“I met someone in my Abuja NYSC camp very randomly and we developed a friendship,” Oyindamola recalled. “She told me that she had been baking cakes casually for a while and I talked her into making a business out of it with me being the business manager. We carried on in a partnership for just under a year before we went our separate ways and I continued in the business.”
She is a First Class graduate of Medical Biochemistry from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom. Her parents wanted her to pursue a career in the medical field, thus it was no surprise that her decision to go into confectionaries was met with some resistance from family and friends.
She explained how they received the news of her going into baking: “I had always maintained good grades; I have a first class honours degree in Medical Biochemistry so everybody expected me to go on to study medicine or at least pursue a career in the medical field. But I was absolutely uninterested; I wanted to run a business. I admire the medical profession and all it entails but it’s just not my calling. So yeah, friends and family were not initially thrilled and probably thought and hoped cakes would be a short-term dalliance.”
Oyindamola’s father was particularly bent on securing a medical-related placement for her during her youth service. However, fate had other plans. When the medical placement was not forthcoming, she happily switched her Place of Primary Assignment to an events company. She went on to work there for almost two years, post-NYSC, and was able to run her confectionary business along with the job.
She registered Decadent Treats as a Private Limited Liability Company in May 2016 and it was the same family and friends who helped her to secure her early clients. “NYSC was my first time in Abuja so I didn’t really know anybody. A colleague at the events company introduced my cakes to her circle of friends and then there were more referrals. Other friends and family also helped in word-of-mouth marketing.”
Because she didn’t plan on being a baker from the onset, it was difficult to initially decide if it was what she wanted to do when she started in 2013. However, it neither took long nor much convincing for Oyindamola to metaphorically see the writing on the wall.
She recalled how. “I would work at my day job all day and then have to bake and decorate cakes till late in the night. And in the beginning, we were baking in my partner’s kitchen in Asokoro. I would finish work in Wuse II, drive to Asokoro to bake and then back home to Gwarinpa in the wee hours of the morning. It was mental but it was also my moment of truth.”
These days, Decadent Treats has three full-time staff, a part-time accountant and various contract staff. With a “handsome” turnover, we asked Oyindamola what she does differently to stand her out in the crowded confectionary business.
In the beginning, we were baking in my partner’s kitchen in Asokoro. I would finish work in Wuse II, drive to Asokoro to bake and then back home to Gwarinpa in the wee hours of the morning. It was mental but it was also my moment of truth.
Her response: “We manage to stand out because of two things; quality ingredients and show-stopping designs. We are constantly researching new recipes, ingredients and techniques to keep in step with international counterparts. Each product we send out is a marketing tool so we put in a 100 per cent and we don’t compromise. We hope that this consistency results in a larger customer base that will in turn help us grow and increase capacity.”
Some 30 per cent of Oyindamola’s baking ingredients are sourced from overseas. This means price fluctuation due to exchange rate. She also faces the challenge of poor electricity supply. But by far, her biggest constant challenge is how to stay relevant in an ever-changing business.
She said, “Being a creative field, there is a requirement to keep things fluid and current in order not to run the risk of becoming irrelevant and losing your customer base. This is where constant research and upgrading of skills become critical. Anytime I feel stagnant , I take a step back from work and focus on learning new things for the business.”
This has led Oyindamola to undertake various training courses outside the country, including at the prestigious Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School in Melbourne, Australia.
She is also already thinking about diversifying her business. “We are in the process of floating a specialty bakery company called Eclairs.ng, dedicated to crafting delicious varieties of the French pastry, Éclair. We also run a food and drinks display rental company called Abuja Props Rental.”
Oyindamola is working hard to ensure that her business becomes bigger and better with pop-up stores all over Nigeria. She has come a long way from that first cake she baked in 2013. “It was the ugliest cake yet we were so proud of ourselves,” she said smiling, “I shudder to think about that cake now!”