Maxi Wandera
(Sweet Mama Bakery)

This is a summary of an interview with Maximilla Wandera, the owner of Sweet Mama Bakery.

In this interview, Maxi reveals how she turned her passion for baking into a business. She also shares her experience as a stay-at-home mum and how she manages that and business.

Maxi has tips for women who want to venture into business. These include chama management, how to raise funds for your business, why it’s important to save before quitting your job and many more.


Click here to listen to the interview or read the summary below
Also check out Sweet Mama Bakery on Facebook and Instagram

From Hobby to Business ~ Maxi Wandera

Background information

Sweet Mama Bakery is owned by Maximilla Wandera (Maxi). She has a Bachelor’s degree in Horticulture and Masters’ in Nutrition. While people may question the combination of a degree in nutrition and baking cakes, Maxi believes that you can have healthy baked foods. You can also allow yourself to cheat in a healthy way once in a while.

She was in employment for many years then went for the Masters’ degree. After completing the degree, she couldn’t get a job. So she became a stay-at-home mum. After some time she realized she could do something else and turned her baking hobby into a business.

Maxi has been baking as a business for 1½ to 2 years. However, she’s been baking as a hobby for about 15 years. Her business journey started when she got tired of keeping on asking her husband for money. She felt that she needed to take control of her finances, both in the home and in her business.

While she makes all types celebration cakes, her specialty is celebratory cakes for birthdays, weddings, business success, etc. That’s the line she wants to specialize in as the business grows and expands.

Previous business ventures

Sweet Mama Bakery is not Maxi’s first business. She previously:

  • Sold Softa soda for less than a year.
  • Sold mineral water.
  • Did flower arrangements for weddings.
  • Did outside catering.

She gave up on each of these businesses and never did any for more than 2 years. She was not organized in any of them and would sell and use up all the money. There was no accounting and at the end of the day she’d have no money left over.

Challenges encountered at startup

1. Finances

Lack of capital kept her hoping for bigger things that wouldn’t materialize. Instead, she’d end up using the capital which led to lack of growth. She also didn’t have a lot of financial support.

2. Lack of organization

This was her biggest startup problem. In addition to lack of consistency in managing finances, Maxi was also disorganized, poor in administration and didn’t keep any records. She’d end up wasting time or doing nothing.

3. Getting the right technical advice

She had a few professional people advising her but she was doing things in the dark because she wasn’t in a position to get enough qualified technical advice.

4. Lack of consistency

She didn’t get serious about business until she started working with a business coach (Caroline). Before that she’d bake, sell, use all the money, look for new orders, bake and deliver the order, use all the money, and repeat the cycle.

Initially, she’d bake on and off and didn’t price the cakes appropriately. She’d then get tired of baking and start looking for a job and the cycle continued. It wasn’t until things became very difficult financially at home that she decided to take business seriously.

She was still doing business haphazardly and using up all the money even after she got serious. Business coaching helped her stop the self-defeating cycles.

5. Self-doubt

The challenges encountered in this and other businesses made her doubt herself and start wondering, “Am I not good enough?” “Where is the problem?” “Is it me?”

This reduced her self-confidence and moved her from being a go-getter to doubting herself. At one point she settled into the role of a stay-at-home mum who ‘begs’ for money from her husband.

6. Work-life management

At the beginning she had to do some of the housework as well as meet her orders. It was a challenge because she’d spend so much time on housework and forget her orders.

She’d end up baking at night when the children go to sleep. This led to sleeping late and still having to wake up early to prepare the children for school. All these led to overwhelment.

How did she overcome these challenges?

1. Saving

When she started saving, she started seeing that business was possible. Saving opened up opportunities for her because she could tell someone that she has this amount and now needs this amount.

The ability to save came when became more organized. She also gets additional financial support from her chama because of her savings there.

2. Working with a mentor

This gave her additional support and accountability. Baking was no longer a hobby, but a business. Her mentor is also helping her organize herself professionally and explore growing her business.

3. Business Coaching

Maxi recommends business coaching and says that it’s the best thing you can ever do for yourself. Coaching helped her change her mindset and she started thinking differently about herself and the business.

