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Women all over the world are breaking boundaries and stereotype beliefs, from banking to the  tech sector, the Covid19 pandemic has made our gender more creative, and avail them the opportunity to think outside the box. Ncumisa Mkabile didn’t just break the glass ceiling with her success story, she also broke the  chain of male dominance in the Agricultural sector in South Africa.

This amazing farmer was forced  to shutdown her African cuisine  takeaway business during the thick of the pandemic in March 2020, and she needed to think of a plan, so she started selling chicken and doing door to door deliveries.

When she started out, she was buying it from a supplier but when she saw the demand was high she started growing her own and supplying people who would also like to start their own business.

She said she drew her inspiration from her family responsibilities: “I drew my inspiration from the responsibilities I have at home, because I need to provide for my son and mother,” says Ncumisa.

The inspiring farmer shares her story in this interview

Childhood Influence

I grew up in the rural areas in the Eastern Cape Cofimvaba with both parents and 5 siblings. I grew up exposed to farming but my family were not farmers I’m the first farmer in my family and that has also inspired my mother to start farming in the Eastern Cape.

Why I Started Selling Poultry

I had responsibilities at home I had to look for a way for me to generate income again, that is how we entrepreneurs think and operate instead of looking at the problem, we find a solution to the problem and I believe if you have a strong WHY it’s impossible for you to give up because your why keeps you going.

Inspiration Behind My Farming Career

Farming is a male dominated industry so I wanted to break that chain, I wanted the youth more especially females to see that they can also make a living out of farming.

My Day To Day Activities

I wake up at 06h00 just to plan my day and go to the farm to check if everything is in order, then if I have deliveries I do those deliveries. My day usually ends at 22h00 latest.

Challenges
It’s very challenging more especially when you don’t have a mentor or someone to coach you because I gather my information from the internet, because I’m a risk taker. I decided to start and told myself I’ll learn along the way. Farming is like any other job if you love what you do and are passionate, you will make it work no matter what because I believe each and every business has it’s challenges.

A More Personal Challenge Currently
I don’t have an irrigation system I’m using watering cans.
Not having enough land to produce as much as I would like to produce to meet the demand of the community.
Not having transport to do deliveries

My Advice To Any Woman Looking To Start This Role?
Start small with what you have and gradually grow. Don’t wait on the government to fund but give the government something to work with.

One Woman Who Inspires Me To Be Better And Why?
Nomzamo Mbata.
Nomzamo is a risk taker, she goes after what she wants, and doesn’t limit herself. She’s showing every child that it is possible to reach your goals she’s just taking up space and living no stone unturned.

As a Woman of Rubies
What makes me a Woman of Rubies is the fact that I’m breaking generational curses, I’m showing the Youth in my community that it is possible and we are capable.

 

There are so many amazing amazons changing lives, adding value to the society, and building the Nation, and Adedolapo Osuntunyi is one of them.

Adedolapo  is the founder and president of Dolly Children Foundation, a non-governmental organization focused on improving the plight of indigent children in Nigeria through Education; emphasis on quality education for all.

She is a fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), West Africa Regional Centre, a US Government Initiative. The desire to start a foundation like this came in secondary school after reading her classmate’s story featured in a newspaper; during the anniversary of the NGO that took care of her from childhood.

This story, as well as other close experiences, motivated Adedolapo to start Dolly Children Foundation (DCF) on April 13, 2006, during her undergraduate years at the University.

Adedolapo graduated from the prestigious University of Central Lancashire, Preston UK, with a masters degree in Child Health & Social Care. She obtained an Africa – America Institute Scholarship to study Social Sector Management Course at the Enterprise Development Centre, Pan – Atlantic University.

She has gained experience in child protection, early childhood and community development programs and over 5000 children in 22 communities have benefitted through various interventions of the organization.

Some of her foundation’s amazing feat;

Reading Clubs
Our weekly reading club meetings which hold in the public primary schools and the communities we serve. Children are encouraged to read at least a book per term. Also, they are expected to learn new words, act drama, compose and develop their own thoughts from every book read.

