For the love of cake
When passion for baking slowly transitions into a business, then you know it is going to be a tasty walk in life, so says Donna Bella Zawadii of Zawadi Cakes.
Jasmine Atieno @sparklesmine
Donna Bella Zawadi always loved cakes. As a child, she believed having the skills to bake must have been one of the greatest achievements in life; so she really wanted to learn it.
Her mum’s inability to grasp the skill made it a challenge Zawadi definitely was ready to take.
“Growing up, my mum always wanted to bake for us, but she just didn’t know how to. She would buy ingredients all the time, set up dates to be taught by relatives, but it just never happened.
This was my greatest push. I wanted to try it myself and when I got the opportunity in 2017, I took it with both hands,” she says.
The fifth born in a family of six says her first baking lessons were from a close friend’s relative.
“A friend invited me in 2017 to her house, and during the visit, I learnt that her cousin, Ian Otieno, was a baker.
I used the opportunity to learn a few things, but later on I asked him to take me through the baking process, which he did gladly.
After that, I took it upon myself to practise regularly and learn more on YouTube. Today I can bake for nearly all occasions,” says Zawadi.
In the beginning, she would just bake for fun, she says, but the encouragement to convert this hobby into a business came from her cousin who started buying cakes from her.
He would place orders and pay her after delivery. He would also give her amazing feedback, which pushed her to open a bakery in 2017.
Zawadi started small, with only Sh10,000 from money she saved from her Chama. It was enough to purchase a charcoal oven.
However, she had to get a permanent job to support herself and run the business on the side.
“I bake up to 12 cakes every month, but I now have to do it part-time because I go to work during the day. Orders fluctuate all the time, so sometimes I have very busy weekends baking. But other times things are quite flexible,” she shares.
Being good at baking, Zawadi says, has not been without challenges, but she takes all of them as an opportunity to learn and become even better.
“It was first very challenging that I did not go to a baking school, so I have always had to learn online, especially for new recipes.
Then there was decorating cakes; in the beginning it was difficult, but I had to learn how to use icing on cake. Fondant was my biggest fear, but over time it has turned out to be easy to use.
Having a full time job and baking on the side has also been a challenge, sometimes I have to give away cake orders when work is too much,” she says.
Among the things that pushed her to never give up is the ability to accept and not beat herself on orders that failed to come her way, as well as trying out new recipes to meet her customers’ needs. She has no regrets whatsoever this far.
She is also grateful for the skills she learnt when she undertook a Diploma in business management as it helps her with managing the financial bit of the business.
Her degree in social science (psychology and sociology) has also helped her in dealing with customers.
Despite being a social scientist, Zawadi says some of her most cherished memories stem from her life as a baker.
“My best moments are when my customers give me amazing feedback and when I get paid. It is worth it since it is a marketing strategy as I use online platforms to market myself. I have also made some worst moments.
For instance, the worst was when I delivered a cake to a corporate client and the cake crashed just before I presented it, I had to ask for space to fix what I could. But it was definitely the worst moment,” she intimates.
On the positive side, her job is very flexible, which allows her time to focus on her baking business, except for very urgent orders.
An since she doesn’t work on weekends, she uses this time to concentrate on what she loves to do.
She has also employed, on full time basis a delivery man, who ensures that her well made cakes are delivered in perfect condition.
Her advice to upcoming bakers and business people is to be resilient.
“Everyday is a learning day. Start small. Practice makes perfect,” she says.