by Lerato Mashile
While she may not have been interested in pastry, Connie is fast becoming ubabes wamakhekhe in Pretoria as she not only loves food but “derives great joy from making different food and sweet treats”.
With a journey that began back in 2015 when she was confronted with the harsh reality of being a graduate in South Africa, she details “I was moving from internship to internship and needed extra money to cover my living expenses. I would always hear people advising graduates to start their own business“.
With a skill set in baking, she decided to take a leap of faith and try her hand at it by making scones and then progressing to biscuits and cakes. She further states that “The love for cakes developed steadily from watching cake creations of other bakers in a Facebook group called dikhekhe amakhekhe.”
Her fascination of cake designs and desire to master it herself, she founded her own business “Connie’s couture cakes” which makes bespoke cakes for all occasions from weddings all the way to birthdays and even baby showers. While many businesses start with the intention to make money, Connie states that her intentions are not only to make a profit but rather “to ensure that I make delectable cakes that are also eye catching and drop the jaws of those see them”
The dynamics of cake making are not always easy as it involves a lot of research and time. Connie elaborates that “when a customer approaches me about a cake, we have to go through the design and I check YouTube or Pinterest to see if I can execute it and if not, I learn how to do it” Then she further explains that she needs to get the ingredients to execute the particular cake.
When that is done, “it’s the baking, cooling, filling, garnishing and decorating aspect” Now one may ask, what is it about Connie’s Couture Cakes that make them so unique, Connie beams and says “it is the love and time I pour into each and every one of them. Every cake is done with finesse and given great attention to detail to ensure the highest level of customer satisfaction.”
The pandemic has hit so many businesses, big or small resulting in the closure of some. When asked how she manages through the pandemic, Connie details that “managing cash flow to ensure that the business is running has been particularly hard during lockdown. I have had to refund people who placed orders when the stringent 21 days lockdown commenced and the business took a hard knock as a result”
Fortunately, there was some money in reserve put aside for business. With the advantage of working from home and not worrying too much about rent, the lockdown forced Connie to adapt to this new normal as she states that “it taught me to diversify the range of products I offer and adapt quickly to change. I am working on introducing new products soon. I have also added delivery with the service of a courier company and this makes it easier for people to stay home and still get our products delivered safely to them.”
While Connie states that entrepreneurship definitely has potential to eradicate unemployment, she emphasizes that the entrepreneurial space is difficult as financial support is little to non-existent. With that, businesses take quite a while to get off the ground and get to a place where they are able to afford to hire people. Even with these challenges she says that “For those who have the entrepreneurial bone, resilience, passion, patience and hard work is what will set them apart and ensure that their businesses are able to hire people and reduce unemployment.”
The number one lesson she wishes she learnt in her first year of business is “the importance of having a business account, setting up time to review and update financial information to ensure the business is healthy financially and putting money aside to finance the growth of the business.”
She details that “my first few years, all the money came into my personal account and that led to me spending most of my profit on personal matters and failing to save in order to invest back into the business and look into opportunities to grow it.” Having learnt from that, Connie states that she now has business account where she keeps a record of all financials. She also now also pay herself a fixed amount which helps her maintain a healthy balance between money for the business and personal use.
Many women are becoming their own bosses and starting their own businesses. Connie advises that “women must know that like any business, this business is built on hard work, consistency, tears and sweat” She emphasizes the need to “take time to develop your recipes and enhance your skills. If you are able to attend pastry or cake decorating classes, attend them. Prepare for growth and take finances seriously”