An Interview by Sakhile Hlatshwako
From the moment I caught sight of an intriguing cake on ‘Cooking with the ladies’ Facebook page, with a heeled-shoe on the top, awestruck at this unusually interesting work of art, I could not help but yearn to find the brain behind this artistic splendour. Ceasing the opportunity without hesitation, after scheduling an interview, I had not anticipated to discover even more fascinating cake designs that I have never seen before. I could not help but marvel at how, Mrs Sengetile Bartaria’s gifted hands can whip up any cake design that beats the norm.
Starting baking as a hobby, this talented Swazi entrepreneur and founder of M&D Cakes (Mother and Daughters Cakes), which she co-owns with her daughers, Nicole (6) and Natalie (14), has definitetly set the standard high. With her daughters following suit, this inexplicable bunch use this time to bond and whoop up delicious cakes.
Beautiful story, indeed! What could be the inspiration behind their love for baking? Well, let’s find out!
Who Is Sengetile?
Raised by an entrepreneurial mother, who sold crafts in Pretoria, South Africa, and spending a substantial part of her life with elder sisters, Yvonne and Veronica, who both enjoyed cooking and baking, surely, Sengetile is walking in their footsteps.
Incredibly, with her daughters’ remarkable skills to make sugar flowers for the cakes, it is obviously vivid that culinary and entrepreneurship skills run in the family. Now, permanent residents of Big Bend, a small town in Swaziland, this family is obviously determined and passionate about their love for baking.
Though a teacher by profession, with a BA in Humanities and Post Graduate Certificate, both obtained from the University of Swaziland in 2004 and 2005, respectively, the mother of two daughters and a 20 year-old son, Brian, never anticipated turning her baking hobby into a succesful business venture, M&D Cakes. Her husband, Cyprian Bartaria (44) could not have been more proud of his family!
Like almost every child growing up, pursuing a career in ‘science’ sounded intriguing, and Sengetile had her eyes on the ‘Nursing and Midwifery’ profession. But fate surely had other plans for her! Baking a neighbour’s birthday cake during her high school years, little did she know that this was the beginning of a new found journey. Obtaining more requests over the years, from people to bake their cakes, it clicked instantly in her mind that, this could make a great business venture. Could this have been her ‘aha’ moment?
Establishing M&D Cakes in 2004 as a side business while still employed as a teacher at Charles Wesley High School, Sengetile undoubtedly sounds gratified at her achievement so far. “It has been an enjoyable journey so far, with great experiences. I’ve learnt new things each day and got to travel to South Africa for training and ingredients. I have seen a huge gap in Swaziland in terms of the baking industry, since we do not have even a quarter of the baking ingredients and equipment. What we have, is also costly,” she explains. Having enrolled for short courses at hostess pro and still looking into enrolling for a wedding cakes course, bears testimony to this remarkable woman’ s inspiring passion for what she does.
Though a typical Swazi woman who spends Friday nights out for dinner with her family to make up for the time spent on her teaxhing career and baking business, her favourite aspect about being a chef is trying out new recipes and adding her own personal touch to existing cake recipes. She sure is an entreprenur at heart, thinkin out of the box and creating something new and unique!
Her cakes definitetly taste as great as they look!
Hardwork does really payoff, doesnt it? Sengetile’s outstanding works of art bear testimony to this philosophy. Spending time reading and surfing the internet when not baking, and staying updated on the latest cartoons through her youngest daughter, Sengetile draws inspiration and invents cake designs, adding her own personal touch. “Strive to achieve customer satisfaction and every negative feedback should make you strive to do better,” she explains this as the best advice she has ever received.
Seems like she has mastered it all! But, ‘nobody is perfect, there is always room for improvement,’ as popularly emphasized. Sengetile could not agree more! Making sharp cake edges is still a skill that still needs perfection. But with the rate of creativity and deternination at which she is going, she will definitetly get there!
More About Sengetile-
*Favourite ingredient – Cocoa
*Worst ingredient – Cooking oil
*Favourite tool – Russel hobbs mixer
*Strangest thing eaten – Chocolate mayonnaise dough
*Deepest secret – Phobia of rats
*Dealing with stress – Hits her treadmill
*Baking tip – Never use a fan to cool cakes, it dries them out