The reading materials and educational activities carried out in the clubs are initiatives that inspire excellence, leadership and increase their literacy abilities.

This initiative has resulted in a marked improvement in the interest of children towards reading and has improved their ability to express themselves.

Sponsorship Programmes
The Sponsor A Child program has assisted children whose parents lack the financial backbone to support their schooling. I must say here that most of the children we sponsor have either lost a parent or both or are caregivers to their parents. Before our intervention, these children were unable to access desired and quality education which hindered their learning processes. Over the past year, DCF has provided sponsorship inform of educational aid and welfare to these children.

Back To School Initiative
Basic educational tools, school uniforms, shoes, bags etc have been provided to children with financial needs by the Foundation.

The initiative has also helped in bringing out – of – school children back to school by covering tuition fees, and needs.

This has helped to motivate over 5000 children to go back to school, as well as boost their confidence, and participation in school activities.

Training and Workshops for Public Primary School Teachers

In the past year, over 70 teachers and still counting have been trained in DCF workshops. Workshops and training sessions are organized for teachers to bring them up to date on 21st-century teaching methods.

These workshops have focused on topics like Numeracy made easy, 21st-century teaching methods, phonics, understanding your learner, managing diversity in your classroom e.t.c

After School And Summer School Tutoring Programmes
Our extra tutoring programmes which are available after school and during the summer break is targeted to help children from low – income backgrounds that are lagging behind academically.

Our motive behind these interventions is to engage the children in academic exercises that would effectively improve their academic performance, reduce child labor, and child abuse. Child laborers, street children, and dropouts have especially benefitted from this program since inception.

School Building Projects
School rebuilding is a project we took on from 2015 where we refurbish public primary schools with dilapidated structures.

We move into these outdated facilities to upgrade and equip them with the necessary educational materials and infrastructures. Thus far, a block of four classes, a staff office, library, and store have been built from scratch.

The project estimates to provide a healthy learning environment for over 1000 children by the end of 2018.

The bottom line here is that no child should be left behind. Our approach to these interventions is a holistic one whereby children lagging behind in school would catch in our reading clubs, if they are not catching up in the reading clubs, they would catch up in our after-school and summer programs, if they still need support, they would get it through our back to school initiatives.

We celebrate Adedolapo for her passion for humanity, and affinity for change.

 

Odunayo Aliu is  the Founder and Director of Bramble Network an organisation creating alternative learning spaces where children from low economic background in rural communities can have access to quality education.

Odunayo had a vision for a world where all children have access to quality education irrespective of their geographic location or socioeconomic background and that was why she founded the organisation which focuses on the physical, emotional, mental and social development of children in these communities.

Its Bramble Learning Space helps children find their passion for learning, through play and use of creative resources. It is designed to support diverse learning styles and takes children through artistic expressions, communication, scientific thinking, sports and various bodies of knowledge they choose to explore.

The organisation also runs a community reading room – Bramble Reading Room – where children of all ages, from various socio-economic backgrounds, reading together or listening to another child read a story.

Bramble is also creating a network of educators that will change the educational space in Nigeria from the grassroots. It is building a community of passionate and committed educators who will be trained by Bramble on how to implement unconventional learning methods in the marginalised areas of Nigeria.

Odunayo is also the President of The Love Letters Child Support Initiative, a community based child right organisation mobilising educational aid for children in rural communities.

Odunayo has a bachelors degree in Biology Education from Obafemi Awolowo University and studied Leadership and Social Work from Kanthari Institute of Social Change. She’s also an Ashoka Changemaker and a 2019/20 fellow of the LEAP Africa Social Innovators Program.

We celebrate Odunayo for her work in providing  access to education for kids in underserved communities.