This shift helped her overcome habits that were holding her back, including:

  • How she was spending money.
  • Lack of savings.
  • Second-guessing herself.
  • Making excuses.

She got over these habits and started looking at things from a bigger perspective. This is what has made this business different from her previous businesses.

4. Time management

She set 8:00am to 5:00pm as business hours. This has enabled her to allocate her evenings to her family.

Her overall successes from this business

Personal growth: She grew tremendously. It felt like a curtain had been opened from her eyes and she could now see. Before this, she was going round in circles and making the same mistakes. Now, she cautiously goes through steps because she can see the problem, see where to go and also what not to do and what to do.

Increased confidence: She became more confident, her old self came back and she’s now ready to do everything. She was a go-getter when younger, but that had been eroded. She’s gotten back to that go-getter person and now feels that the sky is the limit.

Ability to make purchases: She’s able to buy things now that there’s capital. Previously, the money used to get finished and she had to keep starting over.

Business growth: She keeps proper books and has regular clients. The business has grown and she’s aiming to move to a physical Sweet Mama shop by the end of this year (2018).

Going beyond startup

Maxi is now in the second phase of her business and her mentor is helping her prepare to grow the business. She highly recommends working with a mentor in your business.

Current stresses and how she’s handling them

1. Feast and famine cycles

Sometimes she gets overwhelmed when she has orders and at the same time has targets to meet. Other times, she’s has to work overnight and deliver the next day – she once had to drive to Kisumu to deliver a cake after working late the previous night.

She wants business, but sometimes many orders come in at the same time. And then comes the time when there is no business and she has to look for orders.

These cycles mean that she can’t employ someone right now because she’s not sure whether the orders will be consistent enough to pay the person.

2. Lack of finances

The places she’s looked for funding want her to give collateral that’s equivalent to the amount she wants to borrow, which doesn’t make sense. Luckily, she’s in a chama which gives her loans.

3. Doubters

There are still people who ask her, “Are you sure about this business?”  Others tell her she’s wasting her time or that this is not the right kind of business for her. Her advice is that you need to cut such people out of your life and move on because you have your goals

A normal day for Maxi

4:30am Wake up, prepare breakfast for her daughter who goes to school early. Do some housework. While she has someone who comes to clean once a week, there’s still daily cleaning and cooking.
8:00am Admin and marketing: accounts, confirming orders, making calls for orders or to people with upcoming birthdays. Baking and icing. Deliveries.
1:00pm Lunch break: She takes a 1-hour break and also watches news or reads a book.
2:00pm Business work.
5:00pm Close work. Making supper. Spend time with family till bedtime. Sometimes work extends to 6:00pm but never beyond that.
10:00pm Her bedtime. Sometimes she goes to bed at 11:00pm.

Some days have specific activities:

  • Monday: This is her free day. She does banking and household shopping. Some slow Mondays she’ll take time off and treat herself for lunch.
  • Weekends: These are her busiest times. When not very busy, she can attend family functions or go out in the evenings.

Maxi’s take on work-life balance

It’s doable but you have to be very cautious about your time. Each hour has to be well allocated otherwise you’ll feel overwhelmed. Take your home-based business as seriously as you’d take office work.

She also takes a 1-hour lunch break daily. Her take is that if you don’t do this, you’ll be out of balance.

Finally, being a stay-at-home mother and business woman is not as easy as people think. It’s a lot of work managing both at the same time.

Maxi’s advice for women in business

1. If you’re an aspiring business woman

  • Prepare yourself financially: Ensure that you have something aside saved or start the business as you’re working because it’s not comfortable asking someone for every shilling that you need. Get the startup capital before you start if possible.
  • Have an idea combined with passion: Passion is very important in any business. It keeps you going when business is bad or slow. So you have to be very passionate about the business.
  • Do your research: Get background information about the business. Know what it entails before you make that step. There’s no need to learn some of the lessons when you’ve already put in your time and money and you’ve already resigned from employment. Also, talk to people who are in that business.
  • Get a mentor: Find someone who is in the same business to help you as you grow your business.
  • Not all businesses need capital: Capital depends on the kind of business you’re starting. You can start a business without capital. Some businesses only require your skills. If you need capital, you can start saving a little everyday. Haba kwa haba hujaza kibaba. Also consider angel investors if you need a big capital investment. There are many options. Open your eyes, talk to people. Somebody somewhere will hear your story and help you out.

