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How love, cookies, and lockdown forever changed our lives

How love, cookies, and lockdown forever changed our lives

A recipe for building a small business in tough times.

"Our business journey has introduced us to wonderful people who believe in our dream, and are willing to throw their weight and expertise behind us."

A recipe for building a small business in tough times

For as long as I can remember, being a “serial employee” was the only way I thought I could earn a living.

I was raised by public servants, and serving the public was all I ever saw them do. I, too, am a public servant, and I don’t always have time or energy to focus on other endeavours.

But this changed during lockdown last year, when I convinced my fiancé, Kabelo Molepo, a self-taught food enthusiast who I nicknamed Daddy Bae, that we should start a small bakery from our Joburg inner city apartment. He was looking for a job, and this could be a form of income for him in the meantime.

It grew beyond our dreams. Today, Daddy Bae’s Kitchen is a thriving small business, supplying cookies to customers across the country. But we’ve only just started.

Much to the dismay of our neighbours, who relished the smell of our baked goodies, we recently moved into an apartment with a more spacious kitchen.

The business has had a huge impact on our family. Kabelo and I are constantly kept on our toes. I’ve been busy building our brand, and we’ve learned how to move quickly when the unexpected happens.

We are also proudly breaking gender stereotypes with our five-year-old son, Leano, who loves to help his father in the kitchen. He’s even asked us to buy him his own oven.

I jokingly refer to Leano as the foreman of our little bakery. He keeps production in check, asking his father when baking will happen if he sees him busy with other tasks.

Much like our clients’ children, Leano enjoys the cookies. This inspired us to create our smaller, child-friendly Bambino range, with him as ambassador.

Daddy Bae’s Kitchen has given Kabelo new-found purpose, and an opportunity to be captain of his own destiny. Cooking and baking have always been a part of his life.

Although it started as a temporary activity, he has set his sights on taking the business further and making it an even bigger success.

He is inspired by the chance to make something of himself and provide a better future for his family.

Baking isn’t easy, but Daddy Bae copes by listening to house music, playing Pokémon Go, reading articles on the Cracked website, and watching Tifo Football and Mrwhosetheboss on YouTube. In-between, he catches up on the latest cooking and baking trends.

Our business journey has introduced us to wonderful people who believe in our dream, and are willing to throw their weight and expertise behind us.

One of our clients and mentors generously donated a six-deck oven to us. We named the oven “Otis”, which is German for prosperity or wealth.

We put Otis to the test over the festive season. We could not be more proud of its performance.

After 10 hours and 10 units of electricity, we had baked over 600 cookies, a task that would previously have taken two days.

We added two new flavours to our range in November. We now offer chocolate chip, oats chocolate chip, ginger, and oats and cranberry. Kabelo is a perfectionist. He spends up to three weeks formulating and perfecting his recipes.

I must confess this process irks me at times, because the baking slows down. And when baking slows down, sales slow down. But I understand and respect Kabelo’s approach. He is the master of his creations.

While all of this is a great recipe for a booming business-in-the-making, we are still faced with a huge challenge: meeting demand with our current capacity.

That’s why we’ll be launching a crowdfunding campaign, which will be coordinated by our marketing partners, Building Blaq Equity, Divergent Business Holdings, and US-based Crowdwallstreet.

We hope the campaign will help us raise funds for equipment, operating space, overhead expenses, and staff.

We may be far from becoming the next cookies empire, but the love and support we receive gives us the staying power we need to achieve our dream.

As we approach the first anniversary of our small business, I’m fondly reminded of the African proverb that a child is raised by a village.

Our young business is being raised by a village of people who want to see Daddy Bae’s Kitchen become the go-to baked goodies brand in the country, and beyond.

Anything is possible, when you’ve got love and cookies on your side!

Poppy Louw

Change expert, Poppy Louw, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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