Esther ices it
Esther James has always felt at home in the kitchen.
Perhaps it was her earliest experiences watching the cooking shows when she was eight years old on CBC.
“I would watch the cooking shows and was fascinated about how they chopped vegetables. I would show off to my secondary school teachers that I already knew how to chop,” she said laughing.
So it was no surprise that Esther went on to the Barbados Hospitality Institute and then went on to UWI to study hotel management.
“I knew I wanted to manage, so I wanted to learn everything associated with that,” Esther said.
But the proof of Esther’s passion wasn’t just in her decision to study. It was the work that she did outside of her studies.
“When I was at [the University of the West Indies (UWI)], I was still trying to get my foot in the door at various places,” she said. “I met John Hazzard when he was at Sandy Lane and he was a big help to me. He was my encourager and trained me for two weeks there. He told me to never go below that level and always keep my standards at the top.”
Those words seemed to fuel everything Esther did.
Before heading to UWI she tried to get work in the villas here in Barbados and aligned herself with Bajan Services, which gave her the opportunity to move around to various estates on the island.
“Then a year ago in 2011, in December, I started my own business called With Love By Esther James,” she said. “Usually the season is so slow between April and October, and I just needed stability.”
She said that when she first started her business, most of her clients were family and friends.
“After a while it caught on with birthday cakes, and cheesecakes, and then a friend encouraged me to do the novelty cakes,” she said. “I didn’t know how to do them, so I researched it and then started making them. My first cake was a Coach bag I did for my mum for her birthday. I did a Berger Paints cake, a minibus cake and then it just grew. Every challenge was development for me.”
With each cake, Esther’s technique got better.
“From the novelty cakes, it has caught on to wedding cakes,” Esther said. “Dwellings [an establishment that sells home fittings] asked me to be one of their sponsors for their wedding registry show. I felt amazing because Dwellings is a recognized company and for them to see my work and like it was amazing to me.”
Esther’s progress so far can be attributed entirely to her love for what she does and her commitment to make her business a success.
“It’s not a matter of going to school; you have to develop yourself and push yourself,” Esther said. “No one is going to get it for you, no one is going to come and give to you. You have to work to get what you want.”
Esther, who is just 24, sometimes marvels at the direction her life has taken.
“To be perfectly honest, sometimes I cry,” she said. “I know it has a lot to do with God and my upbringing. Sometimes I think that there is no way I could stop doing this.”
For Esther, though, it isn’t just about developing her business – it is about bringing about change.
“We have some of the worst service here in Barbados,” she said candidly. “When I decided to do this business, I said it has to be with love, because I always wanted customers to feel that love coming through. It’s important to never make them feel like they’re begging you to give them service.”