Running a bakery has its challenges but imagine doing it while still in high school.
Aya Islim, 17, is doing just that in Dearborn Heights, opening a bakery, Aya’s Sweets in July 2021.
“My favorite part I would have to say is the decorating because that’s where I get to let myself be artistic and just do what I want,” Aya says. “I love it because one simple detail can change everything.”
Aya says she began baking at 9 years old after watching The Food Network.
She made her own batter, buttercream, and fondant that day. “She messed up my kitchen,” her mother, Amal Essa, says.
“I don’t even know where she was getting stuff from and I tried to help her get stuff together,” says Essa. “And, it was a really, really good cake. I was very proud of her.”
Aya began selling her custom designer cakes on social media five years ago. (Her Instagram account has more than 20,000 followers.) She and her mother expanded to selling fried Oreos, cannolis, and other small desserts from a food truck last year. Her over-the-top cakes, however, are what people rave about. She can transform almost any design into a cake.
“Once we saw that it was in high demand and that people loved it, I said ‘OK, it is time to get you a shop’,” Essa says.
Now Aya starts her mornings at school, attends three hours of a co-op program, goes to her new brick-and-mortar on Ford Road until volleyball starts, and then heads back to the bakery before returning home. Essa manages and bakes the store while Aya is at school.
“I really don’t have time for social life,” Aya says. “I have very few friends and I hang out with them mainly on Mondays, so that’s when I take the day off to myself and for friends.”
Aya’s Sweets officially opened on her birthday this year, July 14, selling waffle ice cream sandwiches, fried Oreos, Shirley Temples, cupcakes, and her creative custom cakes.
“I feel like these are comfort foods and stuff that people would enjoy,” she says. “Customers can put on like a sweet twist to it and basically customize them.”
Aya plans to continue to operate the shop when she attends college.
“It’s all about your mindset and saying you can do it, and putting in the work,” she says.
Aya’s Sweets is at 22028 Ford Rd. in Dearborn Heights; 313-429-3099