How Asiimwe baked her way into cake business

Lynette Asiimwe explains how she grew a childhood hobby into a paying job. PHOTOS/JOAN SALMON

What you need to know:

  • Lynette Asiimwe began baking in the evenings first for her family then for friends at a fee.
  • She would watch baking videos online to augment her skills. By 2021, she knew that she wanted to spend all her days baking. 165 5 1

It is passion, a desire to do more and better that oozes out of Lynette Asiimwe as she talks about her business. 

The baker of cakes and various pastries such as doughnuts, cookies, and cupcakes, officially started doing business in 2018 in her final semester because she was not ready to join the rat race for jobs.

Starting  
“I decided to get into the bakery world because many students have the mindset of getting a good paying job but there are way more people getting into the job market than the jobs available. I saw that coming and despite getting a 4.4 GPA, I did not want to run around for a job,” says Asiimwe. 

The graduate of food science and processing from Kyambogo University juggled school and business but says the foundation of food and nutrition from high school, made it less stressful. 
That said, the changes were only starting and the first was leaving her hostel room because it was illegal to bring in high power consuming appliances such as a cooker, and an oven. 

“I left to rent with friends that had finished university for two months before getting a place of my own that cost me transport worth Shs2,000 to get to campus. However, the hurdle with the new place was that they switched on power at 7:30am and off at 7:30pm. That forced me to shift my oven to my friend’s place who stayed nearer campus. But hell broke loose with the custodian because he was not in agreement with me working there. That made me think of ways to hide the ingredients to help my business survive,” she says. 

Inspiration 
Asiimwe would wake up as early as 5am to start work. “It is my joy to give people fresh foods, other than adding lots of preservatives for there are already many foods with them. So I chose to do it differently,” she explains.  

Despite the passion, school and business were not mates and she says if she had not persisted, chances are she would have let go, “Being in my final year, there was pressure from school. More to that, my skill was just growing so the output was not always that good. I owe a lot to a dear friend, Leah Nasasira, who was also my first customer for whom I made a two-tiered graduation cake worth Shs150,000. That is because while she was not exactly thrilled by the cake, she believed in me thus marketing for me among her friends who needed graduation cakes.” 

Today, Asiimwe has baked for most of Nasasira’s family who have repeatedly made orders with her. “The cakes I made back then cannot stand side by side with what I do today. I am humbled by her faith in m,”  Asiimwe explains. 

Pricing 
Pricing, unlike with other starter-ups was never Asiimwe’s problem for she made mental notes of the prices paid for cakes. “I also knew the size and flavours fit for a given amount of money. When in doubt, I would send my friends pictures of the desired cake for advice on how to price it,” she says.
Starting with Shs650,000 which was personal savings, Asiimwe bought nozzles, palette knives, baking paper, ingredients, and an oven at Shs400,000. 

“It was the largest oven in the smaller versions (50l) recommended to me by a baker friend. It is still with me to date,” she says. Asiimwe also bought a hand mixer which was Shs80,000 though it did not last long. 

Teaching others   
As she did her dissertation, she taught people how to bake, and though there was not much to offer, Asiimwe says teaching them about different recipes, such as how to make bread, earned her Shs100,000 per head. However, thereafter, she left campus and her students could not come as far as Mutungo a Kampala suburb, so orders reduced greatly. “This was one of the lowest times in baking and I started considering going abroad to teach English in Asia. I got a visa, having got a teaching opportunity but Covid 19 pandemic emerged and everything got mute,” she says. 

For three months, Asiimwe had no business until June when Rita, a friend, asked her to make two cakes. “I am grateful to my friend because it is such that pulled me back from the dumps,” she says. Asiimwe had also used this time to learn about different cake styles such as number cakes as well as perfect her recipes. Therefore, her creativity and finesse improved and once lockdown was lifted, she got several orders.

Save her foundation of food science, Asiimwe has not gone through training. “However, I am always researching, making it a point to learn something new every day. I go to YouTube, look at other bakers’ pages and if I can talk to them for clarity on anything, I do so to learn more.”

That said, when training bakers, Asiimwe reminds them it is their passion that will cause them to reach out to learn more. “The lessons only give you the basics.”

The self-taught baker says her clientele are those that love cake, anyone with a celebration, be it birthday, wedding, and anniversary. Asiimwe gets these mainly through social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and her WhatsApp status. “Referrals and word of mouth are also helpful and my neighbours have done a great job with the latter,” she says.

Victories
Asiimwe is thankful that today she has her own bakery which was made possible by the help of her parents. “Work on building the bakery started in July because I was now certain that I could still make it big in Uganda. I am very thankful for my parents’ support.”

She was also able to get another oven which came in handy as the work load increased. “I also got more mixers, and a fridge. Seeing myself grow is beautiful.” Several friendships have also been birthed, many of whom came through referrals. Asiimwe also got into other businesses such as floral sales. “I realised people love sending flowers alongside the cakes so with the floral business, I would give them a complete package. I also started rabbit farming.”

She has come to appreciate that you never know what each cake is going to do for you thus treating each cake that goes through my hands with respect. 

Patience 
But what sets Asiimwe apart from her competitors? “I take my time and make sure the ingredients I use are of best quality because baking cakes is a delicate venture,” she explains.
She says her secret to success is patience. “Patience has made me to be where I am. Besides patience, prayers. Putting God first and having a supportive family and friends has worked out wonders for me,” says Asiimwe.

Challenges 
She says sometimes she is not fully equipped to do a certain task. “For example, someone may want a cake to look a certain way yet I do not have the equipment to make it happen. That is a client and income lost,” says Asiimwe. 

