Diversification key to survival in catering industry amid COVID – CEO Henriemaccakes
Mark Henrietta Ogochukwu is the creative director of Henriemaccakes and a cake blogger, popularly known as ‘Cakeitwithhenrietta’ and also a host for Bake&Earn(An online cake seminar program). In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE, she speaks on how bakers can diversify amid the economic downturn and the impact of COVID.
How has the baking experience done for you since you started?
It has been an amazing experience with mistakes made and lessons learnt. When I started baking eight years ago, I was focused entirely on the passion aspect of it instead of building a brand out of it.it resulted in years of toiling with no gain. I saw baking as a passion instead of a business. I believe passion should be earning you money as well. It is not about knowing how to bake or being in the business for years but it’s about being at the top of what you do with the money in your account. I made a lot of mistakes when I started but those mistakes have helped me become a better person today.
What were some of the mistakes you made when you started and how will you advise young bakers in the business?
There was no accountability. I was just selling but I was not making money. I was making different kinds of cakes for the same prices. As a cake baker, you should have a book/receipt for expenses and orders taken. Expenses should be written down. If you are taking money out and there is no accountability, then you are not running a business. The second mistake I made was a lack of the professional aspect of baking. People should learn to set boundaries when it comes to doing business. Stop giving clients excuses. They need their jobs done at the time you promised. Be professional. Many people are government-induced bakers. I studied Industrial Chemistry. Baking was the least of the things I wanted to do with my life but when I stumbled on baking, it grew as a passion. I made mistakes but I ended up going back to baking because it is something I do with passion. As you bake, you need to know your area of specialisation. Create a niche for yourself. Attend upgrade cake and business classes.
What sets your brand apart from others?
I believe the needs of clients have to come first. What I do is to first of all understand my clients. I always aim at what I can do to be better than I was yesterday and no comparison with other baker’s journey and I also upgrade my skills daily, you stop growing when you stop learning…When I see those who are doing well in the business, I approach them and ask them to teach me.
Who are your target markets?
I bake cakes for everyone who wants to get value for their money. I bake for women, for men and for organisations. Like I mentioned earlier, I am a baker and also a cake blogger which comes with influencing for companies relating to the job.. I recently partnered with Canon company on cake printers for bakers. I am also partnering with Nutrichem and I work with some travel agents as an influencer. We plan to have the bakers rest trip soon.
Catering business is one of the businesses impacted by COVID as events are no longer held as usual. How have you been able to survive this period?
This is how Bake and Earn was introduced. As a result of covid-19, we had to go digital because everything is moving online. It is not a time when we host physical events. During the Bake and Earn seminar, which will be held on March 19th -21st 2021, we will have different bakers teach people virtually. What bakers just need is their phones and a good internet connection to learn from the comfort of their homes ..Covid is making us diversify into other things. We have to move with the system. Everyone is trying to stay safe. You can’t do a physical event where you have 100 bakers turn up. We have to be alive to make cakes. A lot of bakers are baking but are not earning money. During the seminar, speakers will speak on cake recipes, tutorials and the cake business itself. For the first edition, we had 19 Cake instructors from Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana and registered students from Tanzania,USA, Australia, Ghana, Morocco, Botswana and Austria. This year, we hope to have bakers from more countries.
I advise bakers to try to make things easier for clients. As COVID and economic downturn bites, we had to diversify to making foil cakes and cupcakes that are budget-friendly. We also started doing more of deliveries. You have to stay in business by considering the rich, the average and even the poor. We make cakes for everyone no matter how low your budget may seem. People should also consider doing online courses because a lot of bakers want to learn.
How do you balance making quality cakes with a low budget?
Good cakes are not cheap, so we have to find a way to explain to our clients the situation of things. Flour and sugar are very expensive. I cannot reduce the quality, so we include the costs we incur in the prices of products.
Apart from COVID, what other challengers are bakers faced with?
The major challenge we have in Nigeria is electricity. We make cream cakes every day and we have to put them in the fridge. So, all my profits go into buying diesel and fuel. If we solve the problem of electricity in this country, the cost of cakes will go down significantly. The government needs to empower upcoming bakers by providing flour and sugar as palliatives. This business can reduce unemployment if the government can invest in catering and also Cake relating items company to invest on Cake bloggers for their product influencing after all we bakers are the main users of their products and can share passionately or rather convey the message clearly to their target audience