Navigating life through one of the most historically devastating events of our time can seem impossible. Still, this sharp-witted social media maven has held the world in her palms (literally) and made a pandemic work in her favor. Danielle Paulo is the owner of Creative Haus LLC, a multi-million dollar all-female digital marketing agency, at just 28 years old.

As the closing of businesses struck panic into those around her, Paulo knew that this was the confirmation she needed to turn her passion for social media and digital marketing into a profit. With community being an important aspect of her life, aiding businesses in converting their online presence into sales are what created the spark into Creative Haus — making it a home of creativity, comradeship, and compassion.

Paulo’s deep connection and ties with service and fellowship within her life have contributed to the work she does daily for those around her. 20% of her personal earnings towards community service. So far Creative Haus has been able to feed over 500 homeless veterans on Christmas and New Years’, providing meals including soup, coffee, water, and hygienic essentials using company finances. They have also been able to pay for rent assistance for families in the church who were struggling during COVID, and have provided over 100 PPE items to a small hospital in Los Angeles.

While the Arabica beans at local coffee shops sit brewing under hot water, Danielle has been up and moving since 5 am, bringing the steam as she meets with clients so she can end her busy workdays around 6 pm. Her drive is her alarm clock, and her purpose is her strength to get through each day. Although she may make a load of building a successful company from the ground seem easy to carry on the timeline, she’s here to tell you how she gracefully handles her struggles and successes behind the scenes.

“Taking that leap of faith was definitely terrifying at first, especially in the middle of a pandemic. But I knew that a 9-5 job wasn’t for me and I have always told myself life is too short to be stuck in a job you hate.”

Danielle admits that her biggest fear in starting something new was not being able to expand, dreading that she would feel stagnant taking on her own agency. While social media and digital marketing had been under her belt for about 10 years, she’d never done freelance. She took a leap from security from her stable, high-paying job to a decision made solely on the faith she had in herself and the love she had for her craft.

Although through that leap, she secured a team of women who are always there to advocate for her when things seem to get dark. Paulo says that to keep herself from falling into her own doubts, she made sure to not think too far ahead, and take things one step at a time. Her tip to staying afloat amid the hustle and bustle is to allow yourself space and time to unplug.

“I wanted to start a business because at my last job I didn’t get a break at all. I needed time to focus on my own mental and physical health. It’s actually funny that I say that, because now that I have my own business I actually work MORE hours. But because it is for me, I am more passionate and the work is more rewarding.”

Paulo emphasizes that self-care is an essential task in any work-place, whether self-employed or not. In order to put 100% into your own work, you have to make sure that you are recharging yourself. She also makes sure to pour the same love, care, and patience that she has for herself into her team. Ensuring that all her employees exercise their creative freedom through projects that feel like their own has contributed to the success of Creative Haus in such a short amount of time.

“My goal was to never be a “boss”, I just want to be able to build a space where other creatives can be in charge of their own projects and basically be their own boss. It was never my dream to be a business owner, I just knew I never wanted anyone to tell me what to do. I trust my team to do good work. And because of their good work, I know our clients will always be happy and there will be revenue to fall back on.”

Her goal of fostering a space where creatives are allowed to do the things that they love has been wavering within her mind since she was younger. She was a playground for innovation, falling head over heels for the arts and the things that influenced culture the most. She knew that she would be the one to break traditions in her family, becoming a trailblazer for her own lineage.

“ I grew up in an immigrant household, they came from the Philippines for me to have a better future. There is this stereotype that Filipinos have to be a nurse or a doctor, but since my parents were so young, I told them early on that I didn’t want to go the traditional route.

I applied to fashion school when I was a senior in high school. I was interning in the fashion industry when I was only 18-19 years old. My parents never expected me to follow the traditional account, but they always told me that if I did not have a stable job after two years, I would have to go back to school to do nursing.”

Now, Danielle has the luxury of doing what makes her happy. Though she appreciates basking in her success, she does not want to overlook the things she had to sacrifice to be where she is today. As she recounts the countless hours spent building her brand, Paulo also remembers missing out on quality time with her loved ones and sacrificing many job offers. She’s had quite a journey to the top and is always keen on being transparent about her day to day struggles.

