Mixing business with pleasure

Mixing business with pleasure

MASERU-LAST year, Lindelwa Xingwana did the unthinkable and took a decision many would dread. She left her fulltime legal profession to engage in her hobbies.
Only months later, one of those hobbies is turning into a money-spinning venture and she is looking at making a fortune out of it.

“I was always interested in baking but forgot as the years rolled by and later with a focus on a fulltime job,” Xingwana says.
Xingwana had no intention of venturing into business when she started to bake. But she decided to give it a go following positive feedback from close associates who got a chance to taste her cakes.
“I would bake myself a small cake and ask friends to have a taste and soon they started wanting more. I laughed and said ‘I am going to charge you for these slices’ and they said they would gladly pay,” she says.
“Since that day I would sell cake slices to those close to me.”
A friend then proposed to sell the cakes at her workplace.

“People loved them. I had a lot of positive responses that I did not expect. I had to make sure that every week there was cake to be sold,” says Xingwana, who attained her BA Law degree from the National University of Lesotho.
Encouraged by the positive feedback she decided to approach several restaurants to sell her cakes.
She managed to get Ouh La La and Cafe What? on board.
“I had an opportunity to sell my cakes at Ouh La La even though it was a very short stint. With Cafe What? the deal lasted for several months.”

When the Cafe What? deal ended, she focused on producing celebration cakes.
With the help of social media Xingwana found herself busy.
“I opened Facebook and Instagram pages to assist with marketing because the clients I had were through word of mouth advertising by those who had tasted my cakes.”

Orders started pouring in from individuals and companies.
“I saw substantial growth after I opened the social media pages. I have managed to bake cakes for local businesses like Black Hair and Catholic Relief Services,” she says.
Individuals wanting birthday, anniversary, bridal and baby shower cakes started coming in numbers and after several months she had her first wedding order.

“I did not take the order. But recently I agreed to a wedding order simply because it looked like cakes I have made before. At the time of my first wedding order, I was not ready,” she says, adding: “A wedding is a significant day in someone’s life and should be filled with perfect joyful memories, I couldn’t risk gambling with someone’s perfect day.”
Although business is going well, the journey had its challenges.

“Since I do not have any formal culinary training, I have to teach myself everything and unfortunately sometimes it took a client’s ruined cake to learn new tricks. It is also an expensive trial and error for me as inputs are costly and I don’t always yield a great result after trial.”

She elaborated that it also takes long to perfect the art and this can be expensive.
“For example, I have only very recently learned how to make stiffer icing to withstand the scorching heat.”
She adds that a big challenge is that she still works alone and baking is time-consuming, hence she is unable to accept a lot of orders at a single time.
She also learned the hard way with customers who fail to pay.
“That’s when I told myself that I would always call three or two days before I start baking to confirm if the client still needed my services or not.”

She also resorted to asking for deposits before taking on a job.
“I need security to make sure that at least the basic expenses are covered even if the client ends up failing to collect the order.

Another challenge is that clients tend to place orders late.
“Sometimes they call in the morning placing an order that should be ready in the afternoon and that is not right because then I have to work under a lot of pressure and it leaves room for mistakes which is why I often decline.”
“I encourage clients to at least place their order within three days minimum but I always say placing an order as soon as possible is the best option.”

She indicates that the taste and presentation of her cakes sets her apart from other bakers.
“I can honestly say the taste is the promise that I always deliver to my clients. I have had challenges with design but never a concern about the taste. If anything they commend the taste even when the design didn’t pan out.”
Her cakes are made from scratch giving her the freedom to go as wild as possible when it comes to taste.
“Dessert is a choice and I want those who eat my cakes to be satisfied with the choice they have made. That is why I ensure that my cakes are not only appealing to the eye and are fresh, but also offer a client the best dessert experience.”

She says she enjoys making butter cream cakes as they allow her to experiment with fresh fruits and edible flowers.
“I like the look of fresh flowers and fruits on a cake. They make it inviting and it creates a sense of excitement for the one waiting to eat it.”
Her dream is to open a coffee shop.

“Mostly I want the business to be so busy that it can create some jobs, and move out of my kitchen!”
Though there is still a lot to learn for Xingwana she is proud of how far she has come.
“The mere fact that this hobby has turned into a business has been a pleasant surprise… one I don’t regret pursuing, she says.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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