By Bernadine Rodrigo
Photos Krishan Kariyawasam
Noreen Adham comes from England. Yet, she finds herself quite at home in Sri Lanka, so much so that she is even comfortable enough to have started her own business here, where she gets to do what she loves the most – baking. She carries out operations of the company, The Perfect Company Colombo, through Instagram (@theperfectcompanycolombo) and other social media platforms and even supplies to a café close by.
She has been in Sri Lanka for three years after having come here to settle with her husband, a local who oversees a construction company. Noreen was quite unsure about how things were going to play out once she had arrived in Sri Lanka, but she had soon found out that she was most welcome here and that she could continue pursuing her love of baking.
With her experience in having participated in many pop-up markets in England, and having the knowledge she had received from her mum whom she describes as “a wonderful cook”, her skills weren’t lacking. Her only trial in her new home was nothing less than gaining a good-enough market and creating an appeal within the Sri Lankan society for her baked goods.
She soon found out that the market in Colombo was extremely open with people ready to try all minds of new things. Colombo, it seems, has been keeping up with the international trends and has made it quite easy for those who come from afar to showcase whatever they wish to and be quite accepted. As Noreen shows, Colombo is currently a very diverse and lively city.
She says she receives orders on a weekly basis – really saying something for someone who set foot in this country just three years ago. She says she is very happy to see the great developments done here and she was especially thrilled about how much, just like what she was used to in England, pop-up markets are starting to occur in many places quite regularly.
She was informed recently about a pop-up market in Colombo 1, the very first in which she took part after coming to Sri Lanka. Joyously she said that while she was somewhat afraid she might not make any sales, over 90% of her baked goods were sold.
The only issue she has had when it comes to her business is the difficultly in finding ingredients she is familiar and feels comfortable baking with. The good products (most of which are imported), she says, are extremely expensive here because of the massive taxes imposed on them. Hence, she brings her ingredients straight from England so that she can ensure top quality. She also does her very best to keep her company eco-friendly. However, she claimed that it is difficult as she sometimes has to use materials such as polythene for packaging.
Noreen likes to keep her products diverse, and she offers items varying from cupcakes and brownies to scones and breads, and she even bakes some Middle Eastern sweets. She says most of her orders are for brownies, which is believable considering how often Sri Lankans like to consume brownies. Her products, she says, are “labours of love” and can certainly be tasted once you bite into one of them. She bakes in small quantities to keep her items authentic and fresh, and prefers to keep on receiving orders at that pace. “It’s more about quality and not quantity,” she said.
Her business being well received by Sri Lanka is simply one of the many things she finds appealing about living here. She personally thinks the island is very beautiful with a lot of lovely greenery. She shared that she feared having to miss the greenery she was so used to in England but that she was overcome with joy when she saw all the lush flora and fauna of our country.
Noreen’s positive experience reflects the great potential yet to be unlocked in Sri Lanka. Many people may not have discovered it yet, but the island has many reasons to be considered cosmopolitan. Therefore, it can truly be concluded that Sri Lanka, with all its diversity, still holds enough space for more. And having said that, sweet treats from The Perfect Company Colombo would be a great way to celebrate it.