“I have always wanted my own business,” says Catherine Johnson with an infectious giggle, “and that’s why I did the BfP course at FCD.” Catherine recently completed the BfP course and had the good fortune of doing her two-day job shadowing under the amazing Marissa of Cake Emporium.
“All honour to God and Elaine that taught the course,” says Catherine. “I have always wanted my own business and BfP taught me how to run a business, work with money and keep proper records. But more than that, Marissa at Cake Emporium has been a godsend to me!”
Laughing all through the interview, it is clear that Catherine is over the moon with her course and the experiences she has had with Cake Emporium. “My time with Marissa was heaven on earth and I can’t thank Marissa enough for all her kindness, help, and support.”
Catherine works from home but since her stove broke, she has been limited in what she can do. Marissa came up with a brilliant solution to the problem and now when Catherine needs to bake something, she can go and use Marissa’s kitchen. When Marissa is really busy, she calls on Catherine to come and help out.
“At home, I make zorros (a deep-fried chicken Vienna in batter), braai platters consisting of potato salad, rice salad and a garden salad with a chicken leg and sausage, and of course my curry bunnies.” Listening to the way she describes each dish has me salivating and wishing that she lived closer by.
“I also bake birthday cakes, cupcakes and muffins. My favourite was my chocolate coffee cake until oh my, Marissa taught me how to bake a red velvet cake. After I baked my first one, I couldn’t believe it. Until then I had only tasted red velvet cake in a coffee shop and had never thought that I would ever be able to bake one by myself.
“Marissa is a wonderful person â€“ not only does she let me use her kitchen, she is also teaching me how to work with fondant and I can’t wait to be able to decorate my birthday cakes with beautiful roses in the future.”
When I asked her what the most important thing is that she learnt, she giggled and said there was so much it was hard to decide. “You know what, I learnt to be able to ask for a 50% deposit before I take an order, and if people don’t want to do that â€“ I don’t bake for them anymore.”
Sounds like good business savvy to me!
And what does Marissa have to say? “I heard about FCD on a Facebook group, Cape Town Sugar Craft when one of the members asked if any of us would be prepared to offer job shadowing opportunities to BfP students. I thought this was a wonderful idea for students to see how hectic the life of a home baker can be.
“I have had three students so far and I still keep in contact with them. At the moment, I am helping out Catherine as her oven is broken. When she needs to bake something, I let her come and do it here and I also help her to decorate her cakes. I also provide the ingredients for her because it is really difficult to make a start if you don’t have the tools.
“Early next year, I am going to give Catherine some cake decorating lessons so that she can take her cakes to the next level.”
Marissa bakes mainly for private clients but she also has a few corporate clients. She does most of her marketing on Facebook and if one looks at the comments from happy customers, she bakes a mean cake. Her Facebook page has a beautiful message â€“ you are a beautiful cupcake in a world of muffins â€“ and this definitely sums up how she feels about the students for whom she provides this valuable opportunity of learning the ropes of home baking.
Another one of Marissa’s students, Cornelia Wiegmann-du Preez has only the highest praise for Marissa. “Working with her was a wonderful experience. She is so professional but also such a special person. Between my BfP course and Marissa, I was able to develop my own recipe for a special cake and I now have a signature cake that I can bake. I like to experiment and what is so wonderful is that I can call Marissa any time for advice or information on where I can buy or find the baking things that I need.”
According to Cornelia, bakers are often not willing to share their knowledge or experience, so having someone like Marissa to rely on is a real privilege.
Cornelia read about FCD in the Tygerburger at a time when things were really not going well for her and her family. “My husband had lost his job, we had lost everything and were living in one room with our baby and pets when I saw the advertisement. At first, I was hesitant but then decided what the heck, let’s give it a go.
“FCD was amazing and I would recommend absolutely anyone to go there whether you are white, black, coloured, male, female, young or old. The support and encouragement I got at FCD were amazing from day one. They never look down on anyone and treated all of us with the greatest respect and love.
“I the BfP course we learnt how to bake, how to sell our products and how to do costing. The costing the thing that most often makes businesses fail. People think they are selling their cakes at a good price and making a profit, but actually they are not.”
Cornelia did not stop at the BfP course, she went on to do the business course as well. According to her, the business course was a bit more advanced with more focus on pricing and marketing. Even though Cornelia only had Grade 9 Maths and was very rusty, she says they made it all easy to understand. “It is really idiot-proof. If I could do it, anyone can!”
As far as her own business is concerned, Cornelia says she is doing well. However, between the setbacks, married life, motherhood, studying and baking it has been a bit of an uphill battle. “But, says Cornelia, by this time next year, I am hoping to be able to sit back and watch the orders roll in.”