work hard, I would get exhausted. My mother would tell me not to despair that I had to get through it all if only for the sake of all the women who are employed in my bakery. My mother was right.”

Learn more about the Aalto Executive MBA in Tehran.

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