At an age when entrepreneurship was not on the minds of her peers, 13-year-old Zahra McCaskie set out to develop a business. Four years later, it has not only recorded success but has spurred the teenager to think beyond Barbados and to encourage other youngsters to do the same.
She shared her journey with Barbados TODAY – from helping in her mother’s restaurant to becoming a young entrepreneur who is adamant that she could not have made it without God’s help.
McCaskie remembers always being in the kitchen, picking up some of her mother’s skills. But the idea to turn her interest into a business was sparked by a request that she bake a cheesecake for her mother’s friend. “Zahra’s cheesecake” soon became buzzwords at her alma mater, The St Michael School, where friends and the wider student body fell in love with her baked goods.
McCaskie subsequently registered Love Bites as a business. It was a name suggested by her mother as they brainstormed for the perfect title for her dessert shop.
Despite having the complete support of family and friends, McCaskie faced some difficulties, including juggling her enterprise with school work, and she recalled having many sleepless nights.
“It was either pick myself up and go back again or leave it alone,” she said, adding that with no business background it was a case of “learn as you go”.
McCaskie has now mastered the art of balancing the two. In fact, she was also able to add netball, track and swimming to her busy schedule. To top it all off, she joined SMS Model Search in 2015 and made first runner-up.
“I love to explore and experience new things,” she said of the pageant which taught her confidence and time management.
Noting that contestants were often given tasks to complete within a specific time frame, she added: “No matter how many things I have to do, they can be done.”
McCaskie’s home-based St. Philip business has taken off, with some customers not even wanting to eat the beautifully iced creations. Birthdays and special event cakes of chocolate, red velvet, and lemon flavours, along with cheesecake, are among her specialties.
She also makes personalized cookies, brownies and apple and pecan pies. Working with her mother and another employee, the aim is to please customers while being open to a challenge.
The main focus for the 17-year-old now is customized cakes with requested shapes such as cartoon characters and gadgets like iPads.
To showcase and promote her desserts, McCaskie uses social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. She also had a booth for the first time at this year’s Girlfriend’s Expo and saw the public gravitating towards her chocolate and red velvet cupcakes.
“The best is yet to come, there is so much more potential in Zahra,” a proud Debra McCaskie said of her daughter. “It’s just a matter of time before we really see the greatness that is there.”
McCaskie is currently in upper sixth form at The Lodge School studying Physics, Design and Technology, and Art. She said her subject selection would help her customize her cakes and would aid her in accomplishing her dream of creating spinning cakes within a year.
She knows exactly what she wants to do when she finishes secondary school. For now, it doesn’t include formal tertiary education.
“I can’t see myself at university or at college. I see myself touring France and getting to know different desserts and cakes,” she said.
And while she hopes to travel and learn, Love Bites is not her final destination in entrepreneurship.
Having both parents knowledgeable in the field, she revealed plans to help youth find their talents and skills and look beyond academics which can take them outside the island.
McCaskie is committed to the expansion of Love Bites, with the goal of taking the dessert shop to other Caribbean islands within the next ten years.