ONE of the best providers of bakers’ tools, Kogsy Sugarcraft Centre was founded 18 years ago. In an interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, Kehinde Gbelee, the CEO of Kogsy Sugarcraft Centre talks about how she started from a plastic bag shop into what it is today.
How and when did Kogsy Sugarcraft start?
Kogsy Sugarcraft started about 18 years ago. It started by an opportunity in the market. I was doing my Masters in the United Kingdom. I came down to Nigeria to make a wedding cake for a close friend. So, I decided not to bring along my equipment because of the shipment. I came thinking I would get the items I needed but on getting to the market, I couldn’t find the items I needed. I thought there was a different name for the items, so I went back to the market with my book, thinking that if I show them what they look like, they would have a better understanding of what I wanted. I found out that the tools couldn’t be found in Nigeria and they were basic tools you get in any craft shop in the United Kingdom. I also found out that nobody knew what they were and as I was going round searching for the items, a woman approached me, and asked me if I could supply her the books. I agreed, from supplying the books, I started supplying the tools and the rest is history. That’s how I started. I tell people, never look down on small beginnings, that was how I started from one plastic handbag to one shop, two shops and we are still counting.
What was your initial discipline before venturing into crafts?
I have a first degree in Ecoonomics from Ahmadu Bello University, a Masters in Business Administration from Middlesex University in the United Kingdom. I have worked in finance majorly. I started as a cake decorator, which was my hobby as a child.
How did you come about the name, Kogsy?
When I was starting out in business, I really did not have an idea of what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to own this business. Then I was still in finance. Kogsy is a compilation of my name, my husband’s and children.
Aside baking and selling cake instruments, what else does Kogsy do?
We see ourselves as an organization that provides equipment to professional cake bakers and decorators and hobby cake decorators. We collaborate with the celebrity chef, Chef Fred, one of the judges of Knorr Cooking Contest. We run master cooking classes and baking classes. We collaborate with Wilton International in the United States of America. We offer the Wilton method of cake decorating class. We organize a yearly exhibition. We publish a magazine on decorating tips and we hold workshops around Nigeria.
How do you cope with tough times?
I love this question, but for me to answer correctly, we will be here for three hours. For one to succeed in business, one has to be resilient. I have come across a lot of tough times. I plan, but sometimes, no matter how much you plan, you don’t see some things coming. Like now, the rate at which we are buying the American dollar is outrageous. I didn’t see it coming, so there is no way I could have planned against that. But you must be quick to change, to adapt to the situation at hand. Moreover, commitment and ability to generate superior returns is essential.
What are the pains and gains of this business?
This business is very rewarding. We have top cake decorators who teach this business. In this way, we are contributing to the economy of the country by empowering women. When you empower women, you empower a whole nation. We are privileged to be in this position to promote cake makers. It is very rewarding, the only thing I am waiting for is for the dollar to fall. The pain of business is regular, so I focus on gains.
What inspires Kogsy?
My service to people because if you are into cake decorating, it’s a job you can keep for life. You see very old women who still bake till tomorrow. The ability to help cake decorators achieve their aim is soul lifting.
Congrats on your Creative Industries Award for Gastonomy, what do you think earned you the award?
Thank you, I didn’t know I was nominated until a friend begged me to vote for her, then I saw my name. I couldn’t have seen my name there and vote for someone else. That I was nominated speaks volume. It means I am recognized in the industry. I sent out an email to people, so that they can vote for me. I want to imagine that they all voted for me and that was why I won the award. The beauty of winning came afterwards. It was then people started telling me that you deserved it, you have worked for it. I had a lot of goodwill from winning the award.
So, you were not expecting the award?
I didn’t know I was nominated but it’s a very good feeling.
What do you think stands you out among other nominees?
One thing I can say about Kogsy is that we are focused because we have one clear mission to make the decorators work with ease. We are committed to the mission. We have a wide variety of tools. Our cake book is accepted worldwide.
What is your vision for this business?
Recently, we came out with our branded tools. I am hoping every cake decorator will have Kogsy branded tools in their tool box. We are concentrating on our branded tools now.
Most career women have challenges juggling their work and marriage, how do you balance your career as a mother and a wife?
As a career woman, I never had any problem in my marriage. I got a lot of help from family. My mother was with me when I was raising my children, that solved it. My husband has been there for me. Sometimes it could be a bit challenging, especially when you are making babies and you are striving to grow your career. If you have a good support system, it could be your family, your friend, it would help one excel.
What is the secret of your success?
Like I said, Kogsy started from a handbag shop. What brought us here today is hard work and refusal to give up when things get tough. A good support system will always help. I have people I seek advise from, they are on my advisory board. I work in collaboration with young cake makers, branded cake makers and ability to see opportunities which come from prayer. I made my own branded product when a manufacturer disappointed me. Every day, I thank God and the manufacturer who disappointed me because I would not have thought of having my own brand. I also read a lot of books, I read books on management. I don’t take myself too serious. When I fall, I look back to identify what caused it, learn from it and move on. I don’t wallow in setback. I enjoy being constantly on my feet, motivated and challenged. It’s when you look back then you know that you have come a long way. I enjoy the challenges the business throws at me because they make me think more, and my work in the finance industry really helped me. I learnt about vision, mission and other things in the corporate world.
– TADE ASIFAT