“I’ve failed multiple times. One of the biggest hardships was within the first 3 months, I was sued. I didn’t file the business name/license correctly so it actually affected my taxes. It was difficult for me to inquire about a business loan during a pandemic. When I was seeking sponsorships and investors, no one trusted an unknown agency. Considering that I also do not have a partner, I’ve had to do this all myself. Going through the trials and errors and learning from my mistakes has helped me grow. I knew failure was not an option because there was no way in hell I was going to go back to my previous job.

I wish more business owners would be more honest about their day to day stresses and worries. Along with the times, we do fail day today.”

Even though she does not want to glamorize overworking, she wants aspiring business owners to know that it is not an easy task to build your own company.

“I want to clarify that there is a difference between hard-working and being efficient. Especially during the pandemic, everyone was pressuring people to start a business and make money in other ways. This stigma is something I always hated growing up and still do. Just because you are not a business owner does not mean you are not successful in your own way.”

Along with advocating for any working woman, Danielle created the Creative Haus Agency with the intent to motivate the women who do dream to start businesses of their own. She knows that being part of an industry that is male-dominated can be quite intimidating at times, but doesn’t want that intimidation or the fear of failure to hold any woman back. As a company, Creative Haus brands itself as all-female and with a mission to support other women. Paulo states that until women get paid the same and there is no pay discrepancy between a man and a woman, she will always hire a woman over a man. With this experience, she wants to steer women away from feeling discouraged from pursuing their goals simply because there aren’t too many of us doing it.

Reflecting on her past and present has taught Danielle to appreciate all she has been through. And as she highlights that the road to becoming (SHE)EO was never easy, she wants others that plan to walk in the footsteps of many great, hard-working women to know that “taking risks comes with its challenges, but it also comes with its rewards.”

Source: Baucemag

Tolu Adeleke-Aire is the CEO and founder of ToluTheMidwife. She is an internationally trained, dual-qualified healthcare professional. Tolu is an accomplished senior midwife and nurse. Tolu has over ten years of clinical and management experience.

She completed an MSc in Healthcare Management, after which she worked with the reputable UCL (Department of Nutrition).

Tolu founded ToluTheMidwife to create a holistic experience for families. One that included preparing, supporting and empowering expectant parents as they transition to parenthood. She does this through evidence-based health education.

One parent at a time, Tolu is living her business mantra, “save a mother, save a child, save a community.”

Tolu  is a dual certified Nurse and Midwife with over ten years nursing and midwifery experience from hospitals in England and Guernsey. She has cared for and delivered over 1000 mothers and babies.

While still working in England, Tolu visited Nigeria often because she always wanted to move back. During one of these visits, she read an article about the atrocious maternal and neonatal mortality rates. She instantly became obsessed. She struggled to understand why so many women die just because they are having a baby. Upon further research, she discovered many women lack basic evidence-based health education. As a result, she created Tolu the Midwife to fill this gap, with the hopes of saving mothers, babies, and communities.

Prior to relocating to Nigeria, Tolu completed an MSc in Healthcare Management and worked with the University College, London (Department of Nutrition) as a (Band 8) Research Midwife studying breastmilk, the nutrients within and factors which affect and contribute to mothers achieving their breastfeeding goals.

Tolu has a B.Sc in Registered Nursing from Middlesex University and another in Midwifery from the University of Hertfordshire.

In a bid to provide holistic care and support, Tolu also started antenatal classes just for men, #DadsAntenatalNg. Also, upon her return to Nigeria, Tolu was shocked and heartbroken to discover new mothers in Nigeria barely have any professional postnatal support, she decided to host a postnatal support group – Mums & Bubs Brunch

In 2019, Tolu won the Nigerian Healthcare Excellence Award for Nursing and Midwifery Excellence.

We celebrate Tolu for her contribution to reducing maternal and neonatal mortality in Nigeria through her holistic system.

