At Trinity College Nabbingo, one had to select an optional subject and drop another once they were promoted to Senior Two. Agriculture, commerce, art and home management were the available options and the latter is what Vanessa Kiggundu opted for.
The subject had a wide range of topics and activities but baking became her drug from the first lesson she attended.
“From mixing, baking and decorating cakes, each time I looked at my finished product, I was proud of myself,” Kigundu recounts. Unfortunately, she could not carry on with the subject when she joined A-Level. But the lessons she attended for two years had laid a foundation of what is now a baking company called Stopncake. During her Senior Six vacation in 2014, Kiggundu discovered she had a lot of time on her hands. “I had a recipe book and I thought about baking again,” she says.
She would then start baking at home for her family and they liked what she baked. They constantly challenged her to think about making pastries and cakes for sale.
“My mother asked me to bake cakes and take them to her office to sell to her workmates. I baked thrice that week and sold off all the cakes. I was overwhelmed with joy,” she says. It was then that she decided to turn her hobby into a hustle.
Besides connecting her to clients at her workplace, Kigundu’s mother also gave her Shs300,000 to procure ingredients she needed to get the business started.
Kigundu later joined Makerere University Business School and graduated with a Bachelors in Business Administration, but this milestone was not enough to push her into searching for white collar jobs. She had discovered a source of income in the comfort of her home.
She makes customised muffins and cupcakes that go at a rate of Shs25,000 for six and Shs50,000 for a dozen. There are also bigger cakes that range from Shs55,000 depending on the size and design. All those can guarantee her Shs500,000 on a good day.
But her university degree has not gone to waste. Kiggundu majored in marketing and it has helped her sell her products. “I offer freebies to people who then share feedback. I get clients through referrals and social media,” she says.
Her products can be seen on Instagram: stop_n_cake_ug, Facebook: Stop N’ Cake and Twitter: Stopncakeug. “The market is available but the competition is stiff. It appears everyone is into baking and penetrating the market does not come easy,” Kigundu adds.
It has been six years of baking, a journey she does not regret. “Being able to earn money is my greatest achievement. Having the ability to pay some home bills and fund a soft life for myself is an accomplishment,” she highlights her gains from the trade.
Baking has also taught her what it takes to run a business and meetingtargets. “Baking is more like an exercise. Most of the time, I am up and running, from baking to making deliveries, a lot is involved,” she says.
From power blackouts, untrustworthy clients to delivery glitches, Kigundu says it has been a rollercoaster. “Some clients default on payments even after cakes have been delivered and enjoyed. Sometimes, I am baking and power goes off. All that translates into losses,” she says. Sometimes she also gets overwhelmed on days where she has many deliveries to make.
Kiggundu has resorted to asking her clients to make 50 per cent upfront payment to confirm orders, with the balance coming after the delivery. This is her way of avoiding losses. She also uses a charcoal oven whenever power goes off. She also bought a car to facilitate bulk deliveries.
The profits and challenges have all come with lessons. “Patience, humility and customer care are key, if you are to successfully run a baking business,” she says.
Despite the progress, Kiggundu keeps learning more about baking every single day by attending classes or getting information from the internet. “You can only get better as a businesswoman if you spend time learning better ways of doing what you do. Complacency is dangerous for any business,” she responds when asked whether there is a moment she felt like she had mastered the art.