'The Four Fat Ladies' was supposed to be a fun name for a bakery, but co-founder Heba Shunbo had no idea what kind of controversy it would stir.
by Heba Shunbo
Hold the phone, you mean you’re not fat?
It’s funny how when we came up with the name for our bakery, we had no idea the stir it would cause, the intrigue and prodding into the inspiration for the name and its hidden meaning.
Wait. Stop. Rewind. 2012 in our living room, Cairo.
My sisters and I finally took the decision to open a bakery, it’s always been our dream. Now, all we needed to do was come up with a name. After hours of brain storming, we had a long list of cute, predictable names, and among those names, one less predictable and unexpectedly different from the likes of Buttercup, Sweet Pea, the Candy Shop, etc: The Four Fat Ladies (TFFL), a name that our younger sister and head chef at TFFL suggested and proceeded to add to our list of names. After a few days of giving it some thought, The Four Fat Ladies won the battle. We were convinced, we thought it would be a great name, memorable, unique, fun, whimsical, and it reflected the women behind the brand. Bonus. It was perfect! We loved it! And with that came a flood of ideas in terms of branding, marketing, merchandising, so many potential fun ways of communicating the brand. What more effective way to bring a message forth than through wit and lightheartedness? That was the basis for our name, we wanted it to be fun, and we wanted to engage our customers in a cheeky and humorous way. Especially in a country that prides itself on being one of the funniest nations on the planet — if anyone would appreciate the humor behind it, it would most definitely be the Egyptians.
So you can imagine our dismay when we received negative feedback; some people were even outright offended and insulted. The intention was never to offend, least of all, we weren’t singling out a segment of society, who may or may not believe they’re fat. All we wanted to do was lend some humor to a business that we are infinitely passionate about, a passion that we have so much fun with; the name was the perfect embodiment of our view vis-avis baking.
What’s more is that some customers felt like they had been punk’d when they met us, and to their surprise, we were not fat. On that note, I’d like to debunk the myth that we’re not fat. We are in fact fat, we are fat at heart, and at one point or another, we have been fat. Like all women and men around the world, we’ve struggled with our weight, and have had our fair share of “fat” and “chunky” moments. Doesn’t everyone own that “secret shoe box,” the one that is safely tucked away in the back of one’s closet, the one with endless pictures with cropped bottoms, cropped arms, and touched-up double chins? We sure as hell do.
The struggle is real and is universal. Today, we are constantly bombarded with two opposing forces: the super health conscious and on the other hand the decadent, indulgent joints that offer everything loaded with extras and more. We all are in the same boat, juggling between the two, and I believe these two opposing forces are what makes them both equally enjoyable. Without the indulgent desserts, we wouldn’t appreciate the superfoods and healthy rainbow-colored veggies on our plate. Plus, life would be so damn boring without the two. I love to eat healthy and in fact my reward for being good is that mouthwatering piece of pie.
So, if you think we aren’t fat and feel like you’ve been misled, I say don’t judge a book by its cover, you haven’t seen our high school yearbook photos. The Four Fat Ladies is proudly pulling on its Egyptian heritage, and capitalizing on Egyptians’ greatest gift, their infectious humor to put the f back in fun, and the fu back in fudge.