Mafer is the founder of Vainilla, Venezuela’s very first French style bakery. She taught herself everything she knows, from running a kitchen to food photography. Thanks to Mafer’s impressive styling and photography, Vainilla has been featured on @Instagram, @InstagramES, and @InstagramforBusiness! Read on to learn more about how she developed her business and continues to thrive as a pastry chef on Instagram and in real life.
Saludos Mafer! Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to be a pastry chef.
Hi, my name is Mafer, and I’m the pastry chef of Vainilla. Our store specializes in French macarons, and we are the first store like this in Venezuela. After my trip to Paris, I developed an obsession for macarons, I think they are a delicacy fit for the gods, and thanks to them I found my passion for French baking. After I came back to Venezuela, it became a personal challenge to find the perfect recipe, and when I found it, it was my calling to start my dream business.
Since 2013, Vainilla has specialized in macarons – we develop French baking with local ingredients. We also focus on photo presentation (on Instagram, Facebook, etc.) for our customers, so they not only taste our products but visually taste them too. For me, the flavor and the presentation are bound together. My obsession went from macarons to the “Food Styling”, and I decided to learn everything I could about photography. Instagram became my virtual store when my teamwork was only my pink KitchenAid and me.
What are your top 3 tips for curating an Instagram grid that represents your brand and your talents?
- Always be true to your brand, create your own style and grow with it. Set a color palette and photography style to your pictures, but don’t be afraid to mix up your content!
- Think outside the box. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with new ideas, but if you see your project as something fun, then you can always come up with new ways to express your ideas. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and always be true to your brand and your style.
- Last but most importantly, try to tell a story with every picture, that way you can connect more personally with your audience.
As a content creator, please walk us through your process for finding new ideas, shooting content, and scheduling posts on Instagram.
Creating content for Vainilla is the most exciting and fun part of my job. Every month I pick a topic, for example: for May we had Mother’s Day, so I went for a grid full of pink, hearts, etc. For June, I plan to do something special for Father’s Day, so I’m going to use more white and violet tones, moustaches, and ties. I always have so much fun planning what’s coming!
I like to look for ideas on Pinterest and by looking through my old photos. You can always recreate your old ideas by giving them a fresh new look. Since day one I have always posted at the same hour. I try to shoot 1 or 2 days a week for my Instagram, that way I can be ready and have quality content to post on my feed. Vainilla has a very girly color palette; we find inspiration from pastel colors, flowers, and prop that reflect the glamour in a French patisserie. All of our pictures are taken in our store – we have a small space where we play with macarons and show a bit of the process.
How does Planoly play a part in your overall branding and social media strategy?
Planoly has become a big part of my everyday life! Since I started using the app, it has helped me be more organized and strategic. I can plan my posts, see my grid, and arrange everything the way I like it. I really enjoy scheduling my posts, so I don’t have to worry if I decide to take a vacation or go out of town. My favorite part of the app is that it is always up to date with all of the new Instagram features!
What are your tips for staying ahead of the competition in such a competitive pastry market?
Always use the best ingredients, never stop learning new baking techniques, collaborate with brands that will give you exposure, listen to your audience and stay innovative so you can always offer them the best.
How vital has Instagram been in the success of your company and expanding it from Venezuela to the rest of the world?
Instagram helped us grow as a brand; it’s our main outlet to sell and reach new clients. We focus on creating unique and appealing content so more people can get to know our brand – it’s a big part of our success. What started off as a hobby has now turned into us opening our own store! Vainilla has been featured on @Instagram three times – this is way too cool for me as a Venezuelan. First on @Instagram with our logo made using macarons, the second time on @instagramforbusiness, and the third time on @InstagramES!
How important is it for you to wear multiple hats to grow your business as a chef?
Five years ago, I started Vainilla from scratch. I had to learn everything…it was all brand new to me. I learned how to run a kitchen, how to market myself (including my brand and my product), how to take pictures, and how to go from running a business from my house to having my own bakery.
I think that being so involved in every inch of my business has helped me grow. I learn something new every day, and I have fun with it! By wearing different hats and being the pastry chef, photographer, and community manager of Vainilla, I’ve been able to build my successful business into what it is today.
What advice do you have for aspiring bakers?
My advice for fellow bakers is always to be true to yourself, love what you do and never give up! Passion and love can help you create anything, be persistent, and remember that nothing is impossible. I learned all I know today by reading blogs, and if I can make it, anyone can.