MIB Series: Meet Chartered Accountant Turned Professional Baker, Sikuola Adewuyi, CEO Cake n’ Candy

Olaide Wangai

Meet Mum in Business (MIB), Sikuola Adewuyi, CEO of  Cake ‘n’ Candy Confectionery. She studied Accounting and qualified as a Chartered Accountant when she was just 21.  She worked with KPMG as an Auditor where she rose to the position of Manager. In 1996, she resigned to pursue her passion in cake making.

Her business has since grown in leaps and bounds, from a one man company to a medium sized business with several employees.

She is happily married to Engr. Yinka Adewuyi and they are blessed with three children.

In a tell-all interview with Motherhood In-Style, award-winning confectioner, Sikuola Adewuyi details her journey so far.

National Theatre Cake by Cake n’ Candy

READ MORE: Mums In Business Series: Meet Ngozi Obasa, CEO, NTANTA Delicacies

MIM: How long have you been in the Cake n’ Candy business?

Siku: I started formally in 1996, that makes it, let me see… 21 years.

MIM: Wow, that a very long time!

Siku: Yes, it is.
MIM: Is this what you have always wanted to do?
Siku: No, I’m actually a chartered accountant, so I started out as that. I was initially working at KPMG. After qualifying, I worked for 11 years. It just got to a point where I was no longer feeling fulfilled with my day Job. Baking had always been a hobby for me. Increasingly, I found out that my passion for it was growing, and I decided “why not, if not?”
MIM: Where you married when you left KPMG?
Siku: Yes, I was.
MIM: How did your husband take it when you made the switch?
Siku: Well, fortunately, I have a very supportive husband. He knew it was a hobby I loved and that I enjoyed baking, I guess he never really thought that it would be something I would want to go into full time. When I decided that was what i wanted to do, I called him, and told him that was what I wanted to do and he gave me his full support. I had his blessing.
 
MIM: While growing up, everybody had a dream, “This is who I want to become!”, was baking yours?
Siku: Not really, I grew up with a mother who was a professional. She was a chartered secretary, so I grew up knowing that an office job was the thing to do. I also remember my mum had a saying, “Pali e loko e” (You are married to your career). I remember that I wanted to become an accountant right from form 4.
Even though baking was just a hobby then, I never for once thought that it would be something I would do professionally. But like I said, my passion began to grow, and at the same time my interest for accounting began to wane. It got to a point where it was just a burden getting up in the morning and going to the office. I had a leading and I prayed about it. Initially it was not easy, at that point in time, it was not as widely accepted as it is now. Then, you only had a few established bakers. Usually the thing was that if you don’t pass, if you were a drop out, “Oya let them go and do cake!”. When I told people, I was leaving my job to bake cakes – I was a full manager, the next step was partnership – they couldn’t comprehend it.

Designer Bag Cake by Cake n’ Candy

Even for me, it wasn’t something I did over night, I did drag my feet a bit. I kept wondering how much I could possibly earn from baking cakes to make up for where I was coming from. I kept wondering if I could survive financially. But you know when something gets a hold of you, it got to a point that I said come what may, this is something that I have to do, so I took a leap of faith.
MIM: How long did you drag your feet before actually leaving to start baking, and what steps did you take to finally start baking professionally?

Siku: The point where I realized this is something that I wanted to do for a living and when i took the plunge, was possibly about three years. During that time, I really didn’t do anything par se, I didn’t have any formal training, I didn’t have any mentorship. In fact, it’s now that mentorship is very common, I probably never heard of the word back then. People that had the knowledge were holding it to their chest, and there was no internet. I did invest in a lot of books, I used to buy books a lot, ‘to do’ books, ‘how to decorate’ and I would practice a lot. That was what I could say helped me.

MIM: So, about funding, when you started, did you have to take from your own funds, or you went straight to the banks and said….
Siku: No, I didn’t go to any bank. Like I said, I was leaving KPMG, so I had a sum of money that was my gratuity at the time. It was not that much, but I remember my mum also gave me some money to start up with, because by the time I floated the company and bought one or two things, my money was finished. Basically what we have done over time was plow back our profits into the business.
When we started, I didn’t start off big, I was working from my kitchen for a very long time before I got a shop. Basically, what I had then was what to buy those things I really needed, I needed an oven, I needed a mixer, those key things. All the other things came along the line as long as I got jobs. If somebody gave me a job, wanted a birthday cake for their daughter, I’d buy maybe just 1 kilo of flour, just try and spread the money around. Possibly out of that money, I would buy the pan I was going to use. That was how I plowed back the profit into the business and expanded over time. Initially, financially it was not easy at all, but we weathered the storm, and here we are today.

MIM: What would you say to the woman who wants to start, she’s an accountant like you, but is afraid, “What would people say about me”, “my friends would laugh at me if I tell them this dream that I have because it sounds different?

