We had the great fortune of talking to Ms Asha Batenga about her journey, the techniques and skills she has honed so far with her experience as well as her ideas and thoughts about the Baking Industry across the region and much more.
Please enjoy this Interview with the Proprietor of Cakely Uganda & check out her YouTube channel for more at Bake with Asha.
- What are your main responsibilities as an entrepreneur and baker?
My main responsibilities are usually looking for the market, making sure we make and design good cakes.
- So what is a typical day like for you?
I wake up, go through my online orders. I give the necessary response then I start the work with my team. Then at 2:00 pm, I check out the other activities, because apart from Cakely, I run different things.
- Is this from Monday to Sunday?
I usually work from Monday to Sunday, though I don’t meet people on Sundays. I also work at night for the projects that need me to be ‘’hands on’’. Some of the time is spent on social media.
- What do you like the most about your work?
Well, firstly because I can work from Home.
Second, because it has opened up a different world for me. I get to be creative, venturing into different criteria like my annual magazine, Cake Fare, an annual event. I tend to be productive and think outside the box, this has pushed me out of my comfort zone.
- What do you like the least about your work?
My physical health. I work for around 20 hours a day & this isn’t healthy at all. It’s too stressful and that’s the biggest downside about my work.
- What other challenges do you face in this business?
The biggest challenge so far is Supplies. We have inconsistent suppliers in the market. Today they’ll bring something good then tomorrow it’s bad. And the prices are always changing, the demand is good but the supply……….not so much. The cake related Ingredients, accessories. We still don’t have enough.
- I’d like to recommend Uganda Trimmings Limited for all your baking and decorating accessories.
For sure! I always get stuff from there.
- What kinds of decisions do you make?
I decide how to budget my time. That is my biggest decision on a daily, getting to pick out the main priorities from the majority.
- Does your job affect your general lifestyle?
Yeah, it does!
I can’t spend so much time with…. say friends. Social life kind of died off.
Then also because I bake from home, Space is definitely an issue. I have to divide the house into two; the Cake this side and the home this side.
- Cakely Uganda has gained a lot of clout in the Industry. What kinds of accomplishments tend to be valued/rewarded in this field?
I can say the first thing is God….I know there are so many good bakers out there and some who have been there for a long time so if you are recognized It’s just from God giving you that favor and also the hard work, there’s so much behind every cake. Sometime things don’t go as planned but we try to make sure they go right even when they go wrong. We value feedback and change accordingly to our client demands. You just have to do your best and leave the rest to God.
- How did you become interested in this field?
Umm…I studied Information Technology from Makerere University. Baking is something I learnt on the job. It’s not something I studied, you could say it was self-taught skill. You have to keep on trying it till you get the passion for it. It’s like an arranged marriage.
- Am sure I don’t speak for everyone on this but I believe Art is not simply learnt, it’s a mentality that require constant practice for it to mature. Your cakes have a lot of aesthetic quality. How do you get the inspiration for the different decorations?
I get my inspirations from my clients, I fuse their ideas with my imagination. We discuss different designs till we meet at a conclusion. Then I do it.
- How do most people get into this field?
It depends on what your goals are. I can’t say passion. No, passion doesn’t put food on the table. Venture into other things and find the passion later. I mentioned arranged marriages earlier, you would find some of our parents who are married for a longer time than those who had the ‘love’ and it worked for them.
At the end of the day, find that which can make you some money and fall in love with it. I personally tried a lot of things before I got into baking.
- What skills, abilities or personal attributes are essential to success in this field?
Patience is key! If you’re not patient, you will die in this business. You need people skills. Some clients will insult you even when they are in the wrong. You have to take some blame and move on. My customer is always is always my King or Queen.
- Recently your Cake was aired on the 9 O’clock news at NTV for a symbolic representation of the National Budget. How did you feel about this? What did this mean for you?
It was a very big highlight for me. Some of those things you never get to think about. I mean who uses a cake for a budget representation. That was a new and catchy idea. It was a humbling experience. I was so happy though I can’t say it was a dream come true because I hadn’t dreamt of it. I feel it was a big milestone because it opens doors for other bakers knowing that we can feature because they could have used chicken or graphs but they didn’t.
- What are your views on the Baking Industry here in Uganda and East Africa at large?
I think Kenya started way much earlier than us. Tanzania & Rwanda are fair. Congo & South Sudan are doing badly. When had just started baking, we were very few. Some of the used just 1recipe. I could say we are at the stage when a baby starts to mimic walking after crawling. We have attracted investors. People who are bringing new ingredients in the market. For example, before people were burning sugar to make caramel, edible ink prints like the ones Uganda Trimmings sells were so foreign to the public. I would import almost 70% of my ingredients, now I think I import maybe 20% at most.
- Would you say the Industry is Egalitarian? Are there equal opportunities or do the connections speak louder?
Yes, it is. I say that for myself. I have seen doors open when you know no one at all. Your product speaks for you! In this business, it’s your work that speaks for you. You get a shot and make sure you do it 110% because you don’t know when you’ll get the chance again. Be genuine, don’t buy sub-standard ingredients with the aim of making more profit. If someone doesn’t appreciate your product because of the price, it is okay! But don’t go down on quality because you want to please each and every one.
- You have a lively Facebook page as well as a YouTube channel with over 1000 subscribers, how has this helped you?
It’s more of giving back to the people.
The ingredients for the channels I used to watch were not here in Uganda, then you end up importing their things and style. So starting my own channel was a way to show the local bakers you could do these things in the country and get the recipe 100%
- According to some bakers out there, there is a problem of the ever changing Trends & Techniques in the field as well as the demands. How do you handle all these and stay above the curve?
Firstly, we can’t stop learning. Personally, I was not good at all with bread but during this lock-down I have come to change that. I wasn’t selling it, I gave it to my neighbors, friends or my boda guys.
Do not get COMFORTABLE! Don’t be scared of the new techniques, keep on learning.
- If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself?
Sadly, YES! If I hadn’t gone through the things I have, I wouldn’t be where I am. There are no mistakes in life, everything is just lining you up to your Destiny. I thank failure because it pushed me to my success.
- What advice would you give to the startup Novice Bakers out there?
Commitment! Believe in yourself and keep positive people around you. If you have negative people, just dump them. The more the negativity, the more your life goes down. No self-pity, a lot of people have failed in their lives. Once you have that mindset, commit to it. Once you believe in yourself, everyone will believe in you.
- Can you recommend magazines or professional Associations which would be helpful in this field?
I’d recommend my magazine the “Cake Affair”. It has recipes and a lot of content that is Ugandan based. Also the books at Aristoc and Uganda Trimmings are helpful. There’s also Cake Shop Uganda, the Facebook platform where lots of bakers come up with questions and solutions.
- Do you have any plans for the future you would like to share with the public?
I have lots of plans though none I would share right now. It will come as a surprise. But yes, I am cooking!
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