By Ebele Orakpo
Mrs Ihinosen Etareh is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Abuja-based Oven Cake Craft. In this chat with Financial Vanguard in Abuja recently, the graduate of Accounting from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, speaks on why she left her job at the European Union to go into cake-making and the challenges.
After her diploma in Accounting Education and a degree in Accounting from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, Nosen, as she is fondly called, did her one year compulsory service to fatherland (NYSC) at the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) in Lagos. She was thereafter employed by the European Union to work in their Accounting Department.
Going into business:
“I have always had this passion for baking. I have baked at every stage in my life, from primary school to the university. My parents are professionals but they encouraged us. My mother bought from icing pumps, to baking pans and the ingredients as well so everybody in the house used to bake for fun but at an early age, I realised I could make some money out of it so I took cakes to school and my friends would buy and ask for more.
While waiting for a job after my youth service, I baked as well and I eventually got a job in Abuja. “It was then I realised that I was missing my baking because it was like a hobby turned into a business. At that point, I realised there were not many baking outfits here so I felt I should grab the opportunity and so, Oven Cake Craft in Abuja came into being. ”
Quitting my job:
“As orders kept rolling in, I really could not keep up with work anymore, and because this has always been my passion, I asked myself if I want to do the business when I am old and retired. What will happen to the passion that I have for baking? I said to myself, “No, I do not want to do this when I am old and retired, I have the passion and energy for it now and I would rather do this now and run with it properly.
So while I was working, I was able to find out I could make a living out of it and it could pay my bills. So I decided it was time to say goodbye to the EU and move on with baking. I have not looked back since then,” she enthused.
“We make cakes for pretty much all occasions – birthdays, weddings, baby dedications, graduations etc. We also do desserts such as cheese cakes, carrot cakes etc. as well as snacks. We make our products to order which means that a customer can walk in, place an order and we will make it to suit the purpose/event and also the person.
This is our 11th year in business and so far, so good, particularly in Abuja where it has become competitive because quite a number of people are into cake-making but we try as much as possible to be on top of our game so that we can be a step ahead of our competitors.
“For me, the biggest challenge particularly in Abuja, is the cost of renting a place. Because of the nature of the business, we get calls round the clock so as a working mother of two, with a son who is less than one year, it is important for me to separate my business from my personal life and for me to be able to do that, I have to have a shop located in a prime area accessible to our customers.
Most of the shopping plazas are highly priced. Rent ranges from N2 million to N2.5 million per annum, because of this, I have my bakery in a different place. We have to factor in logistics of carrying cakes from the bakery to the shop and we have to go through traffic and all that. “Electricity is another because a lot of our equipment like the mixer, oven etc., depend on electricity. We tend to prefer electric ovens because they bake more evenly than the regular gas oven.
Another challenge is the cashless society we find ourselves in. The Points of Sale (POS) tend to have network issues. Sometimes customers pay and the POS malfunctions and the customers are debited; it takes time to resolve and sometimes the customer feels like we have taken their money because they have been debited and we are telling them we did not receive the money, so this cashless policy is an issue.
There is also problem with bank transfers. Sometimes the transfers don’t go through. I experience the same thing when I have to pay my vendors. I try to do a bank transfer to make life easy for me and it just bounces back.”
“I started the business on February 7, 2004 with about N3,200,000. The February 14 date was deliberate because we did quite some sales for the Valentine.”
“When we started, we did a lot of marketing, we took cakes to offices of the Bureau for Public Enterprise. I have a lot of clients from there. We took cakes and fliers to banks and schools. I believe in the taste of our cakes and so we took samples of cakes to people so that they could have a taste because we believe that when you taste something and you like it, that is when you can appreciate it and buy.
So we took cakes to people who trusted us enough to taste and we gave out a lot of fliers and cards. I would say that 80 per cent of our clientele actually saw and tasted our products because the feedback we get is: ‘I saw, I tasted and I liked’ and they keep coming back.
For some of them, when they taste our cake, they copy out the number and call. But now, with social media, it has gotten better. We have a web site and a lot of people go on the internet and when they Google where they can get cakes in Abuja, our link pops up and they are able to see our products and place an order.”
“They come and go but at the moment, we have between 18 and 21. One is on maternity leave, I have some students who come to work only on holidays. I train most of my staff. We intend to start a formal training school for children from age 5 to grandmas. It is still in the pipeline because of accommodation. Hopefully, by next year, we will have that sorted out,” she said.