Forever First Lady Michelle Obama is being inducted into the U.S. National Women’s Hall of Fame

The organization released a statement announcing the induction, noting Obama’s influence as the first Black First Lady and her tireless advocacy for women and girls. During her two terms in the White House, Obama established Let’s Move!, an organization centered around ending childhood obesity, the Joining Forces organization supporting veterans, and Let Girls Learn, which supported the education of adolescent girls.

In addition to her humanitarian work, Obama also released ”Becoming,” the best-selling memoir in 2018, and won the 2020 Grammy for Best Spoken Word album. 

The National Women’s Hall of Fame said Obama’s induction was due to her being an, “Advocate, author, lawyer, and 44th First Lady of the United States – the first Black person to serve in the role – Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most influential and iconic women of the 21st century. During her eight years as First Lady, Michelle Obama helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, transforming the White House into the ‘People’s House.’ Since leaving the White House, she has continued to have a profound public impact.” 

Obama is set to be inducted alongside the late iconic science fiction author Octavia E. Butler and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who are both receiving posthumous inductions. 

The U.S. National Women’s Hall of Fame ceremony will take place in person on October 2, 2021, at the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. 

Congratulations, Mrs. Obama!

Photo Courtesy of OprahMag

Brehanna Daniels has made history as the first Black woman in NASCAR’s pit crew as a tire changer.

27-year-old Daniels never envisioned a career in NASCAR racing, much less as a pit crew member. During her senior year of college at Norfolk State University, a random chance allowed her to try out for the pit crew, and she’s been in love ever since.

“I was sitting in the cafeteria, mid-bite of my Chick-fil-A sandwich, when my friend from the school’s athletic department, Tiffany, tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey, NASCAR is holding tryouts for their pit crews on Wednesday, you should go.’ I looked at her like, ‘Girl, I don’t even watch NASCAR,’” Daniels recalled. 

A basketball point guard, Daniels pursued the opportunity, eventually being invited to join NASCAR’s pit crew member program after graduating in 2016. Her mere presence marked a shift for the historically white male sport. Out of almost 3,000 NASCAR drivers who have made it to the Cup level, only 16 have been women. It wasn’t even until 2013 that NASCAR got its first woman as a pit crew member. In 2017, Daniels made history as the first Black woman to work the pit crew for a NASCAR race, and in 2019 she became the first Black woman to work the pit crew for the Daytona 500 race. 

“God couldn’t have picked anybody else better to do the job. It takes a strong person to be able to make that change…knowing the history of NASCAR and the faces people are used to seeing on the track. Even though I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t know how I would be judged or looked at, I’m like, ‘You know what? Somebody has to do this, and I guess I’m going to be the one to do this,” Daniels told reporters.

On February 14th and 15th, Daniels worked the 63rd annual Daytona 500, making history as one of just three women working for the pit crew alongside Breanna O’Leary and Dalanda Ouendeno. Only five years into a historic run, Daniels is already reflecting on the weight of her presence in the sport. 

“At first, I think a lot of people were like, ‘She’s not doing it for real; she’s just here for show.’ But obviously, I got sent to the track to do my job, and I can do it well; otherwise, I wouldn’t have gotten here,” Daniels said.

Congratulations, Brehanna!

Photo Courtesy of @Mindless_BMD/Twitter

Source: Becauseofthemwecan

Habiba Ali, the founder/CEO of Sosai Renewable Energies Company, a social enterprise set up to meet the energy needs of rural communities. The company strives to promote the use of affordable and reliable renewable energy products that improve rural livelihoods.

Habiba wanted to solve the problems associated with indoor air pollution especially with women, some facing inefficient fires constantly inhaling an equivalent of 2 packs of cigarettes, that’s why she founded Sosai Renewable Energies Company.

The company, based in Kaduna, Nigeria, provides renewable energy products like solar lamps, water purifiers and solar panels, as well as improved cooking stoves. The company also provides energy consulting services to help bring clean, renewable energy solutions to Nigeria’s budding communities.

