Obioma Nwolum is the Creative director and Baker behind the Cake Hub brand. Obioma’s life and journey to becoming one of Nigeria’s most sought-after bakers speaks to the power of possibilities and choosing to make the most of what life throws at us. She is known as the face of corporate baking in the heart of Abuja, and the best at what she does.
Obioma Nwolum quit her well-paying engineering job to be by the side of a loved one who sadly passed away; faced with the reality of her loss and almost being broke and the stress of having to start all over again, Obioma Nwolum decided to try her hands on baking with the help of YouTube and Social Media. The Cake Hub was birth as a result of her determination, tenacity, and drive, and has today become one of the fastest rising cake businesses owned by a self-taught baker who decided to live her best life by creating sweet treats and beautiful memories for her clients.
In this interview with Whoot Africa’s Inspiration Africa, Obioma Nwolum shares her journey to becoming the best at what she does.
Obioma Nwolum and the Cake Hub?
I come from a loving family of six, I am also an engineer turned baker. I have always loved baking, tinkering in the kitchen and experimenting with recipes. I worked for a few years as an engineer, but I had to quit work to look after a loved one who sadly passed away. After my loved one passed, I went back to job hunting but nothing was forthcoming and I had responsibilities to take care of. My sister who is also a baker encouraged me to look into baking to help me get back on my feet for a while; she taught me the professional side of baking since I had done a bit of hobby baking when I was younger. I stayed with her for a few weeks learning as much as I could; I had barely settled back home from the trip when she rang me up a few weeks later with an order.
I was a bit sceptical about taking the order at the time, I felt my sister had thrown me into the deep end as a starter, but she motivated me and pushed that I could do it, and that was what birth my business journey. My breakthrough moment as the Cake Hub came, when a friend shared my work as her display picture on the Whatsapp Messaging App and that was it, the phones haven’t stopped ringing since then.
Remaining relevant with my work inspires me a lot; to be able to surpass what I did yesterday and be even inspiringly better today. Tapping into my creativity and just being the best, I understand there are people who can do better work than I can, but favour and being able to explore the gifts and talents I have been blessed with, has me going out to do more every day. My son also inspires me to do more, when I look at him, I know I have to be great at whatever I set my hands to do in order to inspire greatness in him as well,
Her sister, Judy Udeze?
She’s intelligent, tenacious, inspirational, and someone who chooses a path and goes for it. Her focus and work ethics inspires me, her life and work has helped in moulding me to be who I am today. She’s goal oriented and I had no other option but to follow that line, she’s also a great teacher who is willing to take you on board and put you through; she’s also an equally great listener. My sister is a rare gem and a mentor who has believed in me from day one and continues to support me all the way.
Transitioning from Hobby to Business, can you share about some of the challenges?
In the beginning, it was a bit challenging. The fact that I was recently widowed, and finances weren’t great at the time as well, as I wasn’t financially stable and I had a little child to take care of. At the point when my husband died, I knew any business that would involve me spending money was a no brainer for me, but with my sister, she practically set me up in business, she gave me the first few equipment that I would need, she gave me the support and everything that ensured my business ran smoothly. She told me I needed to start and just keep it going, plus my family’s support as well at that time really pulled me through. Equally, my suppliers were absolutely amazing, many of them sold products to me on credit, I still look back in awe at how they supported me, all I can say is, it had to be grace and a bigger purpose being fulfilled. I have been privileged to have suppliers who supported me from day one, and watch me grow from buying things on credit to the growth stages we are now in.
Advice on business networking and how to keep the customers coming back?
I think it is very key you keep your customers satisfied at all times, even if you take a loss sometimes. I am such a big believer in the power of continuity, it doesn’t make sense if you make all the money today and tomorrow, they don’t come back. To me, it is important that I serve a client today, make my money and you are happy to come back and also refer me to others tomorrow. I have had my ups and downs, I once had a situation where we had baked a cake and in the process of delivery or it being accepted by the client, the cake fell, and when I got the call about the situation, I offered a refund because it was almost impossible to bake and decorate another cake for the event it was meant for. My client was surprised I offered a full refund, she came back with the money and pleaded that I take it, and till today, they remain one of my best returning customers. You also need to practice and thrive on integrity and empathy in your business, there is no need making all the money when you can’t sleep at night.
Looking back at the journey and the growth, what words come to mind?
Grace. It’s grace, all the way. I believe in a higher power and I know God has been showing up for me.
Advice to young people who think there are no opportunities out there for them?
There are a lot of opportunities out there, you have to find what you are passionate about and key into it. The passion and love for what you finally find yourself doing will help a lot because when times get tough, something has to keep you going, that’s why you see two people doing the same thing and they both hit rough patches, the one who isn’t passionate about it tend to let go quickly, if you have the zeal for something, you will keep at it. When I bake and go through the stressful back to back baking and I barely get any sleep because of the decorating process and demands, it can be a bit daunting, but when I sit back and look at the end result, I am grateful for having this passion, it keeps me going and ensures I put in my best to be better than my last work. It is worthwhile at the end of the day.
What’s next? The future?
Well, becoming a brand name, I also want my story to be a successful one. A relatable story that isn’t just about cakes, but about how a woman like me who turned the toughest times of her life into a venture that has gone on become a multi-billion empire. The struggles, the victory and the achievements.
Teaching? Considering you are self-taught, would you be willing to teach?
I have had a lot of people approach me about teaching, but right now, I don’t have the space to teach as I am in business and keeping things as lean as possible. My baking right now can be overwhelming because of the volume of orders, but it is something I would love to do in the near future, as I believe knowledge is something you should always pass along. I am not an orthodox student, and I may have unorthodox ways of teaching considering that is the way I have learnt and taught myself, so once I can structure things properly, I will teach.
What would you want to be remembered for?
That woman with the great success story.
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