The founder of IndulgeCakes, Pogoson Esesua, 22, says high unemployment rate in Nigeria drove her into starting her thriving business.
Tell us about your business?
I own and run a cake business. I sell all types of cake. I bake cake for all occasions — birthdays, engagements, weddings, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas among other numerous celebrations. I started my cake business three years ago and the business has grown significantly over that period.
How did you acquire the training for the business?
I come from a long line of bakers. So, I have always had the background knowledge of cake making and cake decoration. My late grandmother was a reputable baker in Ibadan, especially on the University of Ibadan campus where she lived. My mother learnt from her. Both of them were involved in commercial cake baking at different times in their lives. I grew up watching and helping my grandmother and my mum bake all kinds of cake.
I later became an apprentice under Exquisito Confectionaries, one of the famous bakers in Ibadan. There, I sharpened my initial skills in cake decoration. I also got further comprehensive training in the United Kingdom. Apart from these formal forms of learning, I also keep abreast of cake decoration methods through the Internet; I have learnt quite a lot from this source too.
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
Not really. But I come from a family where skills acquisition is encouraged and that probably had some hold on me and encouraged my entrepreneurship. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Ibadan. During my early period in school as an undergraduate, cake baking was not on my mind. However, along the line, I realised how high the unemployment rate in Nigeria was and still is, I began to give a thought to setting up a business. My parents also persistently advised and encouraged me to start a business. Luckily, I had started to earn some money from baking for friends on campus.
What really inspired you to start the business?
In my second year at the university, during one of the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ strikes, I didn’t want to sit idle at home. I just started the cake making business.
What were the main challenges you faced early in the business and do you still encounter them today?
The main challenge was that of time management. I was in my third year in the university when I started and it was difficult to balance the time between my education and the business of beautifying people’s events with my cake. However, as time went on, I was able to strike a balance between the two. Although there were still strong constraints on my social life, I simply saw this as a sacrifice that I needed to make for the business.
Today, I think I have been able to strike a balance between business and my social life since I am presently out of school.
How much did you use in starting the business?
I cannot give an exact amount because I started with the basic baking equipment I acquired from my grandmother and mother. Thereafter, I have been acquiring new facilities with the proceeds from the business.
Do you offer training?
As a member of the National Youth Service Corps presently, it is still somewhat difficult to offer structured training programmes. But I have this in the pipeline for the future. However, I have a number of cake enthusiasts who I am constantly mentoring when baking for my clients.
Have you received any support from any groups or government to expand the business?
No, I haven’t. I have applied to a number of organisations for funds to grow my business but I have not been lucky. And there are very few of such organisations. Besides, we all know how difficult it is to get money from banks with their high interest rates. The biggest support I have got for my business as a young entrepreneur has been from my family.
What is your advice for unemployed graduates?
In an ideal world, no new graduate will have to deal with unemployment. In Nigeria, the transition from a higher institution to the real world of work to earn a living is tough. The key to survival is learning how to cope in a difficult situation such as ours- one coping mechanism that has helped me is trying my hands on a business in which I have the background knowledge. I will therefore advise unemployed graduates to venture into the business in which they have the skill and passion. Entrepreneurship is a good way to develop financial independence. Most individuals shy away from competition but I hold dearly to the adage that says: “The sky is big enough for all the birds to fly.” All you need is a consciousness to add value to whatever endeavour you are engaged in. Once these businesses have been set up, you must continually acquire new skills to improve and become leaders. I advise all unemployed graduates to acquire skills that they can sell.
Looking back to when you were just getting started, what would you have done differently?
If I were to go back in time, I would have started my business much earlier than I did.
Would you say you have inborn entrepreneurship skills?
As it concerns me, I don’t think I was inborn with the ability but I was introduced to entrepreneurship at a very early age. My grandmother started early. She baked, ran a thriving shop and didn’t need to seek employment because she was doing well. She passed this unto me. However, I believe that skills can be learned at any time in life if you have the right passion, drive and motivation.
What are your plans for the future?
I have been operating my business in the last three years from my home kitchen but the business is fast outgrowing the space. I am now looking forward to owning my own cake shop. Even though I currently do considerable business outside Ibadan, I hope to take the name IndulgeCakes to many places in the country. I look forward to someday sell cake decorating equipment and other baking tools. Ultimately, I hope to establish an institute of confectionary studies to cater for all the related specialised training. I hope to do this training at a subsidised rate and reach out to people who cannot readily afford to pay to learn. This will be my own little way of giving back to the society.
How should the government handle unemployment?
I must commend the Nigerian government for introducing Skill Acquisitions and Entrepreneurial Programme to the National Youth Service Corps Programme. It has begun to equip young graduates with skills that can be developed and that can grow into successful businesses. The government can do a number of other things to significantly reduce the rate of unemployment in the country. These will include spending more on education and training in order to increase the skills of workers. Government should also integrate skills acquisition into the curriculum of higher institutions so that from an early age, we all can begin to develop entrepreneurial skills