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Covid-19 lockdown offers opportunity to Rwandan student’s online bakery

ON a shiny afternoon in the quiet neighbourhood of Bwiza area in the Rwandan capital city Kigali, finance student Johnson Runuya was busy mixing a wide range of ingredients to make a chocolate fruit belt cake, as the delicious aroma from kitchen made one gets hungry.

‘Baking is easy and fun. I loved baking as a child. Good and beautiful cake cannot be rushed, while just requires patience and creativity,’ said Runuya as he put the mixture into a saucepan before heating it. He then let the mixture simmer for ten minutes.

His bakery Johnson The Baker now mainly offers birthday cakes, wedding cakes and corporate event cakes and the price varies depending on a cake’s type, size and flavours from 2,000 Rwandan francs (about $2) to 27,000 Rwandan francs (about $27).

Just less than a year after the online bakery was established, it received more than 20 orders daily, which generated a monthly turnover of over five million Rwandan francs (about $5,000).

Runuya started baking in 2018 during high school after his family bought a house with an indoor kitchen, while balancing schooling and baking. Lockdown measures effective from March 21, 2020 aimed to contain the spread of Covid-19 forced many businesses to close door, but gave the university student time and inspiration to start online business.

‘Due to movement restriction measures aimed to protect public health and the growing demand of consumer preference to avoid physical stores, I realised that I could make money by selling my cakes online. I started an online portal where I could post photos of my cakes. The website also has an option where customers can make their orders online,’ said the 19-year-old, who was doing an internship at a bakery before the lockdown.

He launched the bakery’s website just days after the lockdown started, and started receiving a few orders from friends, family and his schoolmates at the university. The orders started flooding in from April as he marketed his business through social media.

‘As my business grew, with many orders and only myself to rely on, there were times when I would bake for hours from morning to late in the night just to get orders finished on time. This, however, prompted me to employ three more professional bakers in order to accommodate large orders,’ he said.

More orders also motivated him to work harder to meet the demand.

‘I have to make sure that all my customers receive their orders on time. My sole aim is to make my customers happy and to create something I look forward to doing every day,’ he said, adding that his dream since he was a boy of owning his own baking business has become a reality.

The young entrepreneur attributed his success to quality and consistency of his work, affordability, quality service and innovation.

Operating and expanding a bussiness at such a young age put pressure on his shoulders as he was still pursuing a bachelor degree as a first year student at the University of Kigali, but for him this was doable with ‘dedication and hard work.’

He even looked forward to making his bakery the market leader in Rwanda in the next few years.


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