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Inspiring Conversations with Nuha Abuduhair

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nuha Abuduhair.

Hi Nuha, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I grew up watching my mom bake and always loved to help her in the kitchen. In college, I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s in Nursing and after my exams, I would head to the local baking store to purchase baking supplies as my “treat” for finishing exams.

After graduation, I got a job at a local children’s hospital and worked as a pediatric critical care bedside nurse for a few years. After the birth of my second child, I decided to stay home with my two children instead of returning to work. I fell into a bit of postpartum depression, so to get myself out of a funk, I would get up and bake. I’d get so excited to bake new recipes and decorate new pastries!

Anytime I was invited to a friend’s house, I would immediately begin brainstorming what dessert recipe I could play with to take with me. Slowly, these friends started asking for orders… then their friends… then strangers. Around the same time, I stumbled upon a local flea market that had a lady selling pound cakes. I looked into applying at their next market and to my surprise- I was accepted!

From there, I began doing pop-ups more frequently and took on custom requests out of my home. After a few years of working on my own, I knew I needed more space and a team to help me bake. We opened our first storefront in Memphis, TN in the summer of 2018.

Since then, we’ve maintained a primarily female-operated staff and have navigated all of the hurdles that have come with a small business, covid, and impending recession. In November, we welcomed our third child, so the ride has managed to get even wilder!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Absolutely not! Every business struggles with day-to-day things – not enough customers one day, selling out the next day, dropping the ball on an order, or maybe dropping the ball as a boss.

That’s just part of being an entrepreneur. However, the pandemic ripped apart any sense of normalcy and routine. It’s been hard on everyone mentally and physically. Layer on being a wife, and mother, and trying to maintain cultural norms can be a lot to juggle.

I try and keep myself in check though. I’ll often ask myself, “If I didn’t have this – would I miss it?” Almost immediately, my gut reminds me that I am where I am supposed to be. Could I use a vacation though? Yes! Haha.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
17 Berkshire is a Memphis-based patisserie specializing in European meets Southern meets Middle Eastern-inspired sweets.

It’s a weird combination until you walk through the doors and enjoy our Afternoon Tea where you’ll find turkey sandwiches alongside cucumber and mint labneh sandwiches. We are known for our macarons, Afternoon Tea, and floral-inspired flavors.

We’ve also come to be known for our diverse staff. It was something that was unintentional, but when I would ask applicants why they wanted to work for us, many said they loved seeing a strong female/minority-owned staff.

No one is a token employee, but I think it works because we were able to attract that energy authentically.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
We had to close our doors for about two months during the spring of 2020. A few things stood out to me. First, we have a community that loves us.

That included staff and patrons. We all worked together to make the most out of a scary situation and for that, I am eternally grateful. The second thing I learned was, that it’s okay to take time off.

I didn’t think we would survive financially after 2 months of dropped sales, but it proved to be our best year at the time. Since then, we’ve taken more time to close the shop during the holidays. It doesn’t scare me the way it used to.

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Image Credits
Kim Thomas Photography

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