Siku: Well, fortunately now, not just in baking, but in most vocational fields, it is widely accepted now. A lot of parents also encourage their children, as they are studying to also pick up a skill to learn. It is widely encouraged now, so I don’t see women going through the same struggle I did. People would not look down on them, they’d probably enjoy a lot more support. Then again, even if you do have people that are not encouraging you, what I would tell you is to focus on what you want to do. As long as you are sure that is what you want to do, and you are going about it the right way, you can only but succeed.

READ ALSO: Mums In Business Series: Meet Ngozy Ezeka-Attah, Creative Director JAGA BEAUTY STUDIO & MAKEUP ACADEMY

Celebration Cake by Cake n’ Candy

MIM:Do you find it easier now working for yourself as an entrepreneur, than when you were working for your organization: Better family/work balance?

Siku: I wouldn’t say its easier, its more flexible in the sense that when I was working in paid employment, my 8am-5pm, more like 8am-7pm, was not my own. When I had family needs, having to take children to school, or to the hospital, one thing or the other, it was always an issue because there was either one meeting I needed to attend to at work. So, for that purpose, being your own boss, is much more convenient. It didn’t mean I had less work to do, it meant that I could be flexible with my hours. I doubt if you would call it easier, because you have to work thrice as hard, because if you don’t work you don’t eat. The buck stops at your table, you have to be there 24/7 making sure your business is running and gaining grounds.

MIM:How did you get your marketing strategy right when you started, because there were no Facebook, Instagram, all these social media then?

Siku: Fortunately, because it started as a hobby, quite a few people at work knew that I baked cakes. When I left KPMG, I got a lot of patronage from that network of colleagues, and then again word of mouth. Like I said earlier, the competition then, was not as stiff as it is now, today there is a baker on every street, on every corner. Then, we were not many, so word of mouth spread quickly. You’d find people calling me. They heard I baked cakes, or they were at one party and they saw my cake. I don’t even think I did anything close to an advert for like the first 4 or 5 years. It was simply word of mouth, referrals.

MIM:Was there any particular incident when you started that almost made you quit?

Siku: Well, I wouldn’t say there was any particular incident, I did have challenges along the way, but then I guess because I was so fired up, so passionate, nothing could actually stop me. I remember when I started, like I said before, financially it was very difficult. There were months when I couldn’t even afford to go to the hair dresser, then we used to do wash and set, I couldn’t even afford it; I’d just tie scarf. The little I was used to having while I worked at KPMG, I could no longer afford. I also wasn’t used to asking for those type of things.

I became financially independent very early. I started out at working at an accounting firm at 18, by 21 I was qualified as a chattered accountant. So right from 18, I had stopped asking anyone for money. It became extremely difficult for me to ask for money. But I knew that it was a teething period, I knew what I was doing, I had prayed about it. I was convinced that this was where I needed to be, it didn’t faze me. I just knew that it was a matter of time, if we don’t do hair this month, we would do it next month. There were challenges at the time, but it didn’t slow me down. From day one I never looked back, I couldn’t go back to paid employment.

READ ALSO: Mums In Business: Mom Who Turned Her Hobby Into a Successful Business Now Training Others

Cake n’ Candy wedding cake that blends the ancient and the modern

MIM: Was there any mentor that you looked up to at that period, and felt that “this person epitomizes who I want to be, there is something about this person’s life that inspires me”.

Siku: Like I said initially, I don’t think I remember hearing the word mentor, it wasn’t as common as it was now, and even people that you could look up to were hoarding the knowledge. It wasn’t something that was freely shared. Now, you can go on YouTube and download videos to watch and learn. Then, there was really nobody to look up to. I knew a couple of people that were doing well, but everybody sort of kept things close to their chest at that time. As the industry began to grow, more people opened up, you could see their work and it was inspiring. And up till now, I wouldn’t say there is a particular person that I can consider a mentor. I am inspired by a lot of people -both the old brigade and people who are a lot younger than I am, people that have come into the business years later than I did. Fortunately there is Instagram and all these other things, I see their work and I’m like wow! So, I personally derive inspiration from so many people.

MIM: We’ve seen you have written books on baking. What do you call that kind of baking?

Siku: Just one…(laughs) The title of the book is “Ethnik Sugarkraft”. What it does is it showcases our own culture because I love African arts, I decided to infuse it into the cake decorating. You find out that when you go into book stores, all you can find are foreign books with foreign designs. We have a lot of designs in Africa, so I decided to take it up as a challenge and show what we can do on this side of the world.

Yemi Alade inspired cake by Cake n’ Candy

MIM:You are a role model to many in the baking industry, like if they want to list, the top bakers in Nigeria that people look up too, your name will come up. How do you handle that type of responsibility, knowing that you are a role model, how does that affect the things that you do, how does that affect the way that you live your life?

Siku: It is definitely a lot of pressure because it means that you cannot afford to mess up anyhow. Firstly, professionally, in terms of the work you produce. I mean sometimes I can’t bake or decorate every cake myself, I get to the bakery and see some shabby jobs done and I’m like, “Ehn, how do you want me to place this outside for people to see?!, it can’t be done”. I’m constantly telling them we have been placed on a pedestal, we cannot afford to fall down. There is a lot of pressure to make sure that whatever comes out from our bakery is top notch, whether I’m there or not.

