Chika Eunice Ani is the CEO of Esperanza Cakes and Bakes, a business outfit that was established in 2009. Since then, the entrepreneur who first trained at Lavina Concept before proceeding for further training at the Cake Mastery Institute and PME, both in the UK, has grown and expanded her business into Osogbo and Enugu, with Port Harcourt and Abuja, soon to join her branches. In this interview with UZEZI ADESITE, she talks about her motivation, challenges and strategy for success. Excerpts:
What motivated you to setup your business?
I have always loved being creative. So after school, I decided to look for what to do on my own. I then decided to go for what gives me pleasure; doing it not for the money but the fulfillment I get in doing it. Today, we thank God, it’s a success story and it's now yielding profit.
Between 2009 and now, you have definitely come a long way. What types of challenges did you have to cope with?
Yes, it's been a long way. Initially the challenge was about starting small. The competitions were major cake designers in big offices and all, and I am just starting from the house. Most clients will come and seeing I am still working from home will look down and underestimate what I can do; because I was still building my company name. The ones that will want me to do the job finally will price it so low because they believe I am still working from home. If they wanted the high priced cakes they can go to the already established cake houses to pick one. And having to compete with that was my major challenge then.
Today, there are lots and lots of people in this business but in such short time, you have people talking about Esperanza Cakes along sides Bakers World and Cakes n Cream. What have you done, and still doing, that is setting you aside and cementing your brand?
What I have always done is to work hard and maintain my standard. At Esperanza Cakes we have our standard and we try so much to maintain it, so we exceed the expectations of our clients, and give them much more.
You are also into training others on this skill. Some skilled people are afraid of training people for fear they might be better than they are. Why do you teach?
Hahahaha... I teach my students exactly what I know. The fear of teaching them to be better than me isn't there at all. After all, I am not going take my talent to the grave. I have to impact on other people’s lives. Teaching others what I know will also make me to work harder.
How long do training sessions last for?
We have different courses and their duration differs. So it's from one month to 5months depending on the course.
Can someone who registers for a one month course go on to start a baking business? Would that person have learnt enough to sustain a business?
Yes, the person has learnt enough to start the business but will need to be going for small courses to be able to sustain their business when it comes to designs.
Character cakes are very important aspect of cake making today. How do you keep up with new characters?
I still go for small courses in order to be on top of my game. And I love being adventurous with things I see like characters, colour combinations, etc. so I try them out as well to create them.
I have also noticed you are very active on the social media. How important is mastering the use of social media for an entrepreneur?
In this 21st century, the use of the internet is a vital tool to bring your product to people. So, using the social media and other internet tool to showcase your business is a very important tool to the growth of your business.
A lot of people shy off cakes for health reasons and avoiding sugar. Are there options for these classes of people?
Yes please, we have special cakes for special people. We have cakes without butter and sugar, we have cakes without eggs, we have cakes made of honey and wheat flour. So depending on the health condition or choice, we have cakes for everybody.
Which is your most memorable cake making contract till date?
Every cake contract is a memorable one and interesting as well. But I think the one that challenged me most was a bride coming into my office and telling me to create an unconventional wedding cake for her; something totally different from what others may think as a wedding cake. I was up for almost 2nights trying to figure out the concept, colour combination and matching, and a story behind the cake (chuckles). We ended up with a big tree cake with branches and cakes as the fruits on the try. It's memorable because that's a one of a kind for wedding cake and it was also very challenging.
What advice do you have for young people who want to start their own cake making business?
Do not go into the business because of the money because you will be worn out and tired in the middle of the journey. Cake making and designing is a very fascinating art; it's only your passion that will be driving you when you feel tired and worn out. In all you do, make sure you work hard, stay focused and dedicated and with God by your side, the sky is your starting point.
What does the future hold for Esperanza Cakes?
A lot. By God’s grace we will have many more branches all over the country and outside the country as well. And Esperanza Cakes will be a household name to reckon with.