Seline Kuti (code name the Cake Girl) is the Proprietor of Skip Celynne, a cake company based in Mombasa seeking to transform the confessionary landscape of the seaside city and bring creativity to baking. Seline is in her early 20’s and the young entrepreneur is charting her own entrepreneurship path.
What inspired you to get into the cake business?
Well, I started baking way back in primary school in home science class, I remember hunting for cookbooks in the school library. This interest carried over throughout high school up to college where I studied catering and hospitality. Growing up I was always taught to depend on myself and this led me to start baking cakes for church members, children in my neighbourhood and eventually to starting my business.
I later went to college specifically to learn cake decoration but because the course had extra subjects that were mandatory, I ended up doing beverages, housekeeping and all that. Yet the cake decoration I wanted was taught at a very shallow level- actually less than a quarter of the course. So I had to do research on my own; reading books, googling, using Pinterest and with time I perfected my art.
Financing is often considered a challenge in starting a business, especially for young people, how did you fund your business?
In the early days, I was actually baking using a ‘jiko’, doing everything manually as I couldn’t afford a mixer or an oven and I charged very low prices for my cakes. With time, I bought a small table top oven and finally a bigger commercial oven. So I think finance is not a problem, it’s your idea combined with what you have at hand that matters. This is important especially for young people, we need to use what we have to make people see what we can do and then the support will come.
So far I have built my business by ploughing money back in, you have to be smart on how you go about it, for instance, my business is entirely home-based. I get clients through online marketing and then I do deliveries. It’s cheaper than having to open a premise although we do plan on opening one as we continue to grow.
What challenges have you encountered so far?
Dealing with clients can be challenging. I have had cases where someone orders a chocolate cake for instance, and after I deliver it, they have a taste and it happens not be what they were expecting. When you inquire further you realise that they have never tasted a chocolate cake before but are disappointed nonetheless.
So currently, we deal with this by informing clients of the ingredients that will be used on their cake before we even start baking. There are cakes with alcohol, certain types of creams that affect different people differently, and some people have allergies so that we can take precautions. Going forward we are looking at introducing cake sampling to create awareness about the different flavours of cakes we have.
Additionally, I have faced challenges in delivery, blame it on African timing. We would agree to meet with a client at 11 am and they show up late. So if I have several deliveries to make that day, this means that the delays will trickle down to the other clients, who at times, might even be holding a surprise birthday party for a loved one and delaying the cake holds up everything.
In your entrepreneurship journey so far, have you had people who have mentored you?
Yeah, I have mentors. For instance from April last year, I had been very aggressive in displaying my cakes on social media, pictures and all that and then out of nowhere I got a message on Facebook, ‘your network is worth your net worth”. The message was from someone who had seen my posts on social media. He ended up offering me a platform to go showcase my business; sending me an invitation to a networking event in Mombasa. This is someone I hadn’t met nor known at all and yet he offered to help, and through his networks, I have grown mine too. Even right now as we are planning to celebrate our one year anniversary he still advises me.
What would you advise anyone out there who aspires to start a business?
Do what you love to do, if you love it, you are not going to feel the strain and you will rarely complain. Also, I would say, do not go into business just for the money because you will often reach a point of giving up before your business picks up. Business will need stamina, focus, and flexibility, and that requires determination.
What is next for Skip Celynne?
I have noticed that people struggle to find products for events under one roof; if you are holding a function you would need to find a good bakery for cakes, find someone else for tents, chairs, transport etc. So I have decided to put all these under one roof, Skip Celynne Occasions, providing professional all round service for events – that is the future.
If you would like to order a cake from Skip Cyllene Occasions you can find them on Facebook.