The Recipe of Success

Mila Malaya's journey from a young girl cooking for her large family in the Khoiniki district, Gomel region of Belarus, to a successful confectioner inspiring her community is a testament to the power of passion and perseverance.

March 7, 2024

Mila’s story is one of resilience, creativity, and dedication, showcasing how one's humble beginnings can lead to remarkable achievements.

Photo: UNDP in Belarus

From a personal endeavor to a thriving business.

Growing up as the eldest daughter in a family with five children, Mila's culinary skills were honed through her daily responsibilities. Little did she know that these skills would pave the way for her future success in the confectionery business. 

Mila ventured into baking in 2013 after being inspired by a beautifully decorated cake that she ordered for her daughter's one year birthday. For the next family holiday Mila decided to make a similar cake herself - she simply found the recipe on the Internet. The cake turned out to be a success, and every next holiday the family table was filled with homemade desserts.  

Mila meticulously thought through the smallest details for each occasion. In celebration of her brother's birthday, who has a passion for rock music, Mila baked a cake decorated with a very detailed 3-D guitar. The woman grasped that this wasn't merely about cooking; it was about evolving creativity that she found increasingly delightful with each experience.  

Mila meticulously thought through the smallest details for each occasion. The cake that Mila baked for her daughter's birthday.

Photo: Mila Malaya/Instagram

First cake

"Back in November 2014, my female classmate asked me to bake a four-kilogram 'Bird's milk' cake with large red roses for her mother's anniversary," Mila recalls her first experience with baking a cake for sale. – "I was afraid, as it was my first-time baking for someone else.” 

Inspired by her success, Mila began to post photos of her work on social media. Soon, original and colorful designs of Mila’s sweets and desserts gained recognition in the district and beyond, leading to a stream of orders. Up until now, Mila thinks that the cake she designed for her friend's daughter, featuring a bunny leaping out of it, is her most outstanding work in the art of baking. 

Pursuing further education in confectionery

Mila, who was educated as a German schoolteacher, dedicated some time to working in a rural school. However, her life took a challenging turn with the onset of family troubles, placing her in a difficult situation.

Despite facing challenges raising three children, one of whom has a disability, Mila pursued further education in confectionery at the Institute of Business Technologies in Minsk. After completing her courses, she earned a third-category confectioner diploma and even received a job offer at a kitchen in one of the capital’s hotels. However, her commitment to her family led her back home, where she continued to grow her business. 

Quality over quantity

Mila’s commitment to quality over quantity reflects her unwavering dedication to excellence. “My biggest challenge in running a business is my poor ability to delegate tasks, said Mila. I meticulously handle every aspect of production and logistics myself, except for the cake design, where I collaborate online with a professional artist to bring customers' visions to life.”

The power of digital technology

The geography of Mila's orders is so far modest - mainly her local area and the neighboring districts. There are a few clients from the regional capital – the city of Gomel. To expand her outreach, the woman turned to the power of digital technology. 

Mila uses social media and networks for communication with clients and boosting visibility of her confectionaries.

Photo: UNDP in Belarus

In 2023 Mila took part in the initiative launched by the UNDP in Belarus Acceleration Lab in the Khoiniki and Bragin districts to empower rural small businesses and entrepreneurs by enhancing their proficiency in utilizing social media and online marketplaces. The outcome was remarkable, as the number of video views on Mila's Instagram page surged from 200 to an impressive 7,000 This also translated into a positive impact on her orders.

Mila's entrepreneurial spirit led her to hold master classes for local kids and their parents.

Photo: UNDP in Belarus

Social impact 

Beyond her business success, Mila is active within her community and builds partnerships with local businesses. Mila's entrepreneurial spirit led her to hold master classes for local kids and their parents. 

“My first master class took place in a nearby café, recounts Mila. "It wasn't the most ideal setting, being dark and not very comfortable. I began to search for a new place." 

Mila happened to find a suitable venue for her classes entirely by chance: “I ordered branded stickers for my cakes in a local printing shop in the Khoiniki entrepreneurial cluster “ArtGo” and when I came to pick them up, I stumbled upon a co-working space that turned out to be a perfect fit,” says the woman. Here, she now hosts captivating confectionary workshops for children and parents, fostering creativity and community engagement.

Collaborating with a local fast-food business, Mila initiated campaigns like offering branded gingerbread with coffee orders, establishing a mutually beneficial partnership.

Mila’s involvement in initiatives supporting children with disabilities demonstrates her commitment to social impact. Inspired by a female photographer who works with children with special needs, Mila aims to bring joy to local children with disabilities and their families by organizing various creative events.

Looking ahead, Mila envisions establishing a social art space where women entrepreneurs can share their skills and exchange knowledge —a testament to her aspiration to empower others and foster a supportive network within her community. 

Mila's story exemplifies women's economic empowerment, illustrating how entrepreneurship can catalyze positive change and inspire growth.