Dearborn Heights – Opening a small business is a giant feat for anyone, but imagine opening up a sweets shop while still attending High School. Believe it or not, the beautiful, carefully crafted confections found at Dearborn Heights’ newest bakery were made by 16-year-old Aya Islim.
“I love every step of baking,” says Islim. “Making the batter, putting it in the oven, baking it... but I have to say decorating it is my favorite step out of all.”
Her mother says she began baking when she was just 9 years old.
“She asked me if she could start baking in the kitchen, just playing around,” explains Amal Essa, her mother. “I was very surprised when she started baking because it really tasted really good for a 9-year-old, and we were giving out samples to family members and friends and they fell in love with it. "
She learned her techniques through watching the Food Network and baking videos on YouTube, practicing until she mastered them.
Then, at the age of 14, this self-taught baker made a name for herself with a little help from the rapper Ice Cube. She heard the famous rapper was having a meet and greet near her home, so she made him a cake and waited in line to meet him. When the security guard saw her present, he pulled her to the front of the line and got to meet him.
“He was just a very nice person and it was just very exciting,” recalled Islim.
Soon the requests started streaming in. She promoted her burgeoning business on social media, posting all her cakes online and developing quite a following. Then, in 2020 she opened a food truck and expanded her menu to include items like fried Oreos, cannolis, cones, freak shakes, and more.
“That’s where I basically learned what people like and don’t like as much,” explains Islim “It was very helpful for me, knowing that, opening a store.”
Finally, at the end of June 2021, they opened up their store, Aya’s Sweets in Dearborn Heights.
“It’s hard. It was very time-consuming. I actually gave up my business to help her business grow,” says Essa.
Now they get to enjoy the sweet taste of success.
“Our relationship grew, she’s like my best friend,” says Essa. “I just want her to know that you can do it yourself, be an independent woman, a strong woman. Us women... we can do anything we put our head and mind to.”
Aya’s sweets will be having a Grand Opening Celebration on July 14th, Aya’s 17th birthday. Singer Eddy Mac will be there along with some other local celebrities. For more information, look for Aya Sweets on social media. Her bakery is located at 22028 Ford Road in Dearborn Heights.