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A youth-owned bakery start-up north of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, is among the first tenants to move into the Dube TradePort Mini Factories. Bakers Gallery, which specialises in high-end celebratory cakes, is growing as an affordable mass-market cake and pastries offering.
Moving into the mass-market cake line was a Covid-19 survival plan when the speciality celebratory cake orders halted, and it worked.
“In 2020, we had our first break into the retail sector with a contract to supply cake loaves, cake slices, cake rings, cupcakes, biscuits, tarts, and pastries to a Spar store. Within eight months we were supplying 10 Durban-based Spar supermarkets and we needed to expand to bigger, better premises,” said Skhumbuzo Maphanga, an executive pastry chef with global experience and the founder of Bakers Gallery SA.
Dube TradePort’s Mini Factories were ideal, he added. “We were looking for security, a constant supply of power even during load-shedding, ease of access and parking for our clients, and a well-kept environment that provides a good image.”
Maphanga started Bakers Gallery in 2013 as a side-line hobby supplying a home industry shop in Morningside, to supplement his Durban ICC Pasty Chef’s salary.
By 2018, his cake baking had grown to such an extent that he was working around the clock, and he had to make a choice between his full-time job or building a bakery start-up. The latter won, and Bakers Gallery SA was registered as a business.
Diversity of skills
Following in his older brother’s footsteps, Siphesihle Maphanga also trained as a chef and was drawn into the business. Being the creative in the family, his forte is the intricate decoration and painting of celebratory cakes.
Another partner in the bakery and pastry business is Ntobeko Ndlovu, a qualified educator and a medical scientist who has brought his strategic thinking and business management skills to Bakers Gallery, changing it from a hobby into a business.
“He saw the potential in this line of business and gave up teaching temporarily and jumped in with an aim of changing the ‘side-line hobby’ into a formal business. He brought in proper processes, bookkeeping and financial management which were crucial in us raising funding from one of the big five financial institutions,” said Skhumbuzo.
With an understanding of equity in hindsight, he has also managed to use his skills to attract and bring on board private investors to invest in the bakery start-up. And for a very long time, he also served as a company driver when the business was still limping financially.
Ndlovu is also driving the processes towards achieving municipal certification of acceptability, which is crucial to building the business. In the longer term, the team’s personal goal is to achieve Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and GLOBAL GAP compliance.
With a business plan backed by detailed research and documented growth and demand for their products, the trio’s future plans are to supply retail central distribution centres and use online shopping platforms, like Takealot, to market their cookie line.
“The evidence is there. In a space of eight months, we were selling into 10 Spar stores. This tells us that the demand of our product is very high. If we are to meet our goals of supplying our products nationally, we will need to run two to three shifts a day to achieve the volumes. We also anticipate that by also selling cookies in bulk online, we will be well positioned to grow exponentially,” said Skhumbuzo.
Bakers Gallery is also looking to collaborate with caterers supplying cakes, cookies and desserts. Recently, they supplied 1 200 desserts for a Midlands wedding. They have also supplied the likes of Durban ICC and Balmoral Hotel with desserts for big functions.
They have started short baking courses and plan to open a training facility for people who have a passion for baking and the art of cake making, which they have opened to disadvantaged youth. “It will also be a great way to teach people how to bake and empower themselves by means of selling,” said Skhumbuzo.
In addition to the three executives, Bakers Gallery employs four people – three bakers who started as dishwashers and were trained to bake from scratch.