SOUTH girl, Josette Ballah has turned her passion into a career she loves.
Now she is sharing her talent with the nation as a teacher.
Ballah, 35, is the proud owner of Gigi's Cupcakery Trinidad, which was established in 2012.
The business is home based, at Siparia Road, Fyzabad.
The name “Gigi” was named after her, as her mother gave her that nickname.
She said that her journey to get to this point in her life reflects on passion, failures and fears, but also highlights her determination to never give up in pursing her dreams.
At the age of eight, Ballah started baking for her family, testing out new recipes and developing her love for baking, which eventually became the career path she wanted to follow.
She would use her younger brother as the 'tester', “whether it tasted good or bad, he ate it”, she said.
At 12 years old, Ballah's passion grew.
She said: “I used to stay up late hours at night studying recipes as though I was preparing for an exam. I wanted to learn recipes and also to become a teacher so that I can teach people my skills. In addition, my dream was to open my own business. As a result my mom and dad started buying pans and many books which I still use at present.”
Her joy for baking grow over the years and it developed into a serious passion.
She took courses at YTEPP Ltd, the Institute of Health and Fitness, UWI and MIC, developing her art and skills in the field.
Ballah is now a teacher in food preparation and culinary arts with MIC Ltd.
Speaking on her struggles she said: “The struggles were real for me to actually venture out as I found myself trying to compete or thinking of my ideas as mediocre compared to what I saw on Facebook, which caused me to hide my talent and keep my passion dormant.
My family, close friends and my kingdom based community kept on pushing me, constantly reminding me of the great talent God had given me. The road wasn't as easy as I battled with self-doubt, confidence and fear. but it was all a part of my process to making my dream a reality.”
She praised her mother for influencing her in pursuing her bakery path.
“The person who influenced me the most was my mom. This was her dream but was denied the opportunity as a teenager because of financial difficulties, so any course or programme she saw I would always get a call.,” said Ballah.
She gave a background into her other influences while studying.
She said: “I attended MIC Trade School in 2011 and graduated with all my passes in food preparation and culinary art. Mr. Dyette, one of my teachers, really influence me with his stories of doing all the things necessary to attend hotel school in his times, whether it was selling products he made or doing odd jobs. All his work paid off because he believed in himself fully and his vision of becoming a chef. I went on to be an instructor at Ytepp Ltd and community development. I was also the baker at Siparia coterie school feeding programme. In 2014 I landed a job as a nutrition aide at San Fernando Teaching Hospital but the desire to teach and open my business fully to the public was my greatest desire.
In 2016, my dream became a reality. I walked away from the hospital to finally pursue my desire for teaching. I'm a food preparation instructor at MIC Penal, where I teach future chefs my baking skills and have a lot more time to be in my business. It's a beautiful thing when your passion and career come together.”
Ballah said she has been given the nickname “cupcake lady” as her business venture grew and for her dedication to the field.
She said she has spent many sleepless nights to fill the orders of her customers.
Gigi's is known best for her chocolate cupcake and cake which took 3 years to develop the right taste. "It's my biggest seller. I try my best to make all my fillings and topping from scratch rather than store purchase, which is pretty expensive. It's like science and art coming together at my home."
Ballah's dream one day is to represent the country on Cupcake Wars, an international television competition.
Her advice to the younger generation is simple, to follow through with your dreams and find your passion.
She said: “The joy for baking must be real. If it's only about profit and not purpose it's not going to work. You must love what you do, that's the only way you will never work hard one day in your life. To the young generation don't limit your self, aim for your dreams and stick with it . Get involved in all the free courses the Government have to offer and remain focus.
My baking and passion came together and that's a beautiful thing. It took me 27 years and you are fully equipped with more resources and technology at hand. Use it to your advantage. Don't waste your time at school, study hard. Surround yourselves with people who will motivate you. To parents watch your kids and spot their desires from early so you can channel them in that direction.”
Gigi's Cupcakery Trinidad is on Facebook or you can call 1868-388-6081.