Catherine Kanyuga Nabale, in her early 30s, is the owner of Morgan’s Bakery. She narrates how she turned her love for baking into an enterprise for healthy treats
I am a trained advocate who has been practising for the past three years. I have always baked as a hobby ever since I can remember and I have always admired the general culinary world. In 2010, when I was a law student, I started baking cakes for friends and family.
Apart from baking for others, I have always loved cakes. The fact that I am gluten intolerant has not stopped me from eating my favourite cake. I simply made sure I have my medication ready so that I can take it as soon as I eat cake.
One day, I decided I was fed up with taking medicine every time I enjoyed a slice of cake. I decided to look up bakeries that sold wheat-free or gluten-free cakes. My search yielded just one bakery in the country and their prices were quite high.
Around the same time, I read about diet being the first step of conquering cancer. I realised most Kenyans don’t know that eating too much wheat and sugar is destroying their health.
When I was doing my research, I even discovered that you can be addicted to wheat, such that when you stop taking bread, mandazis, or any of its products you might end up with withdrawal symptoms like headaches among others. Eating healthy foods that have no preservatives will certainly go a long way in ensuring most of us keep several diseases and conditions at bay.
In 2017, I decided to start a business that bakes and presents cakes made from natural ingredients for a niche clientele. I named the bakery after my son, Morgan.
What happened next
At first, I ran Morgan’s Bakery as a side-hustle. My law career came first and then I would bake after work or during the weekends.
My first clients were typically my family and friends but gradually, through word of mouth, several people got to know of my goods and their importance.
I also used social media to market and display them and some of my clients emanated from there. Notwithstanding, I still bake on order. This means you have to give me at least 24 hours after your order and this is because my cakes don’t contain preservatives.
Juggling my job and side-hustle was not easy. I would end up exhausted. This year I decided to take a sabbatical just to concentrate on the bakery. I practise law on a consultancy basis and I’m giving baking most of my attention.
My clientele includes people who suffer from allergies that include gluten, eggs, sugar, and preservatives that can be found in baked commodities. These cakes are ideal for anyone suffering from diabetes, celiac disease, high blood pressure, cancer and other issues that directly deal with the diet.
Running a startup
Morgan’s Bakery is a wheat-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free bakery company. Although we also bake the ordinary cakes when the need arises, I am driven by the healthy alternative baked goods idea. This has been hard to sell to most Kenyans. Considering the fact that the healthier choice is pricier than the ordinary wheat products that most people are accustomed to, it has been hard for them to accept it.
Gluten is found in wheat and it’s the vital component that allows products made from wheat to stretch and bind other ingredients together. It was extremely hard to source an ingredient that will play this vital role. At first, I tried Teff which I outsourced from Ethiopia and although it was good, it was costly. This meant the commodities would not be affordable.
Then I experimented with rice flour and it was too grainy and it didn’t have much to offer nutritionally. I finally decided to come up with my blend of different flours including cassava, chickpea and rice and I found the right balance. It also took a lot of trial and error before I came up with the ideal blend that the market would love and appreciate. The components of the blend depend on the product and the client.
In the end, I realised every failure is a lesson. All the ingredients in the baked goods serve a purpose. The whipped cream is made out of soya and it’s healthy compared to the sugary whipped cream or icing sugar most people consume.
Our gluten-free cupcakes cost Sh1, 800 per dozen and one kilo of the cake is Sh2, 400. These cakes contain no preservatives and they can last for up to four days without refrigeration. When you store them in the fridge, they will stay fresh for up to seven days or a week.
Where I am now
This year, Morgan’s Bakery participated in two categories in the Kenya Baking Industry Awards and it was a pleasant experience. This year, we also started baking lactation cookies which contain flours and natural ingredients to boost the intake of Vitamin B, Iron and protein in breastfeeding mothers.
I am happy that some people are embracing the healthy alternative of baked commodities in their homes. I wish more Kenyans would pick it up. In future, I would like our commodities featured in the gluten-free section of major supermarkets and outlets. Although most people don’t even glimpse at this segment, I hope they would realise the importance of it, so that they can start purchasing these goods.
It took a lot of will power and explaining for a majority of the market to understand the value of Morgan’s Bakery commodities. On the other hand, some could not understand why I left a lucrative law career just to bake and I have had to develop a thick skin because of the tough questions they ask.
I would advise any budding entrepreneur to research before venturing into any kind of business. They should also be prepared for any eventuality that might crop up. Moreover, they should not be afraid to take that initial step and no matter what anyone remarks, they should be strong and resilient.
When starting a business, a strong foundation is vital. This means no matter where you start, you shouldn’t neglect the legal structures of the country. Registering your business should be paramount even if you are operating from your house. You will end up being frustrated building it up from scratch and then you find out that someone else has already registered it under the same name that you have. Overlooking steps like Kenya Bureau of Standards certification and the taxing system will also cost you a lot in the long run.
More about Catherine’s business