Secondly, you’d be surprised at the number of people that know you, I go to places and people greet me, I would be like “I’m sorry but I don’t know you”, and they introduce themselves. Imagine I was fighting with a bus conductor or something? It just means that one has to behave all the time. Make sure that you are someone that can be continuously looked up to.

MIM:We know you have worked hard, you have put in the time and effort but what has been the role of luck, or should I say favor in your business? Has there been any?

Siku: Definitely. I do not mince words at all, I believe that I have received divine favor from God. Up till today, I still don’t have any formal training for this thing, although I have been for demonstrations – one hour demo, two hours demo. Most of what I know and I do has been from divine inspiration. Sometimes I’m sitting down, and I see things. People look at your dress and admire it, I look at a dress, admire it and think to myself, how can I put this into sugar. Right there and then I say to myself, “I could do this, I could do that”. Sometimes its so bad that I stop people and say, “Can I take a photograph of your dress?”. I get inspiration from a lot of things, and the methods to execute these designs just kind of drops in my head – I consider it to be divine inspiration. I cannot say that I actually earned it, God has smiled on me definitely in this business. That is what gives me that confidence to know that this is where I need to be, because I can definitely see the hand of God on my life in this business.

MIM: So, there are women who are afraid, who want to start their business but are scared to leave where they are to get to where they need to go, any advice for them?

Siku: Well, its easier said than done, especially now when things are not economically as easy as they used to be. What I would suggest is that before you step out, kindly conduct a proper feasibility study, have a business plan. If possible, if it is something that you can do side by side with your job and sort of ease into it gradually, please do so. You need to be able to start with a minimum cost.

A young lady came to me recently and said that she wanted advice, she’s also an accountant and she just started this catering business. She’s been cooking this food for a couple of months, and she calls me and says she wants to open a restaurant. I asked her to come over so we could talk, and I told her that opening a restaurant is not just about cooking food;

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CEO Cake n’ Candy Confectionery, Sikuola Adewuyi perfecting one of her award-winning creations.

“You need to put together all the costs. It is a whole new ball game entirely, you’re going to have overheads that you must have income to cover. What is your clientele base now? Can you break even? I’m not even talking of making profit, just break even, a lot of other costs that you didn’t factor in are going to come in: government financial obligations, LASAA, PHCN, generator, etc. You find out that you have a lot more overhead than you actually bargained for. You need to sit down and look at it more critically, do you have a clientele base that can actually cover the costs?”

She said she doesn’t, I told her that I didn’t think now was the time to open a restaurant. I however did advise her to keep cooking, until she got to the point where even “your kitchen would no longer contain you”. We all want to start big, have that flashy shop, it is a nice idea, but it doesn’t work in reality. You need to be very focused about the cost you are incurring. You need to be very focused about your customer base from the onset. When you have enough, then you can begin to incur costs that can be absorbed by your income. Its important to start small, so that even if you make mistakes along the line, those mistakes would also be small in comparison to a business that you started out very big. Trust me, there are mistakes that can ruin people for life. Like I said, if its possible to still run the business while they are working, ease into it gradually, don’t just jump into it. Fortunately, like we said before, we have a whole lot of people that are willing to mentor you, willing to advise you, willing to put you on the right track. Please, avail yourself of all those opportunities, and the sky is the limit.

MIM: So let’s talk about your kids, I see lovely pictures everywhere. Did they come after you started the baking?

Siku: I started in 1996, they came before, because the twins joined us in 1992. By the time I left KPMG, I had more time for them and my business. In fact, I tell people that even if I haven’t achieved financially what I would have achieved if I was at KPMG, what I have achieved as a mother cannot be quantified. I had the opportunity to attend every single function they had in school. Whatever it was, I was there because I had my own time.

Sikuola Adewuyi & her supportive husband, Engr. Yinka Adewuyi

I remember when my children went to South Africa for A levels, the principal commented that she sees me more often, than parents that live in South Africa, because I was there for every function. To the glory of God, it is evident in their own progress as well. I was looking at my daughter’s twitter account a couple of days ago, and she said “I have the best parents in the world”. I thanked God, because they have all excelled academically. I also thank God, because I know its favor. I also know that I have been blessed with the opportunity to put in what I need to put in.

MIM: It has been inspiring sitting down on your couch, learning from your story. You saved the best for last – no matter how much you might have lost financially from leaving KPMG, nothing can be quantified to what you have achieved as a mother by your decision to become a mum in business.

Thank you for having us and for being an inspiration Mrs Adewuyi!

For more inspirational stories and tips on how to start or grow your business, attend the Mums in Business Fair & Conference. 

Date: Saturday, November 25th and Sunday, November, 26th, 2017.

Time: 9 am daily.

Venue: King’s College Annex, 1-5, Adeyemo Alakija Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Reserve a booth or register for the conference at www.motherhoodinstyle.net/mib or call 08091363389, 08164484656 and 08091443394.

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“MIB Series: Meet Chartered Accountant Turned Professional Baker, Sikuola Adewuyi, CEO Cake n’ Candy”

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