In its effort to to have successful women energy entrepreneurs in every community in the North, Habiba established the Matan Arewan Sosai (Women of the North for Excellence) platform with a mission to strengthen the capacity of women in northern Nigeria on the production, sales, service and installation of renewable energy products, empowering them to contribute their quota to support their families and ensure progress towards the sustainable development goals.

Habiba also co-founded the Developmental Association for Renewable Energies (DARE), and is a member of the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air and the Nigerian Energy Network.

Habiba is a 2019 Global Leadership Honoree, 2018 WE Empower Honoree (addressing Sustainable Development Goals 1 (no poverty), 7 (affordable and clean energy) and 10 (reduced inequality),) a VV GROW Fellow and a Global Ambassador Program Mentee. She’s also won the UNDP/BOI Access to Renewable Energies award in 2012; the United Nations South-South Development award in 2013; the DFID Solar Nigeria award in 2016; and the USADF award for Powering Africa 2017.

Habiba was named a Cherie Blaire mentee in 2016 and is a graduate of the Cherie Blaire Road to Business Growth program. She has also been named a Vital Voices GROW fellow, a Vital Voices Global Ambassador’s Program mentee and a World Bank WomenX fellow.

Habiba has a bachelors degree in Accounting and Finance from Bayero University, Kano, a masters in the same discipline from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria as well as certificates in social entrepreneurship, community development and sustainable development.

We celebrate Habiba for contributing her quota to making clean energy accessible to rural areas, while empowering women in these communities in the process. We’re rooting for her and her team.

Source: Bellanaija

 

Beauty Kumesine, the founding Executive Director of Blazing Heart Autism Center (BHAC), an orgnanisation providing the highest quality therapy for autistic children as well as support for their families.

We cannot deny the fact that caring for kids/people with special needs is a huge task in this part of the world with some people seeing it as a burden due to cultural beliefs, but not Beauty. Since 2007, Beauty has been advocating for individuals living with Autism Spectrum Disorders, giving quality holistic non-evasive interventions.

Beauty had always loved children but she has a deeper connection with children who find it difficult to express themselves or do not “act like” their mates. She decided she wanted to understand them  and the reason they do what they do, when they do it and how they do it.

Beauty spent 2 years understanding people living with ASD and qualified as a therapist in that time. Since then, she’s been a voice for kids with special needs and never ceases to advocate and drive conversations around ASD and special needs in Nigeria. She’s the organiser of PortHarcourtWalk4Autism and also plays host to seminars spreading the word about ASD.

Beauty holds a bachelors degree in Human Anatomy from the University of Port Harcourt and an education degree from National Teachers’ Institute, Kaduna, Nigeria. She’s also 2018/19 fellow of LEAP Africa’s Social Innovators Program.

BHAC’s mission is to bring hope and help to individuals on the autism spectrum by ensuring the best possible education through inclusion, care, support and life opportunities for them and we’re proud of what Beauty and her team have achieved so far.

Henrietta Ogochukwu Mark is the brain behind Lagos-based Henrimac Cakes. In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she shares experience-based ideas on the art of cake making, the opportunities and challenges, how to start and excel at running a cake-making business, thriving during pandemic among other issues.

How would you describe the business of cake making?
TRUTH be told, it is a hectic but fulfilling one because, this is a business that you might have just N1000 in your account one moment and the next moment, someone calls to order a wedding cake worth N150, 000 or more. This is the benefit of having a skill; you will never go hungry. This has happened to me several times, helping me take care of financial responsibilities and more.

Abroad, you have ‘Cake Tasting’, why don’t we offer such services here?
I used to do this before, but it was thoroughly and badly abused by our people and I was compelled to stop. Some people want to come and taste all the cakes in the bakery first before talking about price, whereas in the western world you referred to, there is a paid appointment, which covers the cake tasting, except, of course, you already know what you want then you just have the usual appointment where you discuss what you want for your wedding cake. They conclude price and go on to choose flavour, it is not even to taste. Do you see the difference?

