The Small Business: Chocolate Hut

Njeri Mwangi is the founder and proprietor of Chocolate Hut, an online based bakery based in Nairobi. Her hope is to be able to have a fully equipped commercial bakery and to keep transforming this industry. Njeri is in her early 20’s and she discovered quite early that the corporate life wouldn’t be ideal for hence her venture into entrepreneurship.

Why the name Chocolate Hut

(Laughing) It’s not even that deep. The first cakes I made were chocolate cakes so they came out really well and I chose to stick with it. The ‘Hut’ is simply my homage to Africa

When and why did you get into the Cake industry?

Honestly, baking was initially a hobby for me until around 2014 when I started doing it commercially. I always thought that employment was not meant for me and had goals to be self-employed so when a family member gave me a cake order, it dawned on me that I had been that I had been sitting on a business idea. This happened at around 2015 and I was in my second year of University and since then I have been baking and making a living out of it.

Most entrepreneurs usually have an issue with financing, How was your journey and how did you manoeuvre this bit?

You know everybody really wonders how I started out. After my first sale and realizing that I could actually do it full time, I decided to talk to my parents. Of course, they were hesitant because I was still in school and thought I would start failing exams but after a few negotiations here and there we finally had our memorandum of understanding. To date, I still don’t know what convinced them but I did. That was my financial boost. Because my initial market was mainly students, my business picked up really fast and then I didn’t have to rely on my parents for support anymore. I plowed back money that I got into the business actually in the initial stages.

You have mentioned that your initial market was students, now that you are no longer a student, how has that changed? Who is your market and how is the Kenyan market generally?

Well yes, I had to outgrow the students market totally, at least on the Campus. That doesn’t mean I don’t get orders from them anymore it’s just not my focus anymore. Currently, I’m focusing on the larger Nairobi market. Truthfully, the Nairobian market looks concentrated from the outside but it isn’t. I have discovered that there is enough business for all of us currently in the business and even those that wish to join. Customers are diverse and so are we as bakers there is no a one size fits all and I think that works out just fine for all of us. Also, most of my customers are women of course once in a while I get a male client but my frequent and most reliable consumers are women.

What values are important to Chocolate Hut? What products do you offer as chocolate hut?

Honesty. From me to my clients to establish trust. Your clients trust that their order will be ready on time and I trust them to make payments as agreed and on time. Quality service and preparation of my cakes is another thing because that is how I get referrals and return customers. Currently, I have cookies, cupcakes, and cakes as my only retailing products. I provide all sorts of cakes for wedding, birthday, graduation and any other occasion you can think about. Baking is an art that I continue to horn and I am therefore unafraid to take risks but mostly what my clients ask for, I deliver with no problems.

                     

In your journey as an entrepreneur what are some of the challenges that you have experienced?

Every journey has its obstacles and mine hasn’t been without them. We are all aware of the complex nature of human beings and how one thing works for one and doesn’t for the other so yes, dealing with different clients can be tough.

Coming up with a convenient, safe and cost friendly delivery service is also a challenge if a client is not willing to pick up their order. Also sometimes, because I bake from home and I don’t have the commercial oven yet the orders supersede my capabilities and I have to turn them down and sometimes K.P.L.C is the big problem.

Delayed payments are also torturous and we have both low and high peak seasons in the industry and that means lesser income during the low seasons that mostly range from Jan to March as per my experience so far.

How does the baking from home look like?

It just means I run my business from my folk’s place and therefore since it is a business I cater for some of the bills. However, I have plans to finally move my business out of the home and have it set up elsewhere very soon.

Is there anyone in particular that you look up to and what would be your advice to other bakers and entrepreneurs generally?

Like I mentioned before, we are so many in Kenya and I learn from every one of them because we all have different styles and strengths. I keep educating myself with YouTube tutorials to improve my skills, especially in the decorating aspect.

My advice would be to fully take advantage of social media. This is how I get most of my new clients, therefore, your online presence as an entrepreneur is paramount. Also, put in the work and keep educating yourself to keep up with the rest of the world and do not get too comfortable.

It is also important that new entrepreneurs don’t solely focus on competition but simply grow your skill whatever it is. Remember to surround yourself with a great support network because, for me, my friends come through especially when I have a crazy workload.

Lastly do not forget why you started whatever you do. I am also learning photography. I believe that in our current era we cannot afford the luxury of knowing just one thing so as you grow your skill, learn another skill too.

You can order your cakes from her Instagram or contact Njeri via this business number +254714133727

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