The door opened to reveal a world pulsating with life and yours truly almost floated in, soaking in the artistic flair that was unfolding in every nook and cranny at one of Colombo’s burgeoning cafés!
‘Bakes by Bella’ (Bella’s café); celebrated for its creative menu and ‘art-o-sphere’ (my way of saying arty atmosphere) has carved an indelible niche into the hearts of many ,since its launch in 2013.
It is the brainchild of the husband and wife team encompassing Mahesh and his beautiful wife Melissa, who apparently churned up this Montmartre-styled hot spot out of the sheer demand, which was centered around Melissa’s delectable delicacies posted on her Instagram profile and through word-of-mouth.
The young couple who have stepped out of the status quo, have gained a fan following which includes a cross-section of society from women who have secretly harboured that knack to start their own venture, but never really dared to voice their opinions, business magnates, start-up companies, budding artists and more.
Their story is an intertwining of courage, resilience in adversity and the ‘will to pursue their dreams come what may,’ It has given wing to a world of opportunities, not necessarily for them but for anyone who comes into contact with them and their authentic style of celebrating life.
The two of them share a unique relationship, which compliments each other’s talents and Bakes by Bella reflects the bond to the core. Mahesh, with his innovative business acumen and passion for marketing is the guiding light; sharing his thoughts and ideas with Melissa who adds her love for baking, photography, art and all things associated with ‘Alice in Wonderland!’
During our conversation, which was interspersed with greetings by their customers, I observed the positive energy which is exuded by both and it in turn permeates the whole café.
Customer is royalty and so are the employees
While treating their customers akin to royalty, Melissa and Mahesh value their employees who are young and energetic and possess an enthusiasm which is contagious.
Straight out of a movie-set
The décor resonates a wonderland and my guess being that ‘Alice’ could be none other than Melissa herself, with her vivid imagination which extends to her creative meals from the ‘giant nutella stuffed cookie to the cake shake, brownie bomb, drip cakes, messy cakes, naked cakes, edible wedding structures and more…
With bouts of creativity running through their veins, they are determined to offer their customers variations with a personalized touch. Browsing through the Bakes by Bella profile on instagram, one cannot help but notice the ‘failed attempts’ but seeing failure as a stepping stone has garnered a number of followers who find Melissa’s fearless attitude towards experimenting an inspiration in itself, with her being invited to speak at schools, universities, Women in Management (WIM) forums and more. Her creative spark knows no bounds as her maximizing usage of social media (in this instance Instagram) was recognized and documented by United Nations Economics and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific for being the FIRST to monetize Instagram platform as a business in Sri Lanka.
Evolving with time
Apart from their signature offers, one would periodically see BBB scale up to offer an array of trendy and interactive treats for their customers;
The time bound Ifthar menu provides a delightful combination of savouries and sweets accompanied by a beverage. With their knowledge and expertise gained along the way, they have also crafted BBB’s uniquely styled High tea menu, which leaves you ‘spoilt for choice’ without going overboard.
BBB is portrayed as a hangout spot encouraging freedom of expression and one that spark s good conversations and positive energy. A place where freedom reigns supreme ‘ with books, magazines, board games, drawing material coupled with good music of varied genres and more being provided to customers from the toddler to the adult to simply ‘be’ while enjoying a lovingly cooked meal, dessert and warm hospitality of staff making you feel it being a home away from home.
‘Bakes by Bella, had me at ‘Hello’
Yours truly was hooked, in a sense, that BBB’s quintessential café per se ‘had me at hello’ with the tantalizing ‘ferrero cake shake; sealing the deal…
So Bella’s café have secured another loyal customer, who is bound to return for her share of the decadent creations and the magical ambience of the place…
While Bakes by Bella (Bella’s Café) is the result of a beautiful partnership between Mahesh and Melissa Dharmadasa; it is only a sliver of who they are and what they are capable of as individuals.
For instance, Melissa is a Bio Medical Scientist by profession, having graduated with second upper class honours from the University of East London. She was involved in medical research in London prior to moving to Sri Lanka to marry the love of her life.
The rest as they say could be termed as history but you readers cannot be left in suspense about the blossoming of Bella’s Café – Melissa had a penchant for creativity since childhood and it was rekindled after her return to Sri Lanka. A lack of opportunities in her field within the island provided her with an avenue to pursue her passion in the creative fields of photography and baking. Being a compassionate soul, Melissa participated in a charity bake sale to raise funds for Mother Teresa’s orphanage and this endeavor literally kick-started her journey to seriously consider transforming her hobby into a business venture.
The dynamic Mahesh, hails from one of the most affluent families who have been instrumental in reshaping the business orientation of the country through the Nawaloka Group. He holds an MBA from University of Leicester (U.K.) and is a Chartered Member of CMI (UK) and CIM (UK). Possessing an innate scope for marketing and business reengineering, he has created a name for himself as the Co-Founder/Director of RAD Productions – a boutique media production house. He is also a Director of Nawaloka Group.
By Rochelle Palipane- Gunaratne