I treat my business like a baby
While some people wait to accumulate large amounts of money to start a business, Mercy Kyarisiima started with basics such as flour, blueband, eggs, sugar and an oven. She kept buying things when she made some money from orders.
Lovers of good cake know it takes the right measurements, but most importantly, one’s heart in the cake making process to achieve a perfect product.
After several months of trying and failing and trying again, the self-taught baker, Mercy Kyarisiima, finally got it and has never looked back.
Hers is also a story of self-discovery. After years of working in the banking field, fate led Kyarisiima to discover her hidden potential.
“Around April 2018, I had my second child, who was a preterm baby and by the time my maternity leave was done, my baby was just starting to grow and still needed care and attention. I thought about it and decided to stay home and take care of her. So, I quit my job,” she explains.
Amidst challenges of taking care of a delicate child, she found comfort in cake making and gradually became drawn to the art. “It became therapeutic for me and I decided to teach myself,” says Kyarisiima.
She sought guidance from her friends who were into baking to teach her some basics. As luck would have it, her sister was pursuing a course in confectionery. She seized the opportunity by asking her what she had learnt from school and severally, they did practicals together at home.
“While I would have wanted to go to a confectionery institute, I didn’t have the time to do that. YouTube was useful, but my experience taught me better and by March 2019, I was ready enough to receive orders,” she recalls.
She officially opened up Marsella’s Cake Addiction, dealing in all kinds of occasional cakes, cookies and currently learning other pastries.
While some people wait to accumulate large amounts of money to start a business, Kyarisiima started with basics such as flour, blueband, sugar and an oven.
“If I needed to measure 500gm, I would look around the house for a container of the same measurement. I just kept buying things one by one when I made some money from an order. My husband too was very supportive and would help me purchase some of the equipment,” she adds.
Her primary marketing strategy was and still is word of mouth: telling friends, family, neighbours, former workmates, friends of friends, and people in her circles about her cakes.
The other marketing channel she has capitalised on is social media, especially Facebook and Instagram. She got her first wedding cake order from a couple in Kasese. The starting price for her cakes is Shs80,000, depending on the cake type and what the customer wants. Normally, she got about five orders a week, making about Shs400,000. However, since coronavirus broke out, the business environment is quite unpredictable.
Her best cake is a 40-tier wedding cake that had more than eight give away cakes of different flavours. She has baked wedding cakes, introduction cakes, baptism cakes and anniversary cakes, among others. One of the things that keeps her going are the customers who make orders with intriguing cake designs or images. “Baking calls for creativity,” says Kyarisiima.
“For the bigger part of 2019, I used the money I got from orders to buy tools for the cake art and design, ingredients and machines. I didn’t have to go to the bank to take a loan, to reinvest and grow my business.
She says the short time she has been in business, she has trained two other women, who have since kickstarted their businesses.
Working from home means she shares space with her family, which makes it difficult sometimes to separate what is for business and what is for home use.
In addition to this are logistical challenges. Since her workshop is based at home with no convenient location for clients to pick their orders, she has to deliver to their homes.
“Some clients don’t want to incur delivery expenses. On the other hand, moving the cake also puts it at risk of being damaged during transportation,” says Kyarisiima.
But for a mother like her, this has given her time to watch her children grow and also pass on the values and business skills to them as they watch her do the baking. She is also able to work at her own pace and multitask.
“My approach to business is that it is like a baby. It is born so little and it needs time to understand, watch it make baby steps, make mistakes and learn from them. Sometimes I take weeks without any orders but patience and positivity are key in business,” she says.
Kyarisiima plans to have a pastries shop away from home that serves coffee, fresh juice, cakes and other pastries.
Lucy Kiiza, who owns Lucie’s Cake Fairy, was trained by Kyarisiima . “I had always been watching her work and helping her sometimes. However, when the university was closed, I wanted to focus on something beneficial and after several times of watching her work, my interest in baking grew and I asked her to teach me. She took me through how the business works,” she says.