What are Bakers’ Clubs and why are they important?
Novice bakers always need guidance from experienced hands to surmount teething challenges. Start-ups that get the necessary support are likely to grow into big brands. This timeless mantra as I call it applies to all fields of business and I would love to specifically shed some light on the Baking Industry here in Uganda using this adage.
One of the most popular African proverbs states that if you want to walk fast, go alone but if you want to walk far, go together. As much as we may get caught up in the rat race of life to succeed and accomplish all our personal desires, we should bear in mind ours is a culture of community. A tradition of sharing and waddling through the journey with others not alone.
The baking industry in Uganda has made progressive steps despite the myriad of challenges that have tethered the economy’s progress to greater heights. Of course this feat couldn’t have been achieved without the dedication, hard work and dexterity of the bakers out there who didn’t slow down but pushed even harder than before.
How do the clubs come in?
A club can be defined as a community engaged with the task of educating itself. They are typically independent, are usually run by the experienced bakers and are often formal societies. There are lots of groups and clubs out there each serving a specific purpose for example some may be savings groups (SACCOs) where each member contributes a specified amount of money according to the group’s stipulated duration and amount. There are other gatherings though where the members share their insights, tips and challenges for the sole reason of nurturing their talent and improving their business venture. The modern world is characterised by its abundant wealth of information and although a lot of it can be garnered from the internet, it’s quite important to try and absorb this information from people physically; mentorship. These kinds of clubs comprise of bakers who come together sometimes made up of experienced bakers and novice bakers or even students who are keen to grow their bakery businesses or build their passion. Members of the club have at times a business maturity date which they have to meet in terms of revenue growth and expansion. Members also help each other through giving advice and providing constructive engagement. This interaction engenders a fresh and new way of thinking that transforms the outdated approach to competition in business where one enterprise must be at loggerheads with the other. In these meeting sessions, which are largely interactive, each of the participants is a learner and a teacher at the same time. A cross-tutoring platform is applied to enable an interactive session. Members are encouraged to sustain the passion that brought them into the bakery business in the first place. Thankfully there are many people willing to freely share their knowledge and give advice for other decorators. There are lots of cake decorating groups in Uganda and East Africa at large with curious committed & eager to help specialists, participating in these discussions with an aim of auspiciously expanding their niche market. Depending on the circumstances these clubs can decide to meet either physically or on online platforms for ease of access. A few of the ones in Uganda include Cake Shop Uganda, Home Bakers UG, Bakers Garden and so much more that are on Facebook.
How important are they for novice bakers?
First, it is evident that these organisations encourage novice bakers to invest their effort where they have little previous knowledge but where they can learn in a position of ‘relative security’. The learning environment is collaborative and they have an opportunity to test out their skills without encountering major risks. These bakers’ clubs provide a foundation for experiential learning, create a supportive environment within which to take risks and fail; aim to enhance entrepreneurial as well as baking skills; and, raise awareness, aspirations and knowledge about the cake business. Inevitably, there is often confusion surrounding the meaning of the term ‘bakers’ clubs’. This kind of mentorship involves ‘actions’; ‘experiences’ and ‘newness’ and is inherently a ‘learn-as-you-go’ process linked to venture creation and skill improvement. It is multi-dimensional including: ‘actions’ and ‘experiences’ from practicing different skills and discussing various topics which impact on perceptions and create changes in ‘self’, ‘others’ and our surroundings.
Roles of Bakers’ clubs
When exploring student or novice baker motivations a whole host of underpinning reasons emerge. These include for example: preparation for starting a business; enhancing transferable skills; gaining practical experience; and, personal enjoyment. Despite the range of underlying motivations one emerges from this mentorship space as being dominant, which is to enhance one’s skill-set and improve prospects for future self-employment.
When seeking to understand the baking skills learning benefits of these societies and clubs there are some interesting outcomes from this study. It is important to point out that there is some variance between individuals in terms of the learning benefits they gain. Inevitably, different individuals have different roles and learn in different ways so it is expected that they may take away from their efforts different things.
Despite the individual variance there is, however, a common thread throughout the data with regard to the value of clubs and societies. Firstly, ‘learning by doing’, ‘action learning’ and gaining experience are all seen to be one of the main benefits that novice bakers gain and often seen by bakers to be superior forms of learning when they compare this to traditional, typically didactic, forms experienced within the ‘curriculum’. By engaging in learning by doing bakers also seem to be enhancing, to some extent, their reflective practice and are giving themselves the opportunity to learn through making mistakes and overcoming problems.
Secondly, one of the major benefits that bakers’ clubs and societies provide is an opportunity to engage in social learning and links to the relevant community of practice (baking). This social learning seems to be a central plank underpinning the creation of such clubs and also comes in a variety of forms (e.g.
working on collaborative projects and gaining awareness from experienced bakers). The connections you make in these clubs are golden opportunities for the future.
To conclude it is clear the bakers’ clubs and societies have real learning benefits for both novice and experienced bakers and it is perhaps not surprising that they have proliferated. To some extent these benefits go beyond purely baking (for example enhancing employability) and there is certainly evidence that they raise self-confidence and provide the requisite skills to engage in venture creation. Be sure to join one bakers’ club and if you’re in one, contribute and absorb as much as you can. Thank me later!