Safia Haq

Co-owner, Tart & Soul Cafe

Bachelor of Arts (Hons.), Early Modern Studies and History, 2010

At King’s I learned how to learn…

It was early in 2017 and Safia Haq was scrolling through Facebook. She saw an ad. It asked for a business proposal for a space that had been a café. Interesting, she thought, and sent it to a friend.

Saf had been thinking about starting some sort of food related business for a while. After she graduated from King’s she stayed at the University, working both in the Registrar’s office advising students and as a don. But as she says, “I was at a crossroads and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.”

Then she had a thought. During the stressy times that creep up during exams and cluster around essay due dates, Saf had found a way to help her classmates.

“I would bake shortbread cookies at three in the morning when we were all stressed out… I really liked making them for people. Maybe that is something that I can do for a year and see where that takes me.”

So she enrolled in the Baking and Pastry Art program at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC).

Saf laughs and says, “My back-to-school shopping included knives and whisks instead of pencils and notebooks.”

Right from the get-go Saf was up to her elbows in flour, cream, butter, and sugar. As much as she had loved the intellectual rigour of King’s, this was something else.

“Going to baking school made me realize that I could make all of these things – tarts and buns and everything. I had never been in a hands-on program in the same way. I wasn’t writing essays or studying. I had this feeling of: look at all the things I can do with my hands!’’

It was in class at the NSCC that Saf met Lisa Brow, and they became fast friends. When Lisa saw the ad on Facebook that Saf had sent her, the two of them just said, “Yeah! Let’s do it.” That was the first step on the road to creating the Tart and Soul Café. The second step was writing a business plan.

“Without King’s I wouldn’t have known how to do that,” Saf says. “At King’s I learned how to learn, how to approach a problem in a creative way. I became a better writer at King’s. My business plan was probably one of the best things I have ever written.”

It must have been good. Four months later, Saf and Lisa got the keys to the café and, in just three weeks – after buying a proper oven and scrubbing the place clean – they opened for business. It’s right across the street from King’s and perhaps, to no one’s surprise, the biggest seller from day one has been their dreamy cinnamon buns piled high with luscious icing.

As for the name of the new business, Saf says this: “Tart and soul… that’s me. I love puns. If I can’t come up with a pun then I have failed. Roller derby and puns – those are two of my favourites.”

Ah yes, roller derby. Now there is a whole other story.

Posted: Jan. 2018