Then there are clients that want the best on a budget. “While that is okay and sometimes it can be done, some do not want to appreciate that while they desire the best, I also need to make a profit.” Some clients are mean, rude and the like but Asiimwe has learned to always be calm, never matching up with their temper.

Starting out, Asiimwe wishes someone had told her that baking good cakes is not about getting into a baking school. “I have learned that it is about one’s creativity and giving thanks to God as it gives me strength even in the midst of storms. I wish I knew then, like I do now that tithing is important. From the time I started doing it, I have seen my business grow and give birth to other businesses,” she says. 

Future
The future is more pastries because she would like to supply really fancy things to her customers. “I would also like to supply schools, events, moving to becoming a brand that is associated with fresh and tasty treats,” she explains.

Lynette Asiimwe displays one of her product ready for sale. PHOTO/JOAN SALMON

Asiimwe would also like to open up branches in other parts of the country to bring her closer to the clients. “I have sent cake as far as Masaka and Seeta so opening branches there will also ease on transportation costs and ensure the cakes are intact.” She also hopes to open up a training centre.

Determination...Focus
 Lynette Asiimwe’s  business is seasonal. She had to learn to budget and spread her earnings to keep the business afloat during the rough months. Even with a booming business, she continued learning to perfect her art. She looked for other gaps in the trade and invested in them. 
 

Tips for starting small business 

You want to make sure you prepare thoroughly before starting a business, but realise that things will almost certainly go awry. To run a successful business, you must adapt to changing situations.
Conducting in-depth market research on your field and the demographics of your potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan.

This involves running surveys and holding focus groups.
Before you start selling your product or service, you need to build up your brand and get a following of people who are ready to jump when you open your doors for business.
Tasks such as naming the business and creating a logo are obvious, but what about the less-heralded, equally important steps? 

Whether it’s determining your business structure or crafting a detailed marketing strategy, the workload can quickly pile up. 
Rather than spinning your wheels and guessing at where to start, follow this 10-step checklist to transform your business from a light bulb above your head to a real entity.

Refine your idea
If you are thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell online, or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don’t (or deliver the same thing, only faster and cheaper), or you have got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan.
Regardless of which option you choose, it is vital to understand the reasoning behind your idea. 

Write a business plan
Once you have your idea in place, you need to ask yourself a few important questions: What is the purpose of your business? Who are you selling to? What are your end goals? How will you finance your startup costs? These questions can be answered in a well-written business plan. 
A lot of mistakes are made by new businesses rushing into things without pondering these aspects of the business. You need to find your target customer base. Who is going to buy your product or service? If you cannot find evidence that there’s a demand for your idea, then what would be the point?

Conduct market research
Conducting thorough market research on your field and demographics of potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan. This involves conducting surveys and holding focus groups.
Market research helps you understand your target customer – their needs, preferences and behavior – as well as your industry and competitors. 

Many small business professionals recommend gathering demographic information and conducting a competitive analysis to better understand opportunities and limitations within your market. 
The best small businesses have products or services that are differentiated from the competition. This has a significant impact on your competitive landscape and allows you to convey unique value to potential customers.

Assess your finances
Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you are going to cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you’re planning to leave your current job to focus on your business, do you have money put away to support yourself until you make a profit? It’s best to find out how much your startup costs will be. 

Many startups fail because they run out of money before turning a profit. It is never a bad idea to overestimate the amount of startup capital you need, as it can be a while before the business begins to bring in sustainable revenue. 

Perform a break-even analysis
One way you can determine how much money you need is to perform a break-even analysis. This is an essential element of financial planning that helps business owners determine when their company, product or service will be profitable.

Legal business structure

Before you can register your company, you need to decide what kind of entity it is. Your business structure legally affects everything from how you file your taxes to your personal liability if something goes wrong. 

Sole proprietorship. If you own the business entirely by yourself and plan to be responsible for all debts and obligations, you can register for a sole proprietorship. Be warned that this route can directly affect your personal credit.

Partnership. Alternatively, a business partnership, as its name implies, means that two or more people are held personally liable as business owners. You don’t have to go it alone if you can find a business partner with complementary skills to your own. It is usually a good idea to add someone into the mix to help your business flourish.

Choose your vendors
Running a business can be overwhelming, and you and your team probably aren’t going to be able to do it all on your own. That is where third-party vendors come in. Companies in every industry from HR to business phone systems exist to partner with you and help you run your business better. 

When you are searching for partners, you will have to choose carefully. These companies will have access to vital and potentially sensitive business data, so it’s critical to find someone you can trust. In our guide to choosing business partners, our expert sources recommend asking potential vendors about their experience in your industry, their track record with existing clients and what kind of growth they’ve helped other clients achieve.

Brand yourself and advertise

Before you start selling your product or service, you need to build up your brand and get a following of people ready to jump when you open your literal or figurative doors for business.

Company website. Take your reputation online and build a company website. Many customers turn to the internet to learn about a business, and a website is digital proof that your small business exists. It is also a great way to interact with current and potential customers.

Social media. Use social media to spread the word about your new business, perhaps as a promotional

tool to offer coupons and discounts to followers once you launch. The best social media platforms to utilise will depend on your target audience.

A well-thought-out email marketing campaign can do wonders for reaching customers and communicating with your audience. To be successful, you will want to strategically build your email marketing contact list.

Logo. Create a logo that can help people easily identify your brand, and be consistent in using it across all of your platforms.

Grow your business
Your launch and first sales are only the beginning of your task as an entrepreneur. To make a profit and stay afloat, you always need to be growing your business. It’s going to take time and effort, but you will get out of your business what you put into it- Source: businesspartnermagazine.com

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