Yesterday, I went to visit a friend. We chatted for a while and she offered me cake. I said ’em… who baked it?’ and after she replied I proceeded to tell her about how picky I am about cakes and why.

There’s a whole story here. My mother taught all her daughters to bake. In retrospect, she did a good thing by making us acquire this skill because it has come in handy not just for birthdays, Christmas celebrations and other occasions; it has been a tool for survival.

You see, when I gained admission into the university my mum had recently moved to Abuja. We still had our home to maintain in Calabar and being a civil servant, that wasn’t an easy task for her. I had two other siblings in university so you can imagine, finances were spread thin.

I didn’t have the usual pre-university shopping for clothes, shoes, and other supplies. She paid all my fees, gave me pocket money, and that was it. I wore hand-me-downs from my sisters who were bigger than me so I used to say no one should try hugging me because if they did, they risked getting pricked by one of the pins I used to hold those clothes in place.

Thankfully, my self esteem was at an all time high. It didn’t even cross my mind to compare my clothes with what others wore. Schooling in Northern Nigeria also helped, I guess. We had a handful of people who wore kaftans, bubus, and outfits made from Ankara and other African fabrics, so not much pressure.

By the time lecturers started demanding that we buy handouts, I knew I had a problem. My mum sent money from time to time but it was not enough. I first attempted to sell Bic biros but sales were slow and the profit marginal. Some friends and I applied for a scholarship and got it. That helped a lot and things also got better at home over time so I enjoyed myself for a while but in my final year there were some admin issues and we didn’t get paid. At first I didn’t feel it but about the same time, my mum retired.

Retirement? I didn’t know what to expect so I kept on as if nothing had changed until one day, a friend of mine who had gone to Abuja returned with a question from my mum that was a reality check. ‘What did she do with the money I sent to her a few weeks ago?’ At this point, I gave myself a lecture. ‘Your mother has retired. Cash flow has reduced. You must not give her reason to worry or put her under pressure by continuing to ask for money’.

I began to think – what can I do to earn money? What do I know how to do very well? Biros didn’t work. I knew very soon I would be faced with project expenses. I had to find a stream of income… Aha! Cakes! I knew how to make cakes.

To be continued….

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