Woman On The Move

Irfan Aziz catches up with Shababa Ishmam, the charismatic owner of Red Window and Bheja Fry

Strong-willed, creative, bold are just a few words that come to mind when one thinks about an aspiring entrepreneur. These also happen to be the characteristics emanating from Shababa Ishmam who has been making headway in the restaurant scene since her early 20’s with Red Window and Bheja Fry. She is also the director of Sundarban Securities Ltd and Junior Chambers International. Don’t be fooled by her strong personality though, behind her assertive demeanour and quick wits is an artist whose floury creations will leave you amazed. ICE Today got a chance to catch up with Shababa to get to know more about the tales of her inspirations, ventures and how she plans to continue climbing the ladders of success.

Shababa’s fascination towards cooking dates back to her childhood. She recalls how every time she watched a cooking show and asked her mother to make that dish, her mother would encourage Shababa to try and make it herself. “I used to go to the kitchen and try my best to replicate what I saw on TV. Most parents would get annoyed at how messy the kitchen got but my mother was always supportive”, she elaborated. Over the years she got really good at it and started to cook at family gatherings. “People really enjoyed my cooking and that gave me immense happiness. Pretty soon everyone started urging me to open my own restaurant”, explained Shababa. So with the right intention in mind, Shababa set out to start her own catering business. Whike Shababa loves all aspects of cooking, the area where she excels the most is baking. She was even the Dano Dessert Champion in 2014. She is an avid artist and has also achieved the world highest mark in her O level art exam. Therefore, she decided to combine both of her passions into one:
“I believe every cake has a story. Some celebrate your birth, some commemorate the biggest day of your life, some spread happiness. I decided to turn them into my canvas and thus Red Window was born”.

She started to add elements of her artistic talents to her cakes and the results were mesmerizing. Shababa received a tremendous amount of support from her mother Ismat Nazneen and her partner Tasneem Sabrina Hasib both of whom she considers as her biggest inspirations. “Obviously I was slightly nervous. I was starting my first venture but they helped me ease into things and go forward without looking back”, she explained. Surely enough, Red Window was a huge success. Whether it was their profiteroles, the intricately decorated cakes or their zesty selection of milkshakes, Red Window simply took over the food scene. Things were going great and Shababa decided to follow up the success of Red Window with a catering business. However, her journey took a rough turn as she had to close it down soon due to some internal issues. This did not stop her though. “I believe that we cannot succeed until we fail. One setback was not going to prevent me from pursuing and expanding my dreams. It was back to the drawing board for me”, she stated. Without any hesitation, Shababa moved on to another venture in the form of Bheja Fry which was an initiative to showcase the array of flavours and the chilled atmosphere of Old Dhaka. Bheja Fry quickly gained popularity among locals. On top of that, the success of Red Window saw Unilever, one of the biggest MNC’s of Bangladesh approach her to open a branch at their headquarters. Shababa plans on venturing into newer horizons and has assured us that we will get to know all about her new projects soon. With a suitcase full of dreams, the right amount of ambition and the support of her loved ones, the sky seems to be the limit for Shababa. She urged every youngster to follow their dreams and also urged their parents to support them.

Irfan Aziz is a Sub Editor of ICE Today magazine. He is a pug enthusiast who loves looking at memes, writing and sketching.