As the catering industry is booming in Malawi, 29-year-old Sungeni Mtalimanja decided to tap into the market by establishing her own cake baking business in 2012.
Mtalimanja, who credits her baking skills to her sister-in-law Asante Mtalimanja, says she never thought she could turn it into a second career because she only knew the basics in the trade.
“The first time I baked and decorated a cake is quite memorable. My sister-in-law was not home so she called me and told me to make the cake. It took me hours to get it properly done, but at the
end, it was quite a recommendable effort,” she recalls.
Mtalimanja explains that she decided to start baking seriously in 2012 after her sister-in-law left the country for greener pastures.
“My sister-in-law had quite an extensive clientele before she left the country. When her clients called her to place an order, she would refer them to me. That’s how I started building my client’s base,” Mtalimanja says.
She decided to call her business Sweet Temptations By Sungeni because her cakes are sweet and people get tempted by sweet treats. The Sungeni was added on to give it a personal touch.
Mtalimanja, who bakes for birthday parties and bridal showers, says her chocolate cake and unique cake designs are the essential things which set her apart from the rest of the bakers.
“My chocolate cake is a hit with most of the customers. I also take pride in decorating my cakes because, for me, it is not only about getting an edible picture and decorating the cake with it. I hand draw with cream and I believe this makes my cakes unique because most people don’t do this,” she says.
Mtalimanja, whose busiest months are during public holidays such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mothers Day says she bakes an average of five cakes a week, and charges between K4 500 to K15 000 for a cake depending on size and decoration.
She cites constant power blackouts which have hit the country hard as one of the things which hinder her work.
“I sometimes have to stay up late so that I can meet all my orders due to the power outages. This can be very frustrating at times,” she says.
Mtalimanja also says finding the right ingredients locally is a tall order.
“Some people want complicated designs which they see on the Internet. However, getting those ingredients is not easy, especially in Malawi.
“This means that sometimes I may not be able to meet my customers’ needs simply because I cannot find the right material and ingredients,” she said.
Due to the lack of coffee shops in Malawi, Mtalimanja’s future plans are to venture into this market and open a coffee shop where she can serve a variety of cakes to her customers.