By Ebele Orakpo
Mrs Ngozi Azubuike is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Glitters Integrated Services Nigeria Limited, an events planning/events services outfit with offices in Abuja and Enugu. In this interview with Financial Vanguard in Abuja, the Public Administration graduate from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology speaks on why she ventured into cake-making and events planning, the challenges and says it has been a win-win situation.
Upon completion of her one year compulsory service to fatherland, Mrs Azubuike, like every other Nigerian youth, went into the labour market in search of the elusive white-collar job. Unable to get one, she decided to live her passion.
“It is quite clear that I am not doing what I studied but it is more about empowering myself and others around me. One cannot just sit and keep waiting for a job to come by when you can do something for yourself. I did not learn catering in school. In fact, I never saw myself as one who will do anything like that in the university; I had more passion for decorating so all I wanted was to do people’s weddings, birthdays and events generally. I wanted my sister to do the catering part but when we relocated, I found myself having to do it so I had to learn.”
“I first did a five-day training course. It was a crash programme but I am very fast in learning so all I needed to do was see a little bit of this and that and I was okay. I started playing and practising on my own. I found that my flair for decorating manifested even in the cake business. It really helped me because I began to do things that I didn’t think were possible and when people saw a bit of my creativity, they began to challenge me even more, sending me more technical designs to do.
So far, we have been able to pull them off and that created a lot more trust in the customers. “I am glad I was able to find something I could do that people would appreciate me for. I started this business in 2006 in Enugu and later relocated to Abuja,” she said.
“When we relocated to Abuja, it was like starting afresh because we had to create new clientele. The business sold itself basically because when one person sees our products, he says ‘oh who did that for you?’ and he gets our contact and like that, we kept rising and rising. I appreciate God for that. Although it has not been easy, we have persevered and by God’s grace, we are growing.”
Speaking on the challenges, Azubuike noted that every business has its challenges but the most important thing is to satisfy the customers.
She said: “It has not been very easy meeting people exactly the way they want certain things but so far, we have really not had much complaints from customers, rather, it has been more of appraisals of what we are doing. Sometimes, communication is a problem. Some people don’t really express themselves well so from experiences I have had, I make sure I repeat myself over and over again at the risk of sounding like a broken record. I do that so there won’t be any misunderstanding so as to give them exactly what they want.
“The major challenge is on delivery of our cakes. It is one thing to do a very beautiful job and then on your way to deliver it, it gets destroyed due to bad roads. You may have a very good vehicle but what about the roads? That is one thing that is beyond me but we find ways of resolving the issue. So instead of stacking the cakes, we separate them until we get to our destination before we put them back together.
“Then sometimes there is fuel scarcity and you are expected to deliver but you can’t get fuel for the vehicle. So far, we have been coping very well. It has been win-win all the way.”
“I did not have to go borrowing. My husband helped me at the time. I started with about N1 million but that was for the decoration part. The cake part was a bit less because I did not buy everything at once. So people should not get scared because of the money involved, you can buy things bit by bit as you go on and before you know it, you would have acquired a lot more than you can imagine. “Initially for the cake, I don’t think I had more than N200,000.
In fact, I don’t even think I had it together at any point in time; I was just doing things as the money came and as the business grew, I was buying things.”
“When we started, I never thought I would be employing anybody. In fact, I was looking for a job myself, taking my certificate everywhere I went but today, I am an employer of labour no matter how little. For now, we are three, going on four. It is still a small business but growing.
Sometimes people do not believe that all the things we have done so far came out of this small space. It is a good thing that we are doing what people recognise. In fact, we send cakes to different destinations because people see our jobs online and patronize us. It is not as if there are no good bakers and events planners in those places but they appreciate what we do. They call us to do decorations all over the country. It is by the grace of God we are here today.”
Asked if the creative aspect is the edge they have over others, Azubuike said: “I wouldn’t really say I have any edge per se because I don’t want to give myself any glory. But then, people allude to our crativity and the neatness of the job, the finishing, the inside. We try to give our clients a total package, not when people taste your cake, they say it’s not that good though the outside is beautiful.
“We want to give you everything so people can say ‘oh, we enjoyed the cake; it tasted so good and it looked fantastic.’ Sometimes people who have not even tasted our cakes, order. Some would say ‘we have seen the picture of your cake and hope it will taste just as good as it looks.’ You know they are already drawn to the look of the cake, they are just waiting to taste it and eventually, they give us feedback saying it was fantastic. We have never really gotten any ill message.
“The ability to give our customers total package is what I think draws them back to us. When you do something good for somebody and there are no complaints, they will surely come back.
“Whatever you start, keep persevering and one day, you will get there.”