Pastry chef Gugu Mazibuko (25) is building a reputation as a cake decorating king in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), where he runs his own confectionery business.
Mazibuko grew up in Ulundi in northern KZN. His mother was a good baker and this inspired the young Mazibuko to pursue a career in food.
“I knew that I wanted to be in food, but I didn’t know which path I wanted to take. I went to several different colleges before I eventually discovered that working with pastries was what I wanted to do,” says Mazibuko.
Mazibuko studied to be a pastry chef through the International Hotel School, and then discovered a love for cake decorating.
“I didn’t know if cake decorating could actually be a full-time career for me but, funnily enough, I gained inspiration from the TV show Cake Boss, where this guy had become very successful with his cake decorating. This gave me some motivation to start my own business.”
Mazibuko started advertising his services on social media, and then word began to spread about his business.
Gugu the Baker, as he is known in Pietermaritzburg, now creates a variety of beautifully decorated cakes for special occasions, such as weddings, birthdays and anniversaries, and also makes other small pastries for clients.
“I love the creativity of decorating cakes. Every client comes in with a different style and decoration that they are looking for, so there is a new challenge every day,” says Mazibuko.
Mazibuko has also started running his own cake decorating workshops, teaching others the joy of creating their own unique cakes.
Operation Vula gives a boost
Thanks to his hard work, Mazibuko was awarded R200 000 in funding from Operation Vula, an initiative of the KZN Department of Economic Development, which seeks to uplift small businesses.
“The funding will be very helpful for investing in machinery and growing my business. I want to expand and employ more people. I also want to get into the retail space, whether it is opening my own shop or partnering with bigger retail shops to sell my cakes and grow beyond KZN and to the rest of South Africa,” he says.
Mazibuko had previously employed eight people but had to scale down as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
He has some pearls of wisdom for young people who want to start their own small business: “I think the greatest thing to understand is that you need credibility. You need to prove to clients that you are trustworthy and professional, and that you can deliver on your promises. Your good reputation will spread through word of mouth.”
Small businesses crucial to South Africa’s future
Small businesses such as Gugu the Baker are exactly the type of enterprises that South Africa’s government is seeking to support as part of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
In announcing the plan, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) will be crucial to the economic growth of the country.
“A central pillar of this work is the transformation of our economy, creating space for new black and women entrants and taking deliberate steps to change ownership and production patterns. In promoting localisation and industrialisation, we will be focusing in particular on the development of small, medium and micro enterprises,” said President Ramaphosa.
He pointed out that there are between 2.4 million and 3.5 million SMMEs in the country, which can contribute greatly to employment creation and economic transformation.
“Through a focused support programme, we will support SMME participation in the manufacturing value chain. This will include the targeting of specific products for manufacture by SMMEs for both the domestic market and for export. It will also include the provision of business infrastructure support, financial assistance through loans and blended funding, facilitating routes to market, and assistance with technical skills, product certification, testing and quality assurance.”
Where can small businesses apply for funding?
Government offers various opportunities for SMMEs to apply for funding and support:
Small Enterprise Development Agency – Visit seda.org.za or call 0860 663 7867.
National Empowerment Fund – Visit www.nefcorp.co.za or call 0861 843 633.
National Youth Development Agency – Visit www.nyda.gov.za
Department of Trade and Industry – Visit www.dtic.gov.za or call 0861 843 384.