NOMPU SIZIBA: It’s our SME special feature, and today we speak to a female entrepreneur who’s into baking cakes. Not only does she run a cake-baking business, but she also trains folks to bake cake as well. She’s so passionate about the cake thing that she left an IT specialist job to pursue this full time. Well, to tell us about her entrepreneurial journey and more, I’m joined on the line by Khensani Peters. She’s the founder of Ntshovelo Cakes and Cake Academy.
Thanks very much, Khensani, for joining us. Once upon a time you were an IT specialist, but then you decided to make a living through baking. Tell us about that transition and how easy or difficult that was.
KHENSANI PETERS: It was difficult to make in a sense that you need to adjust your lifestyle because you are used to getting constant income every month. You need to adjust, to make sacrifices. But also at the same time, there are positive things that come with it. You’ve got flexibility of time because you are not bound to office hours, for example, and you’re also doing something that you love. So it was difficult and easy at the same time. I wouldn’t say more difficult than easy. It’s got pros and cons.
NOMPU SIZIBA: When did you establish Ntshovelo Cakes and how long did it take before you felt the business was now becoming sustainable?
KHENSANI PETERS: The business got registered in 2008, a long time ago. . I remember I started making serious cakes in 2008. So it’s about 12 years ago. It was a beautiful journey, especially because when I came into the market, our black community, for example (I’m not sure about the white community) were not used to having customers …… and not understand the amount of work that was needed in making these cakes, because it’s an art, with the passion and the art that goes into it. So it was a bit difficult when I started, because you needed to make people understand it.
But I see now that people have grown to appreciate the art and understand what goes into it. And I’ve I found that my customers really don’t mind paying the prices that I ask of them.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Okay. That’s what I was going to ask you. At the beginning price must have been quite difficult because of the lack of understanding around what goes into making a cake. And so what is it about your brand of cakes that you feel is different from other places? What do your customers tell you is the reason that they come back?
KHENSANI PETERS: Most times they talk about the taste, that they just taste different. But if you do go somewhere else and you find that they make beautiful cakes, and sometimes maybe make other …… that you make, but the taste is totally different.
And also, although there are other cake makers incorporating classes like providing classes as part of their service, we also provide class. So as we were growing, there was another aspect of the business which was the cakes academy that came into being, where we get to empower other young upcoming ladies and gents who want to do that, either for a living or as a side hustle or as a hobby.
NOMPU SIZIBA: That’s very positive indeed. And what is it exactly that you teach them? Is it just to bake cakes, or the whole phenomenon of being an entrepreneur, running a business, and so on?
KHENSANI PETERS: It’s actually inclusive. I teach you how to make the cake, how to decorate it. But we also go on the business side of it and teach you how to price your cake, how to market your business, which marketing tools and platforms work best, and things like that. And maybe even the psychology of dealing with customers. Your customers have different attitudes. So it’s sort of like a more rounded approach, not just how to make cakes, but how to run the cake business, or how to deal with that environment that you went into.
NOMPU SIZIBA: We’ve heard horror stories, of course, around how badly small businesses were affected by the initial Coronavirus-related lockdown. What was your experience, and how soon was it before you were able to operate again?
KHENSANI PETERS: No one was allowed to work, and it was a welcome diversion for me because it’s been hectic before then. But after, when things came back to normal, not really normal, but when we came back, you would find a lot of people who were back at home found out that they had skills in themselves that they never knew they had, and they started baking and people bought their things. And then they realised that they really needed somebody to help them to expand their knowledge of making cakes.
So I really appreciate the fact that the business has been doing great, especially on the training side – and on the cake side. I just notice that South Africans love celebrating because, even during lockdown, they would be ordering cakes from Monday to the weekend. So I thank God. I really appreciate the fact that the business has been doing well in spite of everything that has been happening this year.
NOMPU SIZIBA: That’s positive. So some people out there may be seriously considering trying to open or run their own business. What would you say are the key ingredients in going down this route? Not just for cake making, but for anything. And what will help in ensuring that their venture remains sustainable?
KHENSANI PETERS: I think the main thing is you have to have a passion for it. Don’t do it because your friend is doing it. Don’t do it because you think somebody is making money out of it. You need to have passion when you start. It is a very saturated market. Almost everyone is admitting to it now. So when you start, you need to stay the course and really differentiate yourself and really find your uniqueness, so that you can attract the kind of market that you want to buy your type of cakes.
So be passionate to be rich, and stay the course. Everything in life is a process. If you start something and it booms, you must just stay the course if it’s really something that you know that you should be doing.
NOMPU SIZIBA: That was Khensani Peters, the founder of Ntshovelo Cakes and Ntshovelo Cake Academy