Arielle Chenarra is a 18year old Young Impact Maker (YIM) and an artist. Making art with vegan, gluten free, DELICIOUS cakes and impacting not only her own community, but way more, she has earned the title from a very young age. Through her journey, she founded Thyme & Caramel Cakes (T&C) in 2016 when she was just 14. Pioneering in gluten-free & vegan cakes in Indonesia, T&C has expanded through an additional sister dessert bar, cake decorating classes, and has even formed various partnerships across the Island of Bali.
What inspired you to start Thyme & Caramel Cakes from such a young age?
I was rather driven to start Thyme & Caramel Cakes. At the time, I felt challenged that children’s creativity, imagination & abilities are often bound to society’s expectations. We too often hear the phrase: “You are too young, you are just a kid.” Well yes, we are young, and society expects us to be at school studying algebra. That leaves us with barely any time to learn about ourselves, our potential and our purpose. I was driven to break this perception and encourage others of all ages, especially youth, that we are able to create meaning and impact in our society despite our age or background.
Were you always passionate about baking and art or did something light a spark in you?
I wasn’t always passionate about baking, but I was fascinated by decorating, and I did love commenting on my mother’s lousy art on her baked goods (Sorry mum!). If I look back, my entire childhood mind was relentlessly filled with the question of “What can I create?” or “How can I make this look better?” I was obsessed with the satisfaction of creating something beautiful from scratch on my own, and I was fond of defying “recipes”. Whatever the art instructions or recipe said, I modified and adjusted it to my own liking.
In my view, passion is like fuel, it’s the substance that keeps fire aflame. To me, I could be sewing, painting, knitting, sculpting or designing cakes, but the passion remains invariable: that is art. The flames produced can change, develop or evolve, but as long as the passion is the same, you can pursue anything or any career!
How is your business connected to the place you grew up in?
To me, life is like a book, funnily; each season of your life is like a vital part of a chapter. I was born in the modern city of Bandung and made the big move from the pressure of city-life to the island of Bali at age 11. Both homes built the foundation of my dreams.
In the summers of my elementary years back in Bandung, my parents were eagerly looking for activities to keep me occupied. I’m pretty convinced it was probably because my parents were starting to get sick of me playing (or messing) around the house. We came across this workshop for miniature clay figures taught by a wise & lovely elderly lady. I was immediately keen and spent the rest of my childhood holidays there. I learnt how my hands were able to make such tiny figures, unlocking my little brain to limitless artistry. There, I made my very first bakery, out of clay. That was when I met the lady that wrote the first part of my journey.
What led you to make your products exclusively vegan?
I myself am lactose intolerant and not sure if artificial intolerance exists, but my body basically rejects anything artificial. I remember a while back in my hometown, there was this ‘hip’ thing going on with a red velvet cake. Everyone in town was going crazy over it. So we were curious, and decided to check it out.
Unfortunately, I had a rather disappointing experience with it, because the cake tasted so artificial. Sitting on that table, I remember clearly as I said to my mum (with zero knowledge of my future) "I am going to have a bakery one day, serving cakes that have healthy benefits, using only real ingredients." I was 10 and I never thought that statement was ever going to come true, at least not till I was 30.
Thus, when the chapter came for me to explore baking, I was driven to bake natural & healthier versions of modern desserts. As I dove deeper into the wonders of baking with my mother, I learnt that natural baking is truthfully old traditional methods. With the combination of traditional methods, we gathered globally & locally rich Indonesian ingredients, being able to innovate our very own vegan & gluten free recipe with a touch of modern art.
Did you face any difficulties as a young person in your attempt to bring your project into life?
I believe challenges and obstacles are guaranteed in any season of life. What matters is our perspective on them. I choose to see challenges as opportunities of joy, for through trials and tribulations, that’s one more experience I know “how” to conquer. I was blessed to have gotten the immense support from my clients since Day 1, and blessed to still serve many of these loyal clients their birthday cakes each year to this date. So my gratitude from the bottom of my heart really is for you.
Did your family, friends and community support you in making your business successful?
My parents and my brother are my biggest supporters and pillars to this day. But besides that, starting out a career at a young age is breaking a conventional mindset and a new concept, so support from friends and other extended family were not present, when starting up.
I see it the way a farmer sows a seed, only the farmer himself can visualize and know that a plant will emerge from that tiny seed they have hidden underground. Others will likely only see and appreciate it once the seed has grown into a plant. So I remind myself to not grow weary in doing the small things.
What is education for you? Did yours play an important role in enabling you to build your own business?
I believe that Education is not defined by an institution, rather found in experience.
In my case, from one extreme to another, I spent the first half of my education in a private conventional Singapore - Cambridge school, and when I moved to Bali, I was enrolled in the Green School.
My life changed 180 degrees. From getting detention, suspensions & exams, to listening to music in class, feet on the desk and mandatory mud wrestling once a week. My family & I became open minded when I stepped into the Green School. And after 3 years, we decided to leave conventional education altogether.
I spent the next 2 years being homeschooled and later determined to unschool, while running Thyme & Caramel as I soon realized that juggling between formal and experience-based learning is nonsense.
This process of “unschooling” is based on pursuing our interests realistically. I learn every so called “subject” from math through managing costs, investments & probability, science in the wonders of chemical reactions in food, language in communicating with clients, my team, and writing this interview, and arts through expression of my creativity in my cakes. Most of all, I learn things I never will acquire or simply understand from a textbook such as leadership, responsibility, teaching, commitment, ethics, respect and critical thinking.
I am in no way discouraging conventional education altogether, but rather expressing my experience in my learning and providing an insight for those who have pursued their passion that learning is a lifetime process.
What advice would you give young girls who want to start their own business?
Dare To Fail.
Understand your fear, but do not nourish it. Take that next little step, as you never know what’s on the other side of that door, for your next step may not be spectacular, but it is significant.
Don’t get weary of diligently doing the small things, as a tree always springs from a tiny invisible seed, covered by darkness underground. I trust in you, I believe in you and I encourage you to keep pushing. If you are happy, you are halfway there.
What is one thing that baking and creating cake art has taught you?
It would be unimaginable to narrow it down to a single lesson, for I go to sleep every night learning one new thing that day. Although, a constant lesson and reminder to me is that nothing is too hard or impossible with the presence of trust, faith, and determination.
Be true to yourself and be excellent, everything else will fall into place in due time.
What should we expect from you in the future?
I began my journey by attending humbling summer classes and workshops, it is my intention to provide that opportunity for other young people to equip themselves and explore their fascinations whether through our current cake workshops, or a future community of dreamers I plan to establish.
It has been humbling to receive messages from other youth starting up their own businesses. As we soon reach the milestone of Thyme & Caramel’s 5th anniversary, I hope to continue serving cakes and beyond. Moreover, to be an agent of drive and hear more inspiring stories of youth voices & movements!