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Established in 2016, The Cake Central is a cake and confectionary retail shop that sells baked goods and ingredients, such as fondant and icing sugar, as well as equipment and utensils. The company’s core market includes hobby bakers, professional confectioners and small businesses, such as caterers.

Owner of the Cake Central, Tsakelani Mahlaule was born and raised in rural Limpopo developing her entrepreneur skills by selling fresh produce from her grandmother’s garden.

Tsakelani moved to Johannesburg to start her first job where a co-worker introduced her to baking, an activity that she quickly fell in love with. In 2014, she baked her first birthday cake for a friend and started baking treats for family and friends. She realised that there was an opportunity to turn her passion into a business and founded The Cake Central.

Even though she loved what she was doing, Tsakelani faced a number of challenges as her business grew. “Whenever I had a few cake orders to fill for people in Limpopo I would have to travel three hours to the closest store in Louis Trichardt, just to find baking ingredients,” she explains.

Seeing the gap in the market, Tsakelani opened her first store in Thohoyandou Shopping Mall, close to her home village of Elim. From there her enterprise continued to grow and after a discovering a similar need in Soweto, she was able to open a second outlet in Baragwanath Square Mall, that also bakes fresh goods on-site for bulk orders.

Tsakelani embarked on her entrepreneurial journey with little to no experience in running a business. In 2017 she was selected out of more than 2 000 applicants to participate in the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme. The programme specifically supports enthusiastic, passionate entrepreneurs who are committed to building successful businesses. Tsakelani believes that taking part in the programme was a huge blessing for her fledgling business.

“My business would not have survived without this programme,” says Tsakelani. “They took us through everything from marketing to how to prepare a balance sheet and other practical skills.”

Her Tholoana Enterprise Programme mentor, Simon Ramonyai, agrees that the programme helped her tremendously.

“Tsakelani’s business acumen and overall business management skills have improved significantly since she started the programme. She now makes informed business decisions based on clear plans and strategies to elevate her operation. She is highly focused and has worked very hard to become sustainable and profitable, and her sheer passion and willingness to learn have led to tangible improvements in her business,” says Ramonyai.

With the experience and knowledge gained from the programme, Mahlaule was able to increase her staff numbers by 33% and improve her financial management system. She is currently learning how to efficiently schedule deliveries, maintain stock levels and manage costs.

One of the challenges Tsakelani faces is finding innovative ways to ensure that both stores trade profitably. To ensure the success of the Limpopo store, Tsakelani has introduced a bakery and is exploring plans to offer baking and cake-decorating classes once she moves into bigger premises.

 For more information about The Cake Central, contact Tsekelani Mahlaule at thecakecentral@gmail.com or call her on 0734261066