A confectioner by profession, Alley Akinyi Onyango has been passionate about baking since the age of 14 years when she was still in high school.
For this mother of one, cake making started from her mother from whom she acquired the creative cake-baking skills, that left family members and friends amazed.
“My mum baked cakes as a hobby and to satisfy her family members’ and friends’ tastes. But to me there was more to it than that. It was an allure to landing a good income generating activity that for sure has changed my life,” said Onyango when KNA visited her confectionery recently.
In line with the English dictum –‘like mother like daughter’, Miss. Onyango took the challenge of going full throttle into learning how to bake cakes from her mother, Deborah Katiba.
She did this while still in school and became a good student by winning more trust from clients her mother had already established for the small-scale family business.
But as soon as she completed her high school, Onyango decided to further her skills by taking short courses in cake baking in different private institutions and later joined Kenya Polytechnic where she enrolled for a diploma course in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
This move developed her talent further after focusing seriously on cake baking and decorations, making her become a darling today to many out to get the best cakes for weddings, birth days and other festivities even in Migori and far flung areas of the country.
“Instead of enrolling in computer classes after completing my high school education like most people do, I opted to take a three-month baking course in one private college then later I joined Kenya Polytechnic where I pursued a diploma course in hotel and restaurant management, which I successfully excelled at.
“I was later to venture into commercial home cake baking business with the assistance from my mother, an undertaking that quickly picked up,” she narrated with a broad smile that only confirmed her satisfaction with what she was making from her business.
Tucked in the heart of Migori town, within the sprawling Oruba Estate, Miss. Onyango’s pastries have always left tongues wagging due to the beautiful shapes of cakes she produces for choice of her ever increasing customers.
What is amazing is that she can bake cakes of any shape – a giraffe, any of the buildings you know in Kenya and abroad, a weapon of any kind or any other shape preferred by her customer.
“I do all types of cakes ranging from wedding cakes, birthday cakes or any other type of event and customise them according to the preferences of my clients,” she said, showing us a photo of a cake she once baked of a building under construction.
She has joined a whatsap group where she shares what she bakes with her friends who in return refer her to their friends and the cycle continues since social media has become the avenue to showcase her talent.
This is how she has gone through the cycle of advertising her business and she finds it easy to rope in more customers every day.
If a client wants a cake, for instance a wedding cake, he or she is supposed to book three months prior, and in between the second and the third month, the client has to come to confirm whether the cake has been baked in accordance to their needs and make any adjustments or corrections needed.
For birthday cakes, express orders are allowed, that is booking a cake 24 hours before the party or booking it in the morning then picking it in the evening.
She offers delivery services in case the clients need one at a cost of Sh.200 for deliveries within the town and in the outskirts she charges Sh.500 utmost and, for deliveries beyond her reach, she has a group of bakers in different counties to deliver for her clients.
In case of damage on goods while on transit, there is always away to wriggle out of the loss from both sides. She and her customer will always strike a deal on a 50-50 benefit and this has always worn her accolades among her customers.
“There are bakers in Nairobi, Kisii, Homa bay, and Migori who we share a lot in common. In case one needs equipment we lend each other. Likewise, when one’s client is in need of services but not within his or her reach , our partners in those locations will lend a hand on your behalf. This has enabled me do a lot in advancing my business,” she added.
To Onyango, the 16 years she has been in baking business has seen her develop skills in baking using different flavors such as Vanilla, Black forest, fruit cakes and other pastry such us Samosa, Meat pies and Cookies.
She has also had to diversify her business by introducing another department of hiring cutlery, tents, and public address systems for those organising wedding events or any other event.
According to her mother, Katiba, watching her first child taking over her baking skills and doing it with passion, makes her feel proud for being her mentor and supporter.
“I feel proud when I see my daughter striving each and every day to become her best, she has even taken her baking skills to the next level which I never taught her, she has gone much far ahead of me and that’s what gladdens my heart. I urge parents to support their children in the little things they do because you never know where it will take them,” she narrates, her face full of exultation.
Though baking has got its own challenges, Miss. Onyango advices those wishing to start baking as a career or a hobby, to enroll in training and put effort into practicing every now and then.
“Every soul was once a beginner, and what you start as a hobby can turn into a career if only you do more practice.
Miss Onyango’s future plan is to open a bakery store where her clients can easily locate her and open doors of employment to those with passion and talent, she said.
By Christine Mwita/Margaret Okila/George Agimba