Woman & Home (South Africa) - - The Tech Edit -

GRACE STEVENS, 41, lives in Bergvliet with her hus­band Wayne, 47, and their kids: Kel­lan, 16; Ju­lia-anne, 12; Si­mon, nine; and Zach, four. She’s an award-win­ning cake dec­o­ra­tor, au­thor, and founder of the cake-dec­o­rat­ing com­pany Cup­cakes by De­sign.


I’d been a pri­ma­ryschool teacher for nine years when I fell preg­nant with my third child, Sarah-jane, in 2007. Sadly, she was di­ag­nosed with anen­cephaly, a fa­tal con­di­tion, which made the preg­nancy very di cult. I turned to bak­ing and cake dec­o­rat­ing, a hobby I loved, to try take my mind o the un­bear­able sit­u­a­tion. I had quit teach­ing at that stage, and was a ected deeply in the next year when Sarah-jane passed. I con­tin­ued bak­ing for some respite from the grief when my friend, Kim, en­cour­aged me to ad­ver­tise my cakes to the par­ents at our kids’ school for spe­cial oc­ca­sions. I was hes­i­tant at first when hand­ing out fly­ers, but af­ter a few sales – and the praise that came with them – what be­gan as a dis­trac­tion slowly turned into a flour­ish­ing busi­ness.


Bol­stered by the pos­i­tive re­sponse, I posted pho­tos of my cakes on so­cial me­dia, which at­tracted new clients. I also cre­ated a web­site with a free Word­press tem­plate. I set up Cup­cakes by De­sign in my home kitchen; be­sides two big-ticket items (a new oven and mixer), I’d al­ready col­lected the tools I needed to bake with over the years. I worked long hours, bak­ing be­fore the kids were awake and af­ter they went to bed, to fill or­ders. In 2009, a few of my so­cial-me­dia fol­low­ers asked if I’d host a cake-dec­o­rat­ing class in my home – I jumped at the chance. I was still tak­ing pri­vate or­ders, and some re­quired in­tri­cate dec­o­rat­ing so, to help re­fine my craft, I en­rolled in classes with ex­pert cake dec­o­ra­tor Eu­nice Borchers, who went on to men­tor me for six years.

HIGH­LIGHT In 2012, my first dec­o­rat­ing book Cel­e­bra­tion Cakes, was pub­lished. Since then, I’ve pub­lished a sec­ond, and am hop­ing to pub­lish an­other one soon! Land­ing a re­cur­ring seg­ment on the Ex­presso Morn­ing Show as a guest chef was also re­ally ex­cit­ing.

CHAL­LENGE Start­ing out, I un­der­charged and said yes to al­most ev­ery re­quest. I had to learn to take on fewer or­ders, give my­self more time to work at a rea­son­able pace, and charge ac­cord­ing to the time and e ort I put in.

WHERE I AM NOW I travel to mul­ti­ple ci­ties in SA each month, and teach classes for be­tween eight and 15 peo­ple. I’ll still take com­mis­sions if they in­ter­est me, but cake-dec­o­rat­ing classes are my main ser­vice now. I’ve even been in­vited to the UK to guest tu­tor at the dec­o­rat­ing school Pretty Witty Cakes.

✢ TIP Don’t ob­sess over try­ing to get more clients – treat your cur­rent ones well and the rest will fol­low. >>

BUSI­NESS IN FIG­URES Launched: May 2008 Turnover: R600 000 in 2018 Web­site: graces­tevens.co.za

Start-up costs: R30 000 Com­pris­ing…

Stock; in­gre­di­ents: R5 000 Oven: R12 000

Mixer: R13 000

‘I jumped at the chance to teach my craft’

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