Aha! Cakes! I knew how to make cakes.
Good enough, a kind gesture towards helping a friend make her birthday more memorable had led me to buy the basic cake decorating kit while I still had money. So I thought – if I could make her birthday cake for free and it came out so well, why can’t I do the same for others and get paid?
I designed and printed flyers, and after some weeks of having them in my locker, a friend of mine named Oge, said ‘We have to put them up this night. What are you waiting for?’ So together, we posted all the flyers at strategic locations around campus. It was about a week to February 14, St. Valentine’s Day.
The next night, some guy came to my window. Guys weren’t allowed into female hostels; that restriction came with the territory. He said he wanted a Valentine cake for his sweetheart. He went on and on about how he wanted to make her feel special. I told him the price; he agreed and said he would be back on Feb 13 to pick the cake.
Excited about my first order, I went shopping for consumables and made an extra cake in case someone swung by for a last minute ‘make my babe happy’ solution. Feb 13 came and the guy didn’t show up. What was I going to do? Bongzie, another friend, put a quick end to my misery when she suggested that we sell the cakes at a supermarket in town. We were able to sell one and on Feb 15, she said, ‘We can’t lose the money for this second cake. Let’s cut it up and sell it off piece by piece’. I agreed, and she went from room to room shouting ‘delicious chocolate cake… have a piece. Fifty naira only’ until every piece was sold. With her help, I earned more money than I would have if it was sold as a whole. Now I think about it again. Without these two friends, I may not have overcome those challenges I faced at start up.
I documented the lessons learned from this experience and restrategized accordingly. I offered smaller cake sizes that students could easily afford, took down contact details for each client and didn’t proceed with any order until a down payment was made by the client as a show of commitment.
Orders began to trickle in and I applied my engineering skills in designing colorful cake boxes and in replicating a gas fired oven such that my cakes, though baked in a pot, tasted and had the aroma of oven baked cake. That gave me an advantage and drew more clients to me.
Eventually, I had to maintain a log to enable me track all my orders. I planned my days and weeks in advance to enable me manage my time well and keep from negatively impacting my academic performance. I bought materials in bulk and made additional earnings from retailing eggs and renting out my large pot. My visits to the bank were now more for deposits than withdrawals. I gradually became financially independent and it felt good. I also enjoyed helping people out from time to time when they had a financial need and when it was time to deal with research project related expenses, there was no anxiety.
I maintained this art as a main or side income stream for a while after graduating from the university. I’m ever so thankful to my mum for teaching me to bake and to God for wisdom, strategy, good friends and prosperity.
What skills are you passing on to your kids and younger relatives?
Who are your friends? Do they make you better and vice versa?