Many small business owners who have planned how to grow their business had to deal with the Coronavirus spanner in the works. Some had to pivot to adapt, or shut down temporarily. For Robyn Roberts of Robyn’s Cakery, it was the latter. She’s using the COVID-19 lockdown time to experiment.
Based in the small seaside dorpie of Pringle Bay, Robyn’s cake business started with what is becoming exceedingly rare: a face-to-face chat.
“I was chatting to another local, Ellie Wessels (known around these parts as ‘Ellie from the Deli’) from Lemon and Lime about food and cake. She knew that I’m a chef and asked me if I baked and if I could make a chocolate cake for the deli. And the rest is history,” Robyn recalls.
Word of mouth was, and still is, her best marketing. “Most people who know me, know that I’ve been doing it for years as a hobby,” she explains of the fortuitous encounter. But Robyn is actually a trained chef.
“I started baking when I was in high school to make some extra cash on the side and helping my mom who used to bake speciality cakes for people. My mom eventually stopped baking and I decided to go study to become a chef. After I graduated and worked in restaurant kitchens for three years,” Robyn explains.
But like so many people in that industry, she realised that working in a kitchen just wasn’t for her anymore. “So I decided to do the one thing I could always count on, which was baking, and I started by selling a chocolate mousse cake to the deli here in Pringle Bay.” Business picked up from there and she decided that it was time for a name, and Robyn’s Cakery was born.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Robyn had expansion plans. “I work from home, but hope to expand into a shop one day. Unfortunately staying open would not be an option for me as I am one person working from my home and I feel that it is not safe for me to supply cakes. I wouldn’t want to put anyone at risk.”
So what is a home-based business owner to do in the time of a Coronavirus lockdown for 21 days? “I’m working on my skills during the lockdown. Trying some new cakes and decorating ideas, things like that,” Robyn explains. She is drawing on what she learnt at chef school, but also searching for inspiration online. “I do rely on online sources to keep up with food trends , but a lot of it comes back basic training and skills so it’s just research and finding what people like and practicing until I get it right.”
Her advice for others in her situation is to apply for the funds that have been put in place for small business in South Africa “and to hope for the best and keep the faith”.
While cake is not an essential item during lockdown, Robyn remains hopeful. “I have no idea what’s to come. People will always need cakes for special occasions, but for now I will just have to wait and see what happens. You never know, people might want a cake to celebrate the end of the lockdown.”
Indeed. When media personality and tastemaker, Ingrid Jones, recently shared a decadent chocolate cake dubbed “The Lockdown Survival Cake” on her Instagram feed, we knew that this would not be the end of the line for Robyn’s Cakery.
The post read: “The Joneses are all geared for lockdown to stop the spread of the virus. Instead of negativity, we are focusing on positivity… #lockdownsurvivalcake Made right here in Pringle Bay by @robyns_cakery”
“When Ingrid ordered the cake I had no idea what it was for. Chocolate cake is my speciality, and I just decided to make it with lots of sprinkles and love because it was the last cake order I had before the lockdown. I only found out that it was her lockdown survival cake when she picked it up,” she laughs.
Businesses that are not able to pay salaries because of the Coronavirus lockdown, can send an email to Covid19ters@labour.gov.za You will receive an automatic response that explains the application process of the Temporary Relief Benefit.