What happens when a qualified CA spends so much stressful time at work that she feels she needs a sabbatical? If that CA’s name is Marlo Chipunza, she heads home and, after putting her feet up for a short while, she soon starts entertaining her friends, serving her culinary delights and wowing them with yummy desserts.
This scenario unfolded back at the end of 2016 when Chipunza had been in the banking industry for some time, working in the distressed company turnaround division, which was understandably demanding. “I took the decision to have some time out but – being the kind of person I am – I wasn’t satisfied with simply putting my feet up. Because I had more time on my hands, I started entertaining more and preparing food inspired by my international travel and frequent travel throughout the African continent,” clarified Chipunza.
In no time at all her network of family and friends had started asking for her help, catering for their parties. One thing led to another and Chipunza had soon signed up a number of corporate canteens to create interesting, nutritious meals for employees. The business targeted call centre canteens primarily. A decision was then made to split the brand, as it was targeting two different markets. The Marlo’s brand was born. Marlo’s is a division of the holding company Kafu Concepts.
“Of course, the canteen side of the business basically collapsed when the first lockdown was announced in March 2020. This was after I’d scaled up the business and had also started a patisserie, which creates stunning baked goods. I immediately set about pivoting the business model and we are now supplying outlets such as bakeries, coffee shops and hospitals. “Our bespoke cake line is also growing. On the catering side, word of mouth has been extremely powerful and we currently find ourselves preparing different items for our clients from picnic baskets to celebration events like weddings and birthday parties,” she said.
When asked what a typical picnic hamper contains, Chipunza lists an array of mouth-watering edibles such as mini quiches, chocolate-dipped strawberries and mini cheese boards with red onion marmalade. The options are endless and are ultimately determined by the client’s budget.
“These hampers have proved to be a winner and the patisserie side of the business is flying because the cakes my team create are eye-catching and highly ‘Instagrammable’,” quipped Chipunza.
While Chipunza’s CA qualification stands her in good stead as far as the administration and accounting sides of the business go, she does find it a bit of a challenge to be the one responsible for all the sales and marketing as well as operations. “I’ve learnt many lessons as an entrepreneur and one of those lessons is that I need to look after myself because so much depends on me. I’ve had to become extremely resilient and resourceful, something that I’m able to do since I have a strong sense of self and a clear vision of where I want to take my business. This pandemic has offered valuable lessons in terms of being customer-centric, paying attention to feedback and coming up with new ideas all the time. The trick in this new environment is to find new opportunities which are ultimately scalable in the long term. That’s going to be the key to success” she concluded.