The making of a catering company

Friday January 11 2019

Seline Kuti.

Seline Kuti, 24, is the founder of Skip Celynne Occasions, a catering company. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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Her journey officially begun at Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa in Mombasa, where she interned, a place she credits the field exposure she received towards becoming the independent catering service provider that she is today.

“Kitchens have always been my safe space, I also realised that I feel more alive when I attend social events, so I decided to turn these two interests into profit. That was how the idea of setting up a catering service came about,” she begins. Although she registered her company in October 2017, her experience in baking goes back to 2010 while she was still in high school.

“It is the baking skills that I put into practice first,” she says.

Keen on bringing to life what she was passionate about, baking, in between her college classes in food and beverage production and housekeeping operations at Marianist Technical Institute in Mombasa, she started baking.

“I started from zero. I had no starting capital, no equipment, no ingredients required to bake. I borrowed the money I needed to hire appliances and buy ingredients to decorate the first cakes I baked for sale. After being paid for them, I returned the money I had borrowed and used the little profit I made to bake more.”

As time went buy, Seline bought the appliances she needed to run her baking business, and within no time, she was ready to set up Skip Celynne Occasions.

“I knew from the outset that I was not cut out for formal employment, so I capitalised on my interest in baking, my intention to run my own business,” she explains and adds, “I realised that people choose employment because of the money and the stability and security it offers. I did not want to be that person who does the job just for the money, I wanted to care about the job,” she explains.

Today, Skip Celynne Occasions is a stable service-providing company that bakes cakes for all occasions and also offers outside catering

Seline Kuti, 24, started baking in high school.

Seline Kuti, 24, started baking in high school. PHOTO| COURTESY

“We provide 10 o’clock tea, lunch, afternoon tea, cocktails and dinner for small and large functions including weddings and birthday parties. We also offer special lunch packages which we deliver to schools and offices around Mombasa.”

This is not all, the company also conducts cooking and baking classes for children and adults mostly on weekends and holidays. Seline explains that this is mainly a space for kids to learn while having fun and for adults to improve on their cooking and baking skills.

Skip Celynne Occasions currently has a staff of five permanent staff with additional staff engaged on temporary basis when needed.

What has been the greatest challenge of running a company?

We are an online-based business, so sometimes convincing clients that we can deliver what they want can be a challenge, especially when in the same field there are other better-known, well-established catering service providers. Basically, the competition is stiff.

Also, due to fraud cases online, winning our customers’ trust has not been easy to do. Customer satisfaction has also been a challenge, everyone has a different opinion about how a certain food or cake should be prepared, sometimes according to how it tasted elsewhere.

What advice would you give other young people who would like to start a business?

Start where you are with whatever you have, stay focused, be goal-oriented and keep moving, with time, everything will fall into place.

Have you ever had a client who was dissatisfied with your work?

Yes. The client ordered a cake flavour that she had never tasted, she just liked the name of the flavour.

When we delivered the cake, she did not like it. Rather than point out that we had simply delivered what she had ordered, we did a compensation cake with a different flavour which she loved.

How do you ensure that you stay abreast of the changing scope of your field and ably compete with other more established providers? How do you set yourself apart from the competition?

I believe that the market is large enough to accommodate everyone. As much as there is competition, there is that personal touch we give our cakes, for example. Our customer service, professionalism and quality is what keeps us in the market.

Who are some of the major clients you have worked for?

Rotary Club of Mombasa, KenGen, Uber offices, Nyali, Pristine Kenya Limited and Ihub. Most of these clients come through referrals and recommendations.

What vision do you have for your business in 2019?

We plan to invest more on commercial catering and baking equipment as well as expand our client base and employ more permanent staff.