I Am Not Ashamed To Be A Decorator, Baker – Zuena Kirema.

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Zuena Kirema is the proprietor of Zuena Events and Cakes Limited, a burgeoning business specialising in making some of the best cakes in town and managing top events. HiPipo Money’s Consolate Kyarikunda talked to Zuena, the wife to musician Bebe Cool, and she divulged what makes her businesses tick…

In the past few years, your company has been growing in popularity. But we would like to know, why and when your events management and cakes business start? Who owns this business and how much was invested initially?

It’s funny but I first despised baking! I wanted to go into the tours and travel business but this lady friend of mine I was helping in her bakery business advised me fourteen years ago to stop despising work and do something in which I had genuine interest. Being a celebrity and married to one too, at first I was so concerned about what people would think of me baking cakes. However, with my husband’s advice and support, I opened up my company and started baking about four years ago. I first conducted some research on the equipment needed to open shop and their cost. I found out that they were very expensive. So, for my first investment (since I already had an oven at home), I bought a mixer at Shs 2 million, and I still have it. I should say that I started with about Shs 3million. After that, I started reinvesting my savings from the cakes I sold. Having noticed how serious I was, my husband bought for me a commercial oven of Shs 25million. The events management and decoration business started two years ago. Zuena Kirema owns the Zuena events and cake business.

Why the name Zuena: couldn’t you call it Bebe Cool Cakes, or Gagamel Cakes and Events?? Lol.

Gagamel is an entertainment registered company, and the name “Zuena” was already a brand of its own that had already become imprinted on people’s minds. And I wanted something catchy. Zuena; both the person and the song are very popular.

We have previously seen you trying out several things including singing and boutiques business. What inspired you to settle into Cakes and Events business?

Singing and boutiques tended to be hectic and a waste of time, especially for me as a mother. Spending much of my time away from home and my children was something I failed to reconcile within myself. Also, there was a lot of input and very little output in both businesses. For instance, in the boutiques business, a lot would be spent on taxes and importation that at the end of the day you realise that a lot of effort invested has gone unrewarded. One would rather invest their time and energy in something small and earn something. If your investment is not producing the desired output, think twice about your line of business.

How is business so far?

So good! I am actually overwhelmed by the rate at which the business is picking up. I believe the way I manage it and advertise it has contributed greatly to its growth. Most of my customers are through social media. It is amazing how people trust me to handle their functions from start to end.

In a good month, how many cakes do you sell and how many events do you manage?

In a week I can make between four and six wedding cakes. I have people I work with, but I do the baking myself. For the events, it really depends on the season; some are slow like February and March where I can get to work on two or three events a month. But in peek seasons like from October through December, I can get six or seven weddings or introduction ceremonies a month. I usually operate on a first-come-first-serve basis especially when it comes to decoration.

Your husband and you are celebrities: does this affect your business in any way?

Well, I decided to work from home. I have an outside kitchen for my baking, and a store for all the decoration materials. So, since I work from home, I get to be a mother to my children (who are still so young) and take care of my home at the same time. I cannot afford to be rushing to work and back home every day. However, there are times when the season is so busy for both me and my husband to the extent that we have less time for each other and for the entire family. To ease the pressure, we decided that every Sunday (whether in a busy season or not) is a family day! As a family, we spend that day together mending whatever pieces could be broken.

Many Ugandans believe that your husband – Bebe Cool – is a big earner and thus they don’t expect you to hustle. But it is like your hustle for your every penny just like the other people.

I have been through that life before, when my husband was the sole breadwinner. But doing nothing the whole day is a big punishment to me. I always want to be up and down doing something. Even when I am home, at least I will either be in the kitchen, or cleaning the compound or organising here and there or going to the market. I believe it is my nature; I just can’t sit and wait. And on top of that, one has to plan ahead, especially when you have a family. God forbid, if anything happened to the breadwinner, you need to have a fall-back position. You cannot wait for one person to bear it all.

Recently, your husband was involved in an online war of words with musicians and their fans. Along the way, some people picked you out and chose to channel their frustration to you and your business: Did you hear/read about this? How did you feel?

I don’t really pay attention to such behaviour. Previously, I would cry over it. But now I guess I am stronger and mature. So, whatever was said did not affect me or my business in any way.

Your husband is on the record for stating that a cake baked by Zuena Events and Cakes goes for $400-500 (that’s about Shs 1.5 million and above). Please clear the air. How much is your cheapest birthday cake? How much is your cheapest wedding cake?

