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Baked by Opy – takes the cake

Omphile Magasa, a dedicated IT professional never thought she’d become an entrepreneur – let alone a baker – when a serendipitous turn of events completely changed her life.

Linguamites is a multi-lingual preschool for children from the age of 2 that teaches Chinese, Zulu and English. The school offers small classes taught by qualified, experienced teachers who are native speakers.

It all started in 2016 with the desire to bake her daughter a special smash cake. She says, “I wanted to be the super-mum so I decided to give it a try. A few months later, a friend asked me to bake her a themed baby shower cake. I resisted saying, ‘ I wasn’t a baker’, but she persisted and her faith in me caused me to believe in myself. Before I knew it I had a thriving little side hustle, Baked by Opy.”

In December 2017, when her contract with IBM came to an end, a job hunting Magasa decided to focus more of her energies on baking. “The baking was supposed to be a temporary measure, but then the orders started rolling in and it just escalated.”

Fast forward four months later and she was ready to formalise her business. “I wanted to give it a proper try but I was very nervous as I didn’t have any actual business skills. I needed to join an entrepreneur support programme, I found Riversands Incubation Hub and it all fell into place,” she explains.

She’s particularly thankful for the help she received from Riversands SME Business Coach, Sibusiso Khoza, “When I first started here I was worried about making my rent but I’ve learned so much. Sibusiso took me through everything, arranged meetings with financial experts who taught me how to read my financials, do projections and improved my marketing skills. But you have to do the work, and I love that they don’t let me get away with anything – I have to be accountable.”

Magasa’s talent and eye for detail are now paying off and her business is growing steadily. She’s helped raise her profile enormously, by getting involved with the e-TV morning show and has made three on-screen appearances. “That’s been an amazing experience, my cakes are reviewed live on TV. All the reviews have been great, so that’s been wonderful.”

She’s currently working on diversifying her revenue streams by offering cake tasting sessions on the weekends and plans on starting cake decorating classes. But what makes Magasa’s story all the more impressive is that she’s completely self-taught. She’s rather self-effacing about her achievements, clocking it up to YouTube tutorials and Google research. “I firmly believe that you can learn anything online – there’s always a video. I’ve also received help from my trusted network of professional bakers who often give me advice, especially when I’m trying something new. But this industry takes a lot of patience and practice. There have been times I’ve thrown cakes on the floor because I couldn’t get it right, but I love the challenge of learning a new skill and perfecting my craft.”

In the last few years, there’s been a huge growth in the artisanal cake industry in South Africa. While the actual figures on the number of home-bakery businesses aren’t available, a quick Google search of, “How to start a baking business in South Africa” reveals well over 1 million entries. And a quick look on social media sites reveals a deliciously, mind-boggling plethora of options. The number of entries in this sector isn’t surprising when you take into account the growing trend of taking on side hustles/ side jobs to boost incomes.

MarketWatch, a business news site that tracks markets for investors, estimates the global cake market is expected to value at USD75 billion, by 2023 – so more than enough room for the bakers to have their cake and eat it too.

MarketWatch’s Global Cake Market, 2019, Industry Report says, “The increase in online sales and demand for innovation would further help in cake market growth in the future. In addition to this, there is an increased demand for affordable, healthier and freshly baked cakes. The idea of customisable cakes is a key factor contributing to the growth of this market.”

Social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook further fuel the demand for customised cakes, as sharing pictures of drool-inducing, sugary masterpieces has never been easier.

According to Magasa, South Africans are very much aware of the international cake trends, but aren’t afraid to mix things up and add their own spin to a cake.

She says, “The cake industry is very fresh and innovative. I get a lot of requests from people who’ve seen something online and want me to make that or something similar. The trends now are for gravity-defying cakes – where a part of the cake looks like it’s suspended in air and has sweets pouring over the top or down the sides. This is a show-stopper of a cake but it can be tricky and involves a lot of work. The other trends are for fault line cake, where lines of buttercream are swiped out and filled with sprinkles or other decorative elements.”

She adds, “ The fault line cake is generally made with a buttercream icing and this ties in nicely with the return in popularity for cakes with a buttercream icing as opposed to fondant. But whatever you want – we can make it.”

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