There are clients here who would insist that they must taste your cake first before they order from you. They don’t do like that over there; you can’t just walk into someone’s shop and demand to taste her cakes. Of course, if you have made payment into my account and you want to have a taste of my cake, you’re entitled to come and have a taste; I know you mean business then. Some people, it is after eating that they will now start pricing the cake even after I have wasted precious time and resources on them. I don’t do that but if you have made the payment, there is room for that, it is included in your payment and you can always choose flavours.

What kind of cakes do you enjoy creating more?

In this industry, we have different styles and methods; there are some people that add pastries and cookies to their cake. This is great, but I mostly stick to wedding and birthday cakes; I don’t do cookies and pastries for now. Well, they say, ‘Never say never,’ but for now, I want to focus on cakes and now, I have developed over 15 cake varieties I offer clients.

Are multiple smaller cakes more cost-effective than a single big one?
I think it depends on the client. With the present downturn in the economy and further worsened by COVID-19, with no parties or weddings, I had to improvise and explore other options. Before now, I didn’t do smaller cakes, but now, customers tell me they don’t want big cakes but small ones, so I had to start it. Smaller cakes are not really cost-effective, but I understand we are all trying to balance with the current situation in the world.

How do you source clients in these tough times?
Mostly from referrals, they call me up. Sometimes, they say they attended a party where they ate a cake I made and want me to make one for them. Instagram has also been very helpful in sourcing clients. People also tell me they referred their loved ones and friends to me and I am thankful. In all, it is the grace of God that has been helping me.

What stands you out in this business?
For me, it is not just about designs; it is about the cake inside. But at the same time, if you have seen my work, if it is not neat, then it is not from me. I have someone who sent me a message; she told me she went to a party and the celebrant who is also a mutual friend, had various cakes but she identified my cake out of the several on the table. It felt very good to hear that because a neat cake is my trademark. I believe that the eyes eat first before the mouth and more importantly I want people to eat the cake and come back for more. No matter how small or how big it is, it has to be neat. No matter how beautiful, intricate a design is, if it is not neat, the beauty reduces.

If a simple design is done on a cake, even if you put a small flower there, the beauty pops out. However, it is not all about the design, the taste is also very important. A lot of people these days are more concerned with design rather than the actual taste but no matter how beautiful it is, if the taste is not so great, people will not come back for more.

Are you training other women to take up this skill?
Right now, I don’t, but I have a blog, Cake It With Henrietta, which I started in order to help upcomers. Not all of us are blessed with money or funds and I know what it means to start with nothing. Even when I started the blog, I know the kind of negative criticism I encountered because no one was doing what I was doing. I was giving out free recipes; everyone was busy hoarding recipes. My critics said I was giving away for free what people should be paying for, but I was unperturbed and told them that it was my way of giving back to others that really needed it. I have been down that road before, being unable to pay for expensive training classes and all and I had to resort to watching Food Network before I got a hang of it.

What would you say has been the lowest point for you?
In my early years, a client slapped me after I made an error. I put the wrong temperature on the oven so the cake was not properly baked inside. I delivered it, they did not eat it immediately; I think the next day or so. When they finally cut it, it was smelling; it was for her child’s birthday. That experience made me stop baking for six months. They almost beat me up thoroughly and I cried for one week straight.

My husband consoled me, reminding me that I was still new in the business and mistakes are bound to happen. He encouraged me to continue baking, that practice makes perfect. I refused, saying I didn’t want to touch my oven anymore and would try my hands on something else, but my husband countered my decision, advising me that I was perfect at my craft. He pointed out that he noticed I was always happy whenever I was baking. He encouraged me to go to baking classes to learn more rather than just via the Internet.

