If anybody had told her six years ago that a simple family dinner she cooked for her family would be the starting point of a thriving catering business, Catherine Ndung’u would probably have laughed them off.
“I made egg curry for my family at dinner time, took a photo of the meal and posted it on my Facebook wall. This drew a lot of attention from people who started inboxing me to ask for the recipes.
“I was amazed by the inquiries and the friend requests which streamed in. A friend saw the post and invited me to her place to train her on cooking.
"That is when I realised I can do catering as a business,” said the mother of two.
From earning a monthly salary of Sh25,000 six years ago, today she takes home an average monthly income of Sh150,000 from catering, baking and cooking lessons.
She may be a United States International University (USIU) graduate but she owes her culinary skills to the ‘University of Google and YouTube’.
Catherine grew up in Bahati, Nakuru. Her mother, a single parent, died when she was only three years old, leaving her under the care of her grandparents.
Not surprisingly, her most favourite subject in secondary school was home science.
Catherine later studied journalism and marketing and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations in 2006.
After graduation, she landed a job as a customer service representative earning Sh10,000 monthly. She worked for a year but her salary was hardly enough to sustain her, so she looked for and found a better paying job as an administrative assistant with a construction company where her salary bumped to Sh25,000. She stayed with the company for four years.
The birth of her second child, however, would also see her quit her job as he was born prematurely and needed close attention and care. While at home, she learned how to make rugged floor mats.
“I am a quick learner, so I started making rugged floor mats and selling them door to door. I used online platforms to market them. I did this for five months made Sh50,000. That’s when I decided to Moveto, Nakuru, as the market in Nairobi had become too crowded,” she said.
She later found a job as an online transcriber but the website shut down after only three months.
She realised she could make money from cooking after her Facebook inbox was inundated with messages requesting the egg curry recipe after she posted a photo of it.
She was encouraged by the reactions in Facebook posts to start charging for her services but admits that despite having the cooking knowledge, she did not have the business knowledge, so pricing and budgeting was quite a challenge. She had to consult her aunt, who is also a caterer.
One of the first mistakes she made was to undercharge for a cake she baked for a client, but she learnt a good lesson about correct pricing from that.
Today, the owner of Kate Wa Gladys Recipes employs five people and runs an 8,715-member Facebook page called Kate Foods and Fun, where she offers free recipes to her fans.
From homemade ice cream to cake frosting, breakfast ideas and weekly menus, her online fans are never short of demands on what she should provide for them.
Catherine conducts cooking lessons in Nakuru as well, and charges Sh1,500 per person. She is working on her cookbook.
CATHERINE’S NUGGETS OF WISDOM
- Work hand in hand with your client to design a menu
- Being courteous, tactful, and diplomatic is very necessary
- Good communication and people skills are vital
- A satisfied customer is the best marketing strategy you will ever have.