Born and bred in the city of Polokwane, Yavanna Detremmerie knew from a young age that her career would have something to do with sweets and confectionaries thanks to her undying love for chocolate. Reflecting on her career journey and all the challenges she endured working in the industry, she does not regret starting her patisserie business and urges all youth working a 9-5 to leave their job and pursue their passion.
“… the youth are the most affected by unemployment, affecting 52,6% of this population.”
As South Africa’s unemployment rate increases, the significant negative impact of Covid-19 on businesses, both big and small has become an ever-growing concern. Not to mention, the youth are the most affected by unemployment affecting 52,6% of this population. So, it is time for us as the youth to create opportunities for ourselves and really start to take ownership of our careers.
Although entrepreneurship comes with its challenges, it is very important that we shed light on other young entrepreneurs who took the big leap of faith to start their own businesses. Yavanna’s story (along with other young entrepreneurs’ stories) should