Sean the cheesecake specialist
They say necessity is the mother of invention. Although Sean Ifill did not invent cheesecakes, he baked them to fund his studies.
While the owner of The Real Cheesecake was studying for an associate degree in visual arts at the Barbados Community College (BCC), he had a choice – give up his full-time job at the then Barclays Bank or pursue his dream.
Stepping out in faith, Ifill opted to continue studying, but, he told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY, “could only go so far” with limited finances.
“The whole idea of making cheesecakes and selling slices at gas stations came up just to supplement myself… and the rest is history,” he said. He went on to do a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, and continued baking.
“Baking is the creative streak in me and according to my parents, baking seems to be part of the gene pool; my grandfather was a baker. He was the go-to guy in the village if you wanted to get your wedding cake or for a special occasion. I got my enthusiasm for baking from my father, Charles Ifill, who passed away in 2015. It was both my parents, but I think it was more my father because if you wanted to get cakes done, my dad would be the person doing it,” he said.
When Ifill worked at the bank, he learnt about cheesecakes after “interrogating” a supervisor who made a New York-style cake which does not have a lot of “fancy ingredients”.
He experimented, changed proportions of ingredients, and noted that his cakes tasted different.
“I don’t know if this is what has caught people’s paletes as opposed to doing it the traditional way. Someone told me that’s probably my marketing advantage,” he said.
Before attending BCC, Ifill said he had never baked anything and figured that this was just another facet of his creativity. He followed other passions too, like landscaping, which he later turned into a business.
He noted that he was one of the first students to receive the Government’s Award Of Excellence for BCC students which allowed him to pursue post graduate studies in design management in England.
Ifill uses his designing skills to create the fliers with images of his cakes ranging from “15 to 25 flavours” and posts them on his Facebook page.
Some of the flavours he created with Donna Redman while working at Acute Vision. He said they would come up with new flavours and ideas for clients and special events that she was involved with or working on.
“This was part of the inspiration with experimenting and coming up with other ideas for cheesecake. I’m a Christian and I don’t think my faith is just for going to church. I think it infuses everything that I do and I just want to take advantage of the gifts that God has blessed me with and let people enjoy something as well. I’m not keeping it all to myself,” Ifill asserted.
The businessman, who placed second in the National Innovation Competition in 2006 with his miniature chattel houses, said his busiest time is Christmas and he tries to put “as much effort in the look as in the taste” as seen in the pictures he posts.
“It has a lot to do with my time. I haven’t deliberately pushed [the business]. … My sister Petra bakes as well and she [helps].
“I don’t bake pudding or other cakes but Petra does … I’m sticking to my cheesecakes,” said Ifill, who also operates Gateway Designs 4 from his St James home.
“Right now, I need to take the business to the next level and I’m trying to get certain things in place. One of the challenges I had was to get the kitchen remodelled so it could handle larger orders a lot better.
“With taking orders and delivering the cakes, one of my guiding principles is if I make a promise, I try to fulfil it. So, I try to give a reasonable deadline. If a person asks for cheesecake he/she would get it within 24 hours. That’s what I try to do. I guess I’m taking advantage of the degree in design management, so I try to take some of my own advice,” he stated. (GBM)