2. Join a chama

Chamas will give you a loan at a very quick rate and you have each other’s shares as collateral. Maxi has seen women grow from chamas. Her chama is more of a Sacco. They out in money monthly and you can get a loan that’s three times your shares just like in a Sacco.

You get to see other women grow and they support you too. You also get motivated when you receive dividends and see other members investing and purchasing things with their dividends. In her chama, the older women mentor and advice the younger ones.

Maxi’s advice to women in chamas:

  • Change the chama from a social meeting place.
  • Don’t meet for more than an hour. People come in, put their money, get new notices or information and they move on.
  • All the money should go into savings and loans.
  • Treat the chama like a business. Don’t make it a merry-go-round or spend the money eating nyama choma or drinking.
  • If you have many members, register your chama as a Sacco. This will enable people from the Ministry of Co-operatives to come and support your chama and show you how to run it.

3. Get training

Training is very important. Maxi was lucky because she started baking at a very young age and baking has always been a passion for her. Still, she keeps learning and improving her skills by watching YouTube videos.

4. Get business coaching and a mentor

Business coaching made a big difference for Maxi. She became more professional and also started doing things different from her other businesses.

A mentor will provide you with support and tell you things that are going to make a difference in your business.

5. Manage your money well

She opened an account and all money from clients goes direct into the bank account. She withdraws money on Monday and allocates some for business, some for the house and some for herself (do lunch, make her hair, buy herself something e.g. a nice shoe).

What helps her is having a budget for the week for the business, house and herself. It’s easier to be organized when you use such a system. Of course she also takes care of emergencies when they happen.

Ultimate business vision for Sweet Mama Bakery

  1. Outlets in several malls.
  2. A workshop where all products are created and then supplied to the outlets. This will also ensure that quality remains the same in every outlet because the products are coming from one place.
  3. Do wedding cakes in a big way e.g. 10-15 orders a weekend with deliveries going in different directions.
  4. People wanting to come and train with them.
  5. Having additional products that are nutritious. These include allergy-free cakes, energy bars for gyms, and healthy snacks

She’s giving herself 5 years maximum to achieve this dream.

Parting words from Maxi

Let’s support each other. If you’re in a position to mentor someone, mentor them. If you’re in a position to give advice or support to another woman, do it.

Let’s also encourage the younger generation and put them in the mindset of business. Let’s fight for each other as women.

Your way forward

1. Visit Sweet Mama Bakery

Visit Maxi’s bakery on Facebook and Instagram and see examples of the cakes she makes. Follow her online and share her page with your contacts. You can also call her to order a cake and let her know what you learnt from this interview. She works from home in Syokimau and is available to meet physically if you call and book an appointment.

2. Sign up for updates

Would you like to receive updates on other interviews with professional and business women? Sign up for our email newsletter and you’ll get these updates hot off the press. You’ll also receive personal development and business tips and resources as well as periodic special offers that are just for our subscribers.

3. Get featured in Celebrating Women in Business

We interview women who are at different levels of professional and business growth. Contact us if you’d like to be featured in this series. For business owners, your business must be at least one year old and you work fully in the business.

4. Sign up for coaching

At Biashara 360, we help professional and business women become leaders in their industries. You define success in your own terms, chart your own course, and achieve your fullest potential. You also prioritize your focus so that you achieve greater success while working a lot less.

If this interests you, click here to request for a 15 minute consultation. During this call, you will connect with a coach and identify whether coaching is the right thing for you. If it isn’t, you’ll be guided as to what would work for you now.

(Image Credit: Maximilla Wandera)

Caroline Gikonyo
Caroline Gikonyo

Caroline Gikonyo is a Life and Business Coach at Biashara 360. She's an avid blogger and also oversees our content creation. This ensures that we give our readers quality and well researched information and tips.

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