Cakes are accessories that grace almost every event from weddings to baby showers,staff parties,birthdays and so much more.Failure to find the the right baker can be a deal breaker but when you find a good one,you are hooked for life.
Welcome with me Racheal Atieno to our No ordinary scribbles table as we chat about her love for cake and building Cake culture.
1.Who is Racheal Atieno?
Racheal is a 30 year old lady born and bred in Nairobi ,Kenya. She is an extrovert who loves people and thrives when helping people out. She loves travelling, baking and adventure . She studied Sociology and Psychology at the University of Nairobi and was in employment for about 5 years before going into baking full-time. She has worked with Huru international on a project that provided reusable sanitary pads for needy girls in the slum plus did HIV prevention training. Later on she worked with Earthview Geo-consultants Limited as a Social Impact Assessment officer then went into full-time baking in January 2017.
2. How did cake culture come into existence? Did you go to baking school?
While visiting my cousin some years back, her friend, a baker, had also visited and decided to randomly teach us how to bake using a charcoal stove and this is what triggered the baking passion in me. I went back home and kept experimenting and trying out different recipes, it was fun. There were disappointments but I kept at it, I’ll never forget putting a hole in my mother’s sufuria cause I had used wet sand to set up my charcoal oven. My desire has always been to be a stay at home mum and Cake culture was birthed out of an initial desire for a source of income while I stayed home to raise my children (And no I don’t have children yet). I had always baked as a hobby for family and friends and a friend of mine kept insisting on how I should turn it into a business and even helped out with the registration process which I did in July 2014. At this point I did not know much about business (never really pictured myself doing business), I had no idea of where to get baking supplies. I did not go to baking school so I learnt through google and particular bakers or bloggers who were so kind to help out. I had done various probono cakes for friends and family but my very first order came from my colleague who needed a birthday cake for the son who was turning two years (he is actually turning 5 this month) I was very nervous and not too sure of myself, it was the first time I was going to whip cream and decorate a birthday cake. It was a red velvet cake and looking back, it was more maroon than red and I’ve since changed the recipe I use to a much better one. I thank God for this particular client cause she believed in me and kept pushing me, she allowed me to experiment with her orders and was very forgiving and patient when at times it was not so perfec(thank you Lydia).I was in employment when I started the business, so I basically bought ingredients with the money the client paid and bought equipment with some of my money, I did not really need much to start. We already had an oven at home that I still use (I forever cherish those charcoal days, but agirl has got to upgrade😂😂😂)
3. Describe the journey of your start up
It has been an interesting one, It started out prematurely, well at least from how I planned it. The initial stages were more of baking for fun but eventually I decided to do it for business which is also a story on its own especially the whole concept of pricing, separating the business supplies from the home supplies, being a home baker and all. I had a day job and that meant that any baking would be either at night or on weekends. I used my (boss’s) time during the day to read and research about baking, download recipes which I would then try out back at home. Some worked out while others just backfired. This kept going for over a year, trying out different recipes and perfecting as many as I could. Orders were coming in from mostly friends and workmates and this was a good thing for it provided me both a market but also a platform to get feedback about my cakes which greatly helped the learning process. Eventually I found it hard to balance as the orders kept increasing meaning sleepless nights were fast becoming a norm. At this time too, work at my day job had really slowed down, which should have been good but if the cake business was to grow to its fullest potential then it needed to become the number 1 priority. So I made up my mind to resign from my job at the end of the year (2016) and focus 100% on CAKE CULTURE moving forward, step of faith. In terms of initial capital, we didn’t need much for a start. We have an oven at home so that went a long way in cutting the costs. The rest of the things we bought as the money came in and as the need arose. With time and research i figured out where to get supplies at the best possible deals- a supermarket could be nearer but costlier. We started with what we had and the rest has been the business growing itself.
4. Share key lessons you have learnt along the way.
Researching& adapting. I research about everything from pricing,mixing to flavors. Adapting may take the form of reading ahead about planned power blackouts so that you either bake or prepare cream ahead of time with the end goal being that you’re not caught flatfooted by the blackout.
Resilience and determination.“With trial there will be error.” This means that you will spend hours and money preparing for a cake and then it will not come out as you expected. I have learnt not to give up. One of our signature cake flavors is a result of such resilience. It backfired so many times that I almost gave up but from the day I mastered it, I think it single handedly accounts for about 50% of our revenue. You can’t be too caught up in what didn’t work. Sometimes everything is right but halfway through the baking there is a power blackout. This means redo the whole process.
We have learnt to set values for ourbusiness. At CAKE CULTURE ,we value customer satisfaction and this means that we must deliver the best product to the client every time. This calls for more than following the recipe to the letter: the whole process has to be standardized and nothing left to imagination. Continued research is a must. We can’t be comfortable with just a few flavors even if we’re the best at them. What happens after a client has sampled all our cakes? There is need to keep adding new products. We also value our products and price them accordingly.
Friendships are critical because it tookmore than one person to build the business. The name ‘CAKE CULTURE’ was suggested by a friend and I loved it. Our (awesome) branding was done by another friend. My first orders were from friends. Some of our equipment like our awesome stand mixer was from a friend. My biggest source of support has been my family, not forgetting mum’s oven that I use to date. The start and growth of this business has been largely enabled by people. You could do it alone but you may not finish the race and assuredly you will be slower.
5.What are your current products?
We currently have a list of 19 Cake flavors with the orange/passion chiffon being a major favorite, we also have cupcakes, muffins, quick breads, granola bars, oatmeal cookies, brownies and toasted muesli cereal. We for sure keep adding to the list.
In the last two years we have participated in the Cake Festival organized by Edumed Trust as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility. It is an annual event that brings together various bakers who get the opportunity to offer their products for sampling with the aim of raising funds to educate bright needy students through high school.
Philip,Maggie,Emma at Cake Fest 2017
Morris at Cake Fest
Philip & Maggie attending to clients
7. What challenges did you face when you started out?
I struggled with pricing because I feared to lose clients but overtime the business was not making money despite having good products and a good number of orders. I finally allowed for the prices to be reviewed and this has positively reflected in our revenues.
We plan to open a bakery shop and increase our products to include everything pastry and dessert. From that shop we hope to open a few others, particularly looking forward for a branch in Kampala, my friends over there keep asking for one.
Friendships are critical know who to listen to and who not to listen to. I believe God sends you the right people to help you through your process.Currently,at Cake Culture it’s myself as head Baker and Morris,the tech guy who also doubles as the delivery guy.