Stacy Thomas is assertive about her skills as a cake maker. Since 2000 she has owned and operated a growing enterprise designing, baking and icing cakes for all occasions.
Prior to establishing Elegant Creations in 2000 Stacy spent 11 years in Trinidad and Tobago working with Kiss Bakery Company, the firm that manufacturers the Kiss cakes snacks that have become popular in Guyana. It is her training in Trinidad and Tobago, she believes, that sets her apart from much of the competition now that she runs a business in Guyana.
Cakes are in high demand on the local market and Elegant Creations has secured and expanded its own fair share of that market. In what is a highly competitive environment, however, Elegant Creations is still a modest enterprise. Affording the high cost of marketing remains its biggest challenge. Stacy says that the costs associated with mass media advertizing are still prohibitive and even now the enterprise continues to rely on the recommendations of satisfied customers and on the distribution of calling cards to expand its customer base. It has worked sufficiently well to enable Stacy to acquire pieces of equipment that are critical to her business as well as a vehicle with which to do deliveries. Those are small signs of growth, which she is seeking to build on.
This year she is exploring the market provided by the Roraima Group of Companies’ Fourth Annual Wedding Expo. Coming close to June, the month of brides, the Wedding Expo is an opportunity for her to expand her clientele.
This is Stacy’s second appearance at the Wedding Expo. She was there at the inaugural event in 2009. During the intervening years she was, she says, busy working and could spare neither the time nor the resources to prepare for the event. Stacy speaks highly about the Wedding Expo. It is, she says, a rare opportunity for businesses in the wedding industry to reach a large, captive market.
Quick to dispel the notion that her business is simply about mixing and baking, Stacy much prefers to discuss the creative element in her work. Cakes, she says, are symbols of occasions and the range of requests which she receives sometimes become challenges. They range from orders for exotic cakes for elaborate weddings to those that embrace pretty creations for children’s birthday parties and cakes reflecting images suitable for racy bachelor bashes. It is as much the challenge as the job that energizes her. “People sometimes come to us with requests that they have pulled from the internet. We love those challenges,” she says.
Cakes are “good business” in a market that thrives on their symbolism. Prospective brides demand elegance and luxury. Couples seek to surprise each other on special occasions with creative pieces that match the occasion and children are fussy about having cakes that show off the myriad cartoon characters they watch on television. The job amounts to constant excursions into creativity.
High demand has made for good business. Prices can range from around $1,900 for a basic offering to upwards of $150,000 for elaborate wedding cakes. “Some people tend to splash out on weddings,” Stacy says.
Stacy’s partner in business is her Trinidadian-born fiancé Selby Simpson. They met in Trinidad worked together icing cakes for the Kiss Baking Company and now work as a team in Guyana. Four other persons work with the establishment, mostly in the preparation of the cakes for baking. Stacy and Selby are the two trained in the art of icing and decorating.
Cake decorating is an art that can transform an ordinary cake into a creative masterpiece. It requires patience, creativity and consummate skill and is not the domain of the inexperienced. For the uninitiated, a complete icing job can take several hours. Years of experience have sharpened Stacy’s skills to the point where she can ice a cake in 15 minutes. It took years of practice working at Kiss Bakery Company in a factory environment where a modest team would ice up to 30 cakes in a single day.
Here in Guyana she has sought to train people. The problem, she says, is that “the patience isn’t there. Many people just don’t seem to have the discipline.”
Growth is limited by competition. With so much competition in the industry Elegant Creations has grown gradually. Small businesses, Stacy says, are a challenge to run. Attracting financing from the commercial banking sector is perhaps the main challenge. Accord-ingly, Stacy has endured these past 12 years without a single commercial bank loan.
Her business has grown by dint of her own perseverance and Stacy says that her experience in the market has encouraged her to continue to work to broaden her clientele.