RASHID ABDALLAH is the founder of Blax Cakes, a business he co-founded with his wife during the Covid-19 crisis. He spoke with JAEL MUSUMBA.
Briefly introduce yourself and what motivated your cake business.
My name is Rashid Abdallah. I was born and raised in Pumwani, Majengo area. I am the firstborn of two brothers who were orphaned at a young age. After completing my O-level studies, I started hustling and later got a job. I was a businessman until Covid-19 struck and ruined my business. Even though my passion has always been in cooking, I never turned it into a business until things came to standstill in 2020. This was after my wife, Sharon Anyango, who studied hospitality management, challenged me to give the cake business a shot. With the skills I had learnt from a friend, we decided to try and that’s how The Blax’s Cakes business was launched.
How was it when you first settled on customising the cakes?
We were not getting orders as we had thought, which was discouraging.
What does it take to be the best cake baker?
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It takes hard work, learning from your mistakes and listening to customers.
Almost in every celebration is crowned by cutting a cake. What would you tell lovers as Valentine’s Day approaches?
For lovers out there, this is the season to get the best taste here at The Blax’s Cakes. It doesn’t take much to surprise your loved one with a cake.
How do you handle customers who want a great cake but don’t know the right flavour and design?
We normally ask a customer what type of cake he/she wants - a mild flavour or a 'shouting' one. We usually ask if the cake is for a child or a grown-up - and the type of people expected to attend the party. About design, we try to come up with something suitable for the person’s age and gender.
What are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
The first skill one needs is to learn how to use digital platforms to market the business online. Secondly, a relationship with your customers by trying to learn their likes and dislikes. The third one is to do the business wholeheartedly.
What business tricks have you discovered that keep you focused and productive in your day-to-day schedule?
Not comparing my business with other bakers and always looking forward to where we are going.
How do you conquer those moments of doubt that so often stifle or trip ideas?
In times of doubt, we turn to God to keep us going. Considering I do something I love, the passion keeps me going.
Other than deciding to work with your wife, what was the single most important decision you made that has contributed to your success?
Listening to my thoughts and pursuing my passion.
What key activities would you recommend to people in business to invest their time in?
They should learn to take care of themselves by staying fit, going for hikes and catching up with friends.
Cake is an artistic food. How far do you go when it comes to cake decos?
We research to get something perfect before we even start decorating the cake.
What is the most complicated cake deco you have ever made?
Most complicated cake décor we’ve done was a traditional wedding cake. At first, it was hard carving the shape of the pot but as soon as I was done, everything turned out amazing.
What are some of the lessons that have impacted the way you conduct your business?
Ensuring I deliver what was ordered, listening to clients complaints and improving, and getting to understand the client and apologising when I’m wrong and when I’m not.
Any general comments when it comes to business decision-making?
Do what makes you happy. Get to understand the kind of audience you are dealing with - their likes and dislikes - and believing in yourself even if no one does.