Expat Entrepreneurs: A Baking Journey from Lisbon to Brno
Melis Karabulut’s series profiles some of Brno’s foreign entrepreneurs to explore the challenges of running a business in a foreign country. Here, Mariana Paraizo of Baking in Brnotalks about bringing Portuguese culinary magic to the Moravian metropolis. Credit: MK / BD.
Entrepreneurship among foreigners in Brno is at its peak these days, as we see more and more successful internationals charting their path to success against all odds, spreading positivity and motivation while bringing great value to the expat community in the city. In this series, I aim to shine a light on these ambitious souls to empower the entrepreneurial spirit of our readers – just as I was inspired by Ms. Mariana Paraizo; the one and only of Baking in Brno!
I have been following Mariana’s journey online for a while now, watching her grow her business every day; getting more and more creative with her decorated cakes, introducing her signature brigadeiros to Brno’s expats with a sweet tooth, and doing it with the fullness of her heart – all while being a full-time mother of four children!
Mariana is Brazilian in origin, and has lived in Portugal for most of her life and in Australia for six years before moving to Brno. She learned how to bake from her sister, who has a donut shop in Portugal; along with taking several online courses. She settled in Brno in the midst of the pandemic with her family, and managed to bring her business to life regardless of the pandemic conditions and challenges of being a foreign entrepreneur. Over time, she has created her brand and legacy in gourmet baking; she has deservedly become the go-to baker for celebration emergencies – no pun intended, a real moist and ingredient-rich cake is a rare find in Brno! These were the reasons why I was intrigued by Mariana’s story, and I wanted to know more about her journey as a female entrepreneur.
The interview with Mariana was extremely sweet – as she welcomed me with a warm, humble smile, a cup of tea, fresh brigadeiros, and a generous slice of gorgeous cake that she prepared for me as we talked about her story.
Taking Business Seriously
When I asked Mariana how her business in Brno first started, she said, “I started by baking my daughter’s birthday cake a short while after coming to Brno, and people liked it. They started to ask me to bake cakes for their celebrations, and from their parties, my name spread. Later on, I shared the photos of the cakes I had made on Facebook groups for foreigners in Brno, which helped me a lot to reach out to more people.”
She told me that before moving to Brno, she had a brigadeiros business in Lisbon, and she carried it all the way to Brno while including decorated cakes into her menu. Even though she relaunched her business in a new city, a new country, during the pandemic, she managed to make a profit and move forward as people still wanted to order her cakes for celebrations at home.
“Some people focus on quickly making money when they first start a business, but I take my business to my heart and focus on improving rather than fast cash, and that helped me carry it to higher levels. Also being consistent with what you do is important, even when you keep on failing. I believed that my work would be successful, and I kept working on it. Now my job is serving me financially, and I am satisfied with the time that I dedicate to it and the rewards that I get afterward. I always looked at my baking as a passion and as a job, not as something I do for extra money at home,” she said.
“For more than a year I baked at home in my kitchen, but my business was always registered and I paid my taxes as a business owner, followed all the hygiene regulations like a normal bakery or cafe. Now I have a separate kitchen that I rent for my business, which gives me the bigger space that I need as my orders are growing, and I feel more productive working here.”
She adds that she mostly bakes in the evenings after spending the day with her kids, and whenever her husband can take over. “What we do is actual teamwork with my husband – for instance, my husband writes and shares the social media posts – but balancing the work and family responsibilities is an ongoing battle, as everyone can understand. Sometimes I have so many orders and I find my kitchen over-occupied, and that is when I need to put a limit on the new orders I accept.”
I asked her what it is like to watch her business grow and receive good reviews. She gave a humble smile and told me, “It is very exciting. I am a dreamer, I never stop dreaming of bigger things. After achieving one step, I start dreaming of the next. It is very nice to see people enjoying my work, and my family and friends supporting this journey. Since I became a mother, I have been taking care of my children. In the last three years, I have been doing what I like, feeling creative, and it shows. When I move forward with what I do, my husband says “Ah, you are back!”.
Brigadeiros – Mariana’s Signature
People following her page have most probably seen the mouthwatering photos of Mariana’s brigadeiros, which I call the star of her kitchen! When I ask Mariana to tell me more about these delicious little Brazilian delicacies, she says, “I learned how to make brigadeiros from my family, they are very popular in Brazil. Over the course of time I have improved the recipe. It is my signature because it is connected to my roots, and I have spent so much time developing it, trying to find the perfect recipe and texture.”
She adds, “I love making this for people as a present, or to bring them to parties that I am invited to. This is why people now know me as the Brigadeiros Girl. It is a great gift to anyone who likes sweets. Having just one can be just enough and fulfilling, but they are addictive! Brigadeiros are dense in texture, crunchy outside, and creamy inside. The main recipe has only three ingredients; condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter. Making it is very laboring. You have to mix them all for over forty minutes, you have to reach a certain density. You have to wait for hours for them to get the perfect consistency. Even the temperature of the room can play a role in getting the best texture.”
Future Plans As A Female Entrepreneur
I asked Mariana about her future plans for Baking in Brno, and how she imagines her business evolving. She said, “Until September 2022 I will only receive orders, as that is when my youngest child will start going to school. After that, I am planning to open my own cafe or bakery, along with reaching out to cafes and restaurants that can sell my products. Sometimes people ask me whether they can taste just a piece of cake rather than buying a whole cake, or whether it is possible for me to deliver more often, but I don’t have the logistics for that at the moment. Building partnerships with local businesses and improving my logistics would be my two goals for the next year.”
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