On this week’s edition of ‘The Founder’ we feature a young, talented, entrepreneur; Hasini Munasinghe. Hasini, a former student of Musaeas College, Colombo holds a BA (Hons) in Business and Management from Northwood University, UK and an MBA from the University of West London, UK. Hasini started her career at John Keells Computer Services (PVT) Ltd. as a Business Development Executive in 2016. In 2017, she was recruited by WS02 as their Account Manager for the EU region. At present she is an Associate Lead Account Manager at WS02, where she is responsible for overlooking customers and sales for the European region, development and achievement of sales, growing and developing strategic accounts for the company, and generating new business, and strategizing with Channel Sales Partners to exploit white space. Armed with quite an impressive resume, Hasini is a very determined individual and is the brainchild of, “Contagious Craving Sri Lanka,” the island’s newest dessert brand.
In your own words, what is Contagious Cravings? Contagious Cravings is a simple home-based business dedicated to producing a variety of desserts using good quality ingredients.
What inspired you? I’ve always liked the idea of coffee and desserts, and I have always
wanted to start my own small coffee shop, just an open, cosy space, where you can chill with your friends and family, and enjoy a warm cup of coffee and some delicious desserts. The name Contagious Cravings was a name that I had thought of a couple of years back. I was keen to play around with the concept of satisfying one’s sweet cravings, whilst making that craving addictive and contagious. Thanks to the free time I got owing to the pandemic, it gave me that extra push to finally take the first step to set up this business.
What was the journey like, starting from scratch and building the business up to where it is right now? It’s been challenging, but also extremely fun. Words can’t express the feeling I get when my customers, cravers in our case, share their feedback on how much they loved our desserts.
What were the hardships you faced as an owner, what was the toughest one yet? Honestly, juggling work (a full-time job), and starting Contagious Cravings was quite a challenge, especially because I work for the European time zone. Hence, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Also, patience is not my strong suit, but it was extremely essential in order to build Contagious Cravings to its current state. In my own way, I try to perfect, to the best of my ability, whatever I do, whether it’s my full-time job or with Contagious Cravings, and therefore, it took a lot of time and effort to perfect our flavours.
Being an Entrepreneur, what was it like facing the global pandemic? How did it affect the business? The pandemic was the reason why we started Contagious Cravings, so it definitely had its benefits for us. But the biggest challenge we had to face was delivery and access to quality ingredients, as it was extremely challenging to deliver our products during lockdown and most of our delivery partners were not available. Most of the time it was my mother or sister who’d take up the delivery at the early stages.
What has been the most frustrating thing about being a start up? This is a highly competitive industry, and the most frustrating thing has been for us to break into the market and establish ourselves as a quality dessert provider to our cravers.
Explain a few marketing strategies you have implemented, and what makes them successful? Promoting our brand via Social Media. We initially started off with paid Instagram and Facebook advertisements, which we still continue to do. We’ve also had a few food bloggers, social media influencers and significant public figures try out our products and their shoutouts and endorsements on Social Media have given us better visibility and awareness.
What motivates you to do what you do on daily basis? I think Contagious Cravings is my own personal form of stress release, the fact that our desserts bring a smile to our Cravers is what motivates me to do what I do, on a daily basis.
What separates Contagious Cravings from its competitors? I think the fact that we attempt to make quality desserts by adding our own twist with the perfect balance of sweetness. We’re all about keeping it simple, yet making it extremely contagious. Plus, we don’t add any sugar, butter or eggs to any of our dishes, and a lot of our cravers love that. Also, our Chocolate Biscuit Pudding Cakes are a big hit, not many cafes offer it, and we’ve created our very own version of it. A majority of our cravers seem to love it and we have had repetitive orders.
When did you discover your passion for your business? I’m a hardcore foodie, and I love trying out new dishes, especially desserts. Whenever I travel, whether it's in Sri Lanka or overseas, I always make it a point to visit a couple of coffee shops and try their desserts. I guess down the line I figured I could incorporate those flavor’s into my own version, so I started playing around with different recipes, again during the pandemic, and my family seemed to really enjoy it.
Who are your role models? The legendary Nigella Lawson, her method of cooking inspires me; she uses simple ingredients lying around the house and churns out fabulous dishes. My biggest role model is also my mother. She taught me never to give up and to pursue my passion and that helped me start this journey.
What is the end goal for Contagious cravings? End goal is to have our own little coffee shop where our Contagious Cravings desserts would be served. We have right now started off with a variety of CBP flavours, and we have also started to expand our offerings of no-bake cheesecakes and cupcakes. We’ll be adding more desserts in the coming months.
What advice would you give other start-ups? Go for it, you’ve got to take the risk once in a while, ignore the negative voices and only give into the positive vibes and pursue your passion!