‘CAKE DECORATING HAS BROUGHT ME ENDLESS JOY’
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.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
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’