Baking takes tech graduate to new heights of success
Posted Thursday, June 28 2012 at 01:00
At age 28, Murugi Wanjama is an employer. She takes pride in the fact that she is able to pursue a business line that is at odds with her academic background and turn her passion — baking — into a profitable business.
A computer science graduate from Daystar University, Ms Wanjama, is the chief executive officer of cakes.co.ke. Her start-up employs six permanent and two temporary staff.
“I decided to merge two worlds. I was trained in computer science and have had a passion for baking since I was a young. I was certain that this was something that I wanted to do on a commercial scale, hence the decision to set up an online shop for my cakes,” she told Money.
She was able to establish the business with a capital of Sh15,000 that she got from her parents and her husband, Greg Wanjama, who was then her boyfriend and a computer science student at JKUAT. Today, the business generates a monthly income of Sh200,000 on average.
Although she had experience baking at home since she was 11 years old, Ms Wanjama started baking commercially in 2008 when she was a student at Daystar University. Business at the university was good since she did not face any competition.
“Both the students and the lecturers were happy with my cakes. They found it convenient to buy them from within the school, saving them the trouble of ordering from town,” she says.
At the time, she sold at least two cakes every day at an average price of Sh800. According to her, this price was relatively lower than what was quoted by other bakers in town, handing her a business edge.
Unlike her competitors, she did not have to worry about paying rent as she baked from her hostel room. In 2009, after graduating, she continued to bake from her parents’ house.
“Even the following year, 2010, I did not incur any charges for rent as I got married and continued baking from my house.” she added.
However, last year, she moved her business to allow her customers easier access. This was also prompted by improved sales, which had climbed from an average of 20 cakes a month to about 15 a week.
The relocation meant that she had to start factoring costs like rent into the price of her cakes, and do it in such a way as not to scare away her customers.
Like any successful business person, she consulted widely on how to take into account the extra Sh45,000 monthly rent without losing her clients.
“With the new costs, prices had to go up but I made sure that whenever I introduced a new price, I explained to my customers the reason for it,” she said.
She also maintained the quality of her baking, which earned her customer loyalty. From the low of Sh800 a cake when she first started, her products now cost as much as Sh26,000, depending on the size of the cake.
Her business has expanded to include bakery classes targeting chefs who want to get into baking, stay-at-home mothers with an interest in improving their skills, and individuals who want to venture into the world of commercial baking.
The school, with a capacity of training eight people per class for four weeks, started in February and operates in the same building as the cake business. Ms Wanjama says that so far, some 22 people have been trained. The course costs Sh12,000.
She is working on an online payments portal which will integrate the use of cards and mobile money payment systems to cater for her customers who prefer to pay online.
She personally recruits the staff and trains them to ensure that they learn her style of baking and, more importantly, understand her vision.