Not really! Actually, the prices depend on the number of tiers, side cakes and the design. The more tiers and side cakes, and the more complex a design is, the higher the price. For instance, a cake with only two tiers is about Shs 500,000. Other cakes such as birthday cakes, baby shower cakes among others range from Shs 60,000 to Shs 200,000 depending on the size.

What was the most expensive cake you have ever sold?

The most expensive wedding cake I have made went for Shs 9million. The centre piece was in the design of a castle; it had ten full tiers and fifty side cakes. The customer was taking it to Juba where the function was.

And, the most expensive birthday cake I have made was of Shs 1million. It had four tiers.

How do you balance work and children/family?

The way you program yourself will help you balance all you have to do. I myself wake up at 5am every day. I prepare what needs to be prepared; get the children to school in time and have my husband’s breakfast ready before he gets out of bed. By 9am, before I enter my bakery, all that I need to do and set in and around the house is done. When one wakes up late, then there will be a lot of rushing and not enough time to accomplish the day’s set goals.

In the next five years, where do you see your business?

To be honest, I really cannot tell but I place all in God’s hands.

What major challenges have you encountered in this line of business so far?

So many orders that usually come in at the same time; for instance, 30 orders for cakes can be received in a week and all are supposed to be delivered on a Saturday. Although I have employees, they are not enough. Another challenge is with clients who tell us to deliver the cake at the last minute, contrary to what was agreed before. So, I do have to find means of delivering the cake in time. Sometimes as you rush, a cake can accidentally get a damage, which means the person transporting it has to return to the bakery for us to fix that damage.  Another challenge is the payment mode of some customers, especially fulfilling the last instalment. However, this challenge is not common.

March is the month of women. What message do you have for them about the following?

  • Work

Do not despise jobs. Do what you are good at; what you are passionate about; what you love.

  • Marriage

No matter what you are going through, always respect your husband and he will respect you back. Do not try to compete in marriage, no matter how much the other earns. Respect and communication hold a marriage together.

  • Work-Life-Marriage balance.

The man in marriage comes first. Work can come and go; it can change any time any day, but your man and children are the same. Work is good, but it should not be placed above or before your marriage and family.

As a woman, what challenges do you face while doing your job?

There is some heavy lifting required in my job, but I thank God that I have capable manpower I work with. When it comes to decoration, especially on site, I somehow become a tourist attraction to some people. Being a celebrity, they literally fix their eyes on me, and some go ahead to ask me why I am doing an ordinary man’s work when I should be home relaxing? I usually just laugh.

If you were made minister of gender in charge of women and children, what would be the first thing you would change?

I would recommend and initiate distinct classes for girls as a special program for teenagers to help them acquire knowledge about their personal hygiene in and outside their homes.

A pregnant Zuena a few years ago.

In this emancipation era, do you think women are still below men? Do women still need special treatment at work and generally in life?

Women can compete with men favourably, but not in a home. A man is a man. He deserves his respect. What usually causes issues is that some women confuse respect and gender balance. Yes, women can do what men can do. I have seen female taxi conductors, boda boda riders, even some at building sites, but I do emphasize; in a home, a man is a man and he needs to be respected as such.

Which women do you look up to in Uganda, Africa and World at large and why?

  • Uganda –

My mother; being a multitasking multitalented woman, it’s from her that I learnt that it is more beneficial for one to wake up early if they are to live an organised life where goals are easily achieved. She would always wake up early, clean the house, prepare us for school, then leave for work (and be at work in time) even when she had a house help.

  • Africa and the World at large –

Oprah Winfrey; looking at her story, having started from nothing to something brought me much inspiration. People were against her show when she started out, just because she was black. But she always maintained: “Never give up; Follow your dream”.

What would you like to see Bebe Cool achieve and what does he need to make it?

I want Bebe Cool to be known worldwide. He is so hardworking and his music is so great. He is one person that pushes rocks out of his way. He doesn’t give up when he has set a goal. International management – record label would help him become a global icon more easily.

Lastly, give a summary of who you are.  

Zuena Kirema is a simple down-to-earth soft-spoken woman with a soft spot for children. She is God-fearing, 100 per cent proud mother of six (Allan, Alpha, Beata, Caysan, Dean and Eman). She is 100 per cent a wife, a baker and decorator; and 100 per cent Bebe Cool.

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