Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with Luma Makhlouf, Founder of Luma’s Cakes, an exclusive cake boutique with signature artistic creations to make each client feel special on their big day. With a passion for baking, Luma followed her heart to build a brand and design baked goods after founding the restaurant Maiz Tacos, Makhlouf has expanded its offering to bring you more decadency and deliciousness.
Now, the scrumptious new creations are launching to the masses after two and a half years of being perfected by Luma, and tried and tested by her friends and family.
Emirates Woman sat down with the brand’s founder to learn about her career path and how she’s converted her passion into a full-time business.
What was your favourite subject at school?
I absolutely loved English in school. I had some fantastic teachers who really made me enjoy reading and writing. I was a big fan of fiction and would spend my summers devouring tons of books.
What was your first job?
I started working at a mall when I was 14 years old. I was eager to be independent and earn my own money, so as soon as my parents let me, I never stopped working! I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years and learned a ton about people and work ethic. To this day, I still love working. Some people think I’m a little crazy for it, but I just can’t get enough, it keeps me sane.
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What brought you to Dubai?
After university, I took some time off and ended up in Jordan with my mom. I worked there for a few months and then got offered a job in Dubai. I had heard so much about it and it sounded like such a different experience from my life in Chicago, so I decided to give it a shot. 14 years later, I’m so glad I did! Dubai is an incredible place with so many opportunities for women and entrepreneurs.
What inspired you to enter the food space and launch HL Food?
I’ve always had a dream of being a chef, and my mom was my biggest inspiration. So when I was living in Dubai about 8 years ago, I enrolled in culinary school to learn more. Then, when my husband and I got married, we decided to launch a food truck called Maiz Tacos. It’s been a dream come true and I’ve never been happier. From there, we expanded our brand and started two more businesses: Good Burger and Luma Cakes. They’re all like our babies and we’re so passionate about them. We really believe they fill a need in the market and are doing something special. I grew up in Chicago where Mexican food is as popular as shawarma is here, so I knew I wanted to create an authentic, made-from-scratch Mexican brand. For Luma Cakes, it was similar. I missed those simple, fresh, flavorful cakes that my grandma used to make, so I worked with a fantastic team to bring that experience to life.
Talk us through the inspiration of your pieces.
The inspiration behind all of our brands is to use only the freshest ingredients. No canned goods, no frozen food, no chemicals or hormones. We believe in using raw, premium ingredients to create the best possible versions of our recipes. That’s really the secret to our success, and of course excellent customer service. I waitressed all through college, and we invest just as much time in our front of house as we do the back, we want you to feel the vibe when you interact with our brand at every touch point.
What are the key elements of your role?
Since it’s just my husband and me running the business, I wear a lot of hats. I might be a waitress one day, a chef the next while working on marketing strategies simutaneously. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep the wheels turning. The one thing I’m not great at is admin and accounting, so you’ll probably catch me snoozing during those meetings. But my husband is a wizard in that department, so we make a good team.
Talk us through your daily routine.
I’m a mom of two now – a newborn and a three-year-old. Mornings are a little hectic getting my older one ready for school and trying to keep the baby on a sleep schedule. I love getting my little one dressed for the day, then snuggling with the baby before starting my day. I check my phone for any urgent work stuff like catering or cake orders, then have breakfast and reply to emails. I feed the baby again and head out for any errands or appointments I have that day.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
For anyone looking to start their own business, my advice would be to focus on your why and keep going. It’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing, but it’s important to remember your own path and goals. Some days will be tough, but if it’s truly your passion, you’ll find a way to make it work. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or delegate tasks to your team if you need to.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best advice I ever received was to delegate, ie hire a general manager. When I finally started to let go a bit, and trust in the process and my amazing team I learned that it was possible to remain on track while not doing every single task asked of the business. It has changed my work–life relationship for the better.
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And the worst advice
That I had to have investors to succeed in Dubai. I learned that you can definitely make it work on your own, it just takes a little more effort and determination.
What is the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges I faced was during the pandemic. We had just opened our first location and I had just given birth to my daughter. There were times when we thought we might not make it, but we kept coming up with creative ways to connect with our customers and build trust. And before we knew it, we were actually growing more than ever!
What are the future plans for your brands?
In terms of the future, we’re looking to expand our brand to new locations and potentially even create new ones. Exciting times are ahead.
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