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Alumni Spotlight – Rose Wakasa, Baking with a Smile

When you meet Rose Wakasa, her infectious smile coupled with her nimble wit and quiet wisdom immediately strikes you. Rose is an alumna of the Strathmore School of Hospitality and Tourism. The ever-smiling Smilez as her friends refer to her has been running her home bakery business Baked with Smilez for seven years. It began as a typical run-of-the-mill hobby, but after she left Strathmore, baking went from “pastime” to “part-time business”, seemingly overnight.

Rose graduated with a second-class upper degree in June of 2015 and is grateful for the opportunities and skills presented while at Strathmore, where she studied a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management.

The birth of Baked with Smilez

“True to the name Smilez, I am always smiling. I decided to name my business Baked with Smilez to project my aim of bringing joy to people through baking. While in Strathmore, I undertook baking as part of my food and beverage unit. Unfortunately, despite doing well in theory I failed the pastry practical bit. I was summoned by my lecturer, and she insisted that I be assigned at the pastry unit in Strathmore’s catering department for two weeks. That is where my baking career was nurtured. I got to learn and perfect my baking skills.

My first order came from a friend; she asked if I made cakes for commercial use, and I said yes. She really loved and enjoyed the cake. I posted a photo of the cake, and the orders began to come in. By 2015, the business had grown significantly, and I was excited to push it further. My signature flavor ought to be Chocolate mint cake and vanilla cream cookies; a combination of vanilla and Oreo.  I bake cakes, cookies and cupcakes depending on the client’s choice from my menu. Upon request, I make deliveries.

Given that I am a home baker and have run the business alone, only until recently when I hired and trained my colleague, at the end of every month you will find me balancing accounts.

To date, I enjoy every minute of it. Despite the crazy working hours and sometimes having to stand all day, I would choose baking repeatedly. The grace of God and the great responses I receive from my clients keep me going.

Reminiscing on my Strathmore experience

I made so many memories in Strathmore. I appreciate some of my lecturers such as the late Dr. Joseph Kibuye Wadawi. He employed humor and went an extra mile in his teaching methods to ensure the students grasp the content. You could clearly see he enjoyed imparting knowledge. I would say most of the lecturers in Strathmore embrace teaching as a calling hence they do it with so much love. Now that I think about it, almost everything I learnt from Strathmore has informed my work as a baker. From food production, accounting, customer service, entrepreneurship skills to business ethics, the list is endless.

I also vividly recall this one time I came back with a few extra kilos after a long holiday. I ended up being sent home for a trouser that was too tight; this was a bit frustrating at the time.

 “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”

Baking was not my first choice in my career path. I was hoping to pursue hospitality management. While preparing to graduate, I undertook a Management Training Programme in one of the top hotels in Nairobi. However, after attending two interviews, I realized it may not be what I was after. I was called for a third interview and by then I had decided I will not pursue the job further.

With the support from my mother, I went into home baking full time, using the profit I got from each cake to buy the equipment I needed to help the business progress. I had a humbling moment during the onset of the pandemic. It was a great reminder that my business is for the glory of God. I received more orders and surprisingly I got to do my first big wedding cake. The process has not always been easy but every day I am reminded of God’s sufficient grace that is enough through and through.

Currently, I have no plans to further my studies though I am open to mastering the art of baking and pastry. As a parting shot, I would tell everyone to go for what they truly believe in, what they are passionate about. The process may not be all rosy but if it is really what was meant to be, it will be. Trust the process, believe in yourself and you will make it, in whatever you set your mind to by the grace of God.”

See more of her delicious works here.

 

This article was written by Briege Mwangi, a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Student.

 

 

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