How she created own niche when it was tough to compete

BY LANJI OUKO While dining out, the question on whether to have dessert or not is constantly the most trivial part of your meal! Cheesecake, chocolate fudge cake, banana split, cookies, apple pie & ice cream sundaes! Are calories just numbers? The thought of a treadmill or the face of your angry gym instructor unconsciously follows the guilty pleasure of indulging in a mouth-watering dessert! From small children to adults with sophisticated palates, dessert is a temptation quite often hard to resist. Who can resist the satisfying ingredients of cream, whole milk, sugar, peanut butter-filled wafers covered with fudge? Calories, cholesterol and carbs are problems we often try to whitewash at the precise moment as we order our dessert. Some cheeky menus infuse the nutrition benefits of most of their desserts and through the years, chefs have managed to continue to satisfy sweet cravings by substituting the deceitful desserts with low-fat options. Every woman’s wish, of an ideal world where the consumption of cakes and dessert would not increase one’s calories, count. Every man and woman’s dream is also to enjoy quality dessert without having to break bank. Sugar Dip cupcakes, a dessert bar based in Nairobi and Mombasa is the first of its kind and attempts to solve both of the issues mentioned above. The Director, Clare Karatu, a self-taught dessert chef who is passionate about cooking, felt the need to introduce well prepared and quality dessert after unsuccessful years of searching for restaurants that actually took time to carefully prepare exquisite desserts. IMG_7492 Most restaurants neglect the dessert menus and those with elaborate dessert menus are too expensive to enjoy. Miss Karatu therefore took matters into her own hands and established sugar dip cupcakes. Despite the name suggesting they solely prepare cupcakes, they prepare a wide range of well prepared and presented dessert at relatively low cost. After conducting market research to identify needs in the community, Clare focussed on her target market during every stage of the dessert menu process. Creating the menu of desserts may have been one of the most tasking stages of establishing the company in order to stand out from most restaurants by incorporating gluten-free products, all natural, organic & the desserts only baked with local ingredients. Sugar Dip Cupcakes does not only cater to a younger palate, therefore she had to brand herself appropriately in order to reach every generation. Every point of contact was a marketing moment for the brand. “Listen to your customers. By listening to customer feedback, you can better create desserts and experiences that add to your bottom line. It is also helpful to monitor online review sites and address any issues that arise,” says Clare. With focus on natural ingredients, making everything from scratch on the premises and using traditional methods, it’s no wonder Sugar Dip Cupcakes has grown so fast in less than 5 years. One of the most fulfilling aspects of the company is how they manage to adult-iffy childhood favourites by adding shaved truffles and brandy to soft serves. Indeed this is the sweetest secret in town. Sugar Dip Cupcakes presents a new breed of dining in Kenya. A progressive dessert bar that evolves at night into an upscale lounge catering for the late night enthusiasts at Azura lounge with a focus on decadent desserts, sensational cocktails and savoury small bites, Sugar Dip Cupcakes aspires to be Kenya’s guilty pleasure of choice. As a destination for intimate gatherings, they also offer several different healthier alternatives for dessert as well as cakes. Healthy people can enjoy too by ordering there no fat banana breads to low fat carrot cakes, mousses, puddings, and cheesecakes. Another rather intriguing aspect of the company is their oven to door pastry service delivering throughout Nairobi and Mombasa. Client’s orders may be placed on phone for an array of cakes, pies tarts, croissants, cookies and other candies. The baked goods are high quality and handsome. Though seasonality is a core value, to avoid monotony, she does stretch the boundaries, with several strawberry pies and tarts on her introductory line-up. Growth of the business is their key focus and she intends on making Sugar Dip a household name. Running a dessert bar is quite fun, Clare admits, especially with her competent team, the company was poised for success. Of course there were a number of hurdles when she decided to get into the new venture off the ground. When she decided to open the business, it was quite difficult to get it off the ground. Like any other start-up, the initial costs were quite a headache. “Starting a small business is a tough task and it’s easier when you are on stable ground financially but I was in debt and that put a big dent on my business because initially, cash flow was a struggle, “says Clare. The craze for dessert–only dinning is growing at a slow pace, which gives the dessert bar a particularly upper hand in the food industry market, however it is most definitely a clear indication of Kenya’s growing sweet tooth in consumers’ dining habits. It is still relatively new to hear about a restaurant, which offers a variety of dessert-tasting menus to be paired with wines and teas. The clients have described the culinary masterpieces as “eye candy”. Clare says the first step of the success of a dessert, is to create an unforgettable experience in order to keep customers on their toes, constantly guessing. The brand also puts a lot of emphasis on quality, freshness and uniqueness. Another key aspect emphasised is to treat each customer with the respect they deserve because customers specifically ordering dessert are looking to treat themselves and to feel good. Therefore the brand ensures they get customers to leave feeling the way they wanted to feel. Her advise to young ladies interested in venturing into business is “There is nothing you are not capable of achieving. Don’t get overly worked up about what you were not able to get done. Try as much as possible to have minimum debt! Prioritise what is most important to get the business running; other things can be improved in the long run. Take a day at a time! Be persistent!”

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