Interview with BiB
Interviewed: Selma, Co-Founder & Head Chef
Where are you from? Teslić, Bosnia
- Current Hometown? Seattle, WA, USA
- Favorite Balkan Song? Hajde da se Volimo, by Lepa Brena
- Favorite Balkan Dish? Grah i Domaći Hljeb
Can you start off by telling us a little bit more about yourself? Where are you originally from and where are you currently living?
My name is Selma Mansell (Ramic). My family resides in Seattle, WA. My husband, Eric, and I are proud parents of two beautiful girls: Celine and Aria.
Born in Teslić, I grew up in the nearby village of Gomjenica until the age of 6.
It was then that my family fled the war to Bad Schussenried, Germany. Like many in the Balkans can relate, those days were dark and scary.
At the age of 13, Germany said it was time to go. Goodbye grundschule / hauptschule and hello good ol’ middle school in Anytown, USA (Jackson, WI).
- Bosnian ✓
- German ✓
- English ❌
- English ✓
- College ✓
Finally, we moved to Seattle in 2018!
How did you get the idea for your business — was there a particular moment that sparked your curiosity or was it something that you always dreamed of doing?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved cooking. I gained experience cooking at home and worked the front and back of house at a couple of restaurants. The defining moment was when I visited France and fell in love with the Parisian farmers markets. The entire city seemed to be in line for certain foods. Forget the glitz, it was all about the food. I knew then and there that I wanted to make a living doing what I love: making awesome food! On 12/31/2020, we signed the lease for Baked in Bosnia, and the dream became reality!
Tell us a little bit more about Baked in Bosnia.
We decided to leverage what we were most experienced in and passionate about: Bosnian Food. We felt strongly that with some innovation, Bosnian food could make great takeout. We took on a huge risk. We have to introduce people to food they have never heard of, so it has to be good. We believe that our food can be a gateway to Bosnian culture here in Seattle and a beacon of pride. That’s not a responsibility that we take lightly. We knew that commitment would carry us through the inevitable challenges to come.
Bosnian women are some of the best cooks in the world. Give her water and flour, and she will give you a feast! We each have our signature dishes, and it's fun sharing recipes and techniques. I want to make our people proud one dish at a time.
People associate Bosnian food with Cevapi, but we have so much more to offer: pita, burek, grah, sarma, paprikas, corba, sataras, mahune, punjene paprike, and now fusion dishes. Our food takes time and skill to prepare: anyone that has stretched out a jufka (phyllo dough) knows what I’m talking about. The magic is in preparing it at scale without compromising quality or freshness.
Have you found that the Bosnian community has been receptive to your cuisine or do Seattle locals gravitate more toward your food?
We’ve found both to be true, and we need both to be true. Even in a large city, it’s hard to be successful if your customers are only from the Balkan community. The reality is that outside of the Balkan community, very little demand exists for Bosnian food. Folks just don’t know what it is, or that it even exists. We’ve had to create the demand out of nothing, and we did it by striving to impress our Bosnian customers.
If Bosnians are proud of Baked in Bosnia, they will share a slice of their culture with those unfamiliar and help us create the demand… so far it’s working (we have the best customers!). Seattle locals keep coming back. Our challenge isn’t in keeping customers, it’s in finding new ones. And, that feels great.
What has been the hardest part of running this business and what advice would you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs (especially those who are also moms)?
The biggest struggle for me has been TIME. I feel like there is never enough time in a day to do all the things I want to do. I love Baked in Bosnia, but my favorite role is being Mama to Celine and Aria. Any business owner can tell you the struggle for work life balance is real. Work, life, parenting, marriage, and therapy for Celine (autism), etc. I want to give 100% of myself to all of those things all the time.
My advice is to know and be comfortable with your priorities, and create a support structure of friends and family. I cannot thank my friend and partner in crime, Jerri, enough for her help at home and in business.
It’s great to have a 1 year, 5 year plan. But, you also need to always keep in front of you the things that give your life meaning and make you happy. Life is short, you can’t do it all. So focus on what matters most, and be comfortable with that changing over time.
Last, be your genuine self. You’re awesome. Be you.
What has been the most rewarding part of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
I love seeing what Baked in Bosnia is turning into. There are new opportunities coming our way, and that is pretty rewarding. Our business is allowing us to bring a slice of home to the US Diaspora and introduce Seattle locals to Bosnian food and culture. I just feel blessed!
Where do you hope to see Baked in Bosnia in the next few years? Feel free to share any of your goals related to business growth, brand awareness, etc.
I want us to be a brand that people recognize and trust beyond Seattle: North America and beyond! We will continue to launch curated products and services to meet that goal. We also enjoy helping other Balkan businesses penetrate the US marketplace with their amazing goods and services.
How do you believe that we (as diaspora) can continue to keep our culture alive for generations to come?
The easy answer is food. Food is an experience, and it facilitates conversations that can lead anywhere. And those conversations can lead to other experiences and exposures.
With my kids, I speak Bosnian and English. I’m Bosnian-American, and I’m proud of that. Some diaspora are torn about how to keep their culture alive in the USA. People feel a certain guilt by embracing the changes that are inevitable, the next generations will be natural born American citizens. It is up to us as parents to teach our children about our traditions and culture. I Love Bosnia and Herzegovina. I love Teslić and Gomjenica. The culture of those places is within me. The love and joy from people and culture is what I try to focus on.
Bosnia represents happiness and love to me. I believe our future generations will want to associate with that and be closer to it.
So have fun: eat some pita, dance to Lepa Brena, laugh, live, and sing… who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?!
Anything else you’d like to share?
- Be kind.
- Enjoy life.
- Follow us @baked_in_bosnia 😎