Friday, April 01, 2022

Cake industry is next to Nollywood if ranked ... says Okoye Eniyi of Cakes by Somchez - ITREALMS

Interview@ITREALMS ... making leadership SENSE with digital news!

United Kingdom (UK) trained baker and UNIPORT’s French graduate, Okoye Eniyi, is the Chief Executive Officer of Lekki, Lagos-based Cakes by Somchez, formally known as ‘Just Cakes by Somchez.’ She told ITREALMS correspondent GBEMI OMOTOSO that baking transcends her corporate world and ranks next to Nollywood.
Okoye Eniyi, Chief Executive Officer of Cakes by Somchez
Excerpts:

How did you come about the name?
A mixture of the first two letters of my oldest daughter name-SO, my husband's name-M, my second daughter's name-CH, my name-E and my last daughter's name-Z. Thats what formed SOMCHEZ.
Your educational background?
I went to Federal Government College Kano, and studied French in the University of Port Harcourt. I equally did a post graduate diploma at Open University, United Kingdom (UK). Other qualifications are in baking, sugar craft with Susan Sugar Craft Center, Hague in Holland, Also baking refreshing course in Squires Kitchen, United Kingdom.

Your hobbies?
I like trying out new things especially things that revolve round my work (baking), thereby trying out new baking recipes. I love reading religious books also.

Your likes and dislikes?
I like honest people because I can't stand people with double-characters (cunny, deceptive and manipulative people).

Any experience in the corporate world?
Hmmn! No experience because when I came back to Nigeria, I settled into family life so baking for me started as 'my corporate world.'

How did you get into the cake industry?
I used to bake with my mum when I was much younger, I moved around a bit when I got married internationally. As a stay at home mom I took interest in baking. I did a little bit of refreshing courses when I came back to Nigeria; there was a vacuum in the cooperate world since I left the country for a long time just couldn't find my feet around all the things going on and I was raising a young family as well, so I moved to Lagos and continue from where I left off in baking; I met other bakers in the industry which we developed other relationship in the business.

How many years have you been in the industry?
I started the business more than 20 years ago, but formally registered it in 2009 as a business. So, officially, I've been in the industry for about thirteen years.

What is your area of specializations in cake industry?
My area of specializations is in baking buttercream frosting mostly and fondant also.

How has the journey been as a baker?
My journey as a baker has been somewhat in-between steady and turbulent, steady when prices of products are ok and orders are forthcoming but now baking industry is going through the same phase every other business struggling to survive with the economy situation (inflation rate) in the country.

How would you describe the industry?
The baking industry has evolved compared to when I started. It has grown to a point where absolute priority is required. I wished a statistics is available because there are people who supports the industry apart from bakers either through making of cake-boards, cake-boxes, sales of cake accessories and tools. Therefore, the cake industry has empowered and created employment opportunities for people who have found their strength to backup the industry or making products.

I wished Nigeria government will embrace the cake industry seriously because if the cake industry is ranked, it's the best next to Nollywood.
a piece of work from Cakes by Somchez
a piece of cake from Somchez

Which area in the cake industry needs improvement?
I can never overemphasize proper training. Don't jump into the bandwagon of "this one is baking "I must bake." Discover where your strengths lies; I think the industry will improve if we actually know what we are doing and get adequate training for that which we have chosen to do. If you love to bake cakes, learn how to bake from top-notch bakers or perhaps go to a baking school.

Be an expert in whatever aspect of baking you intend to focus on so you won't be "A jack of all trades, master of none."

Should we encourage mentorship?
Everyone in the business world has a mentor; someone to advice & to help you navigate the business scene. I always advise upcoming bakers to have a mentor. You must be open to be a mentee and having a mentor as the case may be because it's not easy to go into a business without having anyone to guide you.

Have you ever developed a cake recipe?
I modify recipes I come across. A lot of times bakers do copy and paste and do not get the desired result so what I do is I alter recipes that I use. I've tried lots of recipes with Shea butter, tiger nut but not for clients.

How do you prioritize or plan your time when baking?
Adequate planning is always essential when working; from baking to decorating cake designs;I plan adequately to work within a particular time frame to achieve a desired results.

What inspires you when working?
I have to go to church (mass) early in the morning or during the day it helps me get focused for the rest of the time which calms me down.

How do you balance family with your baking considering the fact that both are tasking?
Hmmn! Family work balance (smiles...). As a baker you have to learn hard way balance the two; after sometime I had to set up a time for work and family with that I was able to navigate that balance. I have a resumption and closing time for myself.

Family always come first sometimes you might have orders that will take your time but you must always have a way to ensure that it doesn't actually interfere with your family, designate time for the two aspects.

How do you handle difficult customers?
Ahh!! I have dealt with a lot of them. Basically when you meet a difficult customer you find out what the issue is and apologize, when you are trying to find out what the issue is, you have to be calm, patience is also a key in dealing with them you need to also understand that we have a lot of people with different backgrounds; customers are not always right, but you have to give them a chance to express themselves, if it's a refund do so.

You have to figure out a way to understand who your customer is at the beginning of a transaction or else you might have problem with them afterwards.

What motivates you in the industry?
The happiness and joy on the face of my clients after the delivery; the positive feedbacks from clients also keeps me on. I remember when I delivered a "Power Rangers" cake to a child the smile, joy on his face encouraged and motivated me just like so many other deliveries.

Your most memorable day?
I've had so many which I would like to mention the organisation of Lekki-Ajah Cake Exhibitions with some other professional bakers in the industry, Also, when I was recognised as Best baker of the year 2008 by Nigeria Media Nite-out. Other awards to my credit are the Lagos-Ikeja City Award in 2018 as well as Lifetime Achievements by Naija Cakes 'N' Affairs in 2019.

Do you believe in multiple streams of income?
I believe in multiple streams of income if you have the ability to work around it; even in the baking industry sometimes orders might not be forthcoming, during those season you have to add other business in order to supplement your income.

How do you take time to relax?
I relax by watching movies, documentary and listening to news.

What is your best tool as a baker?
My measuring scale and spatula.

What is your advice to upcoming bakers?
My advice is to get the proper foundation because cake making is beyond the designs as the taste also matters a lot. They should understand what it takes to grow in a business and remain relevant so that their cake can stand-out.

Okoye Eniyi of cakes by Somchez

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