Student Spotlight: Onzila Akhtar

“At first, I just made this Instagram account to [post] food that I made, and I called it Hijabi Cookz,” explains junior entrepreneur Onzila Akhtar. “And someone messaged me one day, when I made a cake: ‘Do you sell this stuff?’ I told them no, but then I wondered, why not? That’s how the whole thing started.” After receiving encouragement from both her followers and her family members, Akhtar’s business was officially born in September 2020. Through her Instagram account, @hijabicookz, she creates and delivers homemade desserts to customers in Wayne and neighboring towns. 

Akhtar is a self-taught baker, who has been learning from YouTube videos since she was thirteen years old. Although she started with simple boxed cake mixes, as her passion for baking grew, she quickly progressed to much more complicated recipes. Now, she especially enjoys decorating, and experimenting with the new designs that her customers request.

Akhtar expands her menu frequently, which currently includes a wide variety of treats, from chocolate-covered strawberries and hot chocolate bombs to churro bars and custom cakes/cheesecakes. A customer favorite is a breakable chocolate heart featuring a custom design. Customers often give this treat to their loved ones, along with a surprise gift that they will personally place underneath the heart (jewelry, candy, fresh flowers, etc.). The order comes with a small mallet, which is used to break the chocolate and uncover the gift below. 

To order from Hijabi Cookz, Akhtar explains, just DM (direct message) her via the @hijabicookz Instagram account. In this message, list the item(s) you want to include in the order, and make sure to specify flavor, quantity, color, design, theme, and lettering, when applicable. Depending on the size of the order, Akhtar recommends contacting her anywhere from three days to two weeks prior to the delivery date. Every week, she updates her availability through a highlight reel on her Instagram page. 

Akhtar prices each order based on their size and complexity. Wayne residents will not incur a delivery fee on their purchase; that said, Akhtar does deliver up to 20 minutes outside of Wayne. For deliveries to neighboring towns, a $2-$4 delivery fee will be added to the order price, depending on the customer’s distance from Wayne.

Not only does Akhtar’s business allow her to profit from doing what she loves, but it enables her to express another fundamental part of her identity. “Since I’m Muslim and a hijabi, I wanted to include that in my business name—so people know that’s who I am,” Akhtar reflects. “There’s not a lot of Muslim girls out there [running their own baking companies].” 

To any prospective high school entrepreneurs, Akhtar advises, “Honestly, just go for it, even if you think you’re going to mess up. Someone just messaged me one day, and I decided to start selling [my desserts]. The next day I got my first order, and then it went from there…You never know what’s going to happen.” Akhtar is proud of how her business has blossomed in the past three months, and hopes that Hijabi Cookz will continue to grow.

Check out @hijabicookz on Instagram for more information on how to place an order! We wish Akhtar the best of luck in all of her future endeavors.