For those six months, I worked on being better and I got better indeed. That was four years ago and now, I have my own recipes and teach interested individuals via my blog. Also you know our work is all about recipes; it is not like tailoring where a person has to cut a pattern. Our work is quite straightforward, what you need is recipe, once it is written down; you give it to staff to implement.

Speaking of staff, once they stay with you for a month, they assume they know it all; steal the recipes and disappear, believing they have gotten your recipes not knowing that more will come. If you think you have taken what I’m using to excel in my business, God will surely raise another medium. It is not just about having the recipes; do you know all the intricacies involved in baking?

It really amuses me when they play these pranks, thinking they’re smart. I’ve also had an issue in the past whereby someone called my staff and was telling him to send my recipes, but unfortunately for the person, my other girl was around. The staff was asking which of the recipes the person needed if you can imagine. I usually have hem sign a non-disclosure agreement, but even at that, how will you know what they do behind your back? Even when they sign, I can’t tell what they do after work; I can’t be going through their phones to know whether they sent someone recipes or not. There is no way you can prevent people from stealing from you in this work, it is difficult. For now, I don’t know how to control it; it is really a very difficult situation.

How do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from the personality of the client. I had issues when I made red velvet cake for a customer, she always ordered vanilla cake and she has been a loyal customer for years. I thought she didn’t know that we do red velvet and chocolate and decided to surprise her. She booked her cake and I said let me do something different for her. So, when I made the red velvet cake, she called me and was screaming, ‘what is this occultic red cake?’ I had to apologise and she asked why I didn’t make the white cake (vanilla cake) she always liked.

So, for me, if I’m working on your cake, it has to be what you like; I’m meant to serve you and not myself. I will just add a little of me there but it has to be what the client wants because what I like might not be what the client wants. It’s not really about me, I can put little of myself but it is what you want.

What significant challenges are you experiencing that are setting you back?
The prices of the items we use are now double of what was obtainable before and I don’t think most people understand that we have to increase the prices because basically everybody is trying to make ends meet business-wise. A bag of sugar was N10, 800 before, but now it’s N26, 000. Flour that sold for 9800 is now almost N18, 000; butter was also N9800 before but it’s now over N15, 000. At times, they would even tell you it’s not available. The increase in prices is a major challenge for us; I try to communicate with clients to see that ingredients have increased, but most of us still have to do the old prices to stay afloat. If you’re not baking, another person is baking. The price of items is the number one challenge.

Number two is poor electricity and the little gain we get goes to diesel. I have to use diesel because of the fridge, oven and other machines. The little gain we see, we use it to buy fuel and diesel. We are basically working for the government. We still pay tax despite all these hardships. I think everyone is just working to stay afloat, even if N500 is the gain, we will manage it like that.

How has cake baking evolved over the years?
Sometime last year, the baker that made my wedding cake called to tell me that she wants to learn from me. Cake is like fashion; every day, new techniques emerge. A decade or two ago, baking was seen as a skill for less privileged people, but things have changed now. In this axis, we have over 100 bakers. I think the country has also changed our views on skill acquisition because when you carry your certificate from Ajegunle to VI for months, you have to sit down and think of what you can do to feed.

Now, you even have graduates mixing cream, so it’s not just in baking. I know someone that, apart from baking, she goes to work, comes back to bake, trying to do both things. Everybody is trying to do many things at the same time. Some people are now doing ready-to-wear, small chops, food and so on. The economy forced many of us into getting a skill to survive.

What is your advice for women who want to go down this path?
When I first started out in life, I was a jack-of-all-trades. I also learnt how to be a milliner because I tried to add extra to the business; I wanted to do everything at once. Don’t try to be a jack-of-all-trades, focus on your strength.

In this industry, you can be good at baking; you can be good at creating sugar crafts used to cover cakes. Don’t allow social media pressure to distract you. Focus! What are you good at? Focus on that and let people know. For instance, if you go to my Instagram page, it’s clear I’m good at baking because I always show the inside of my cake. Focus on what you excel in and make a business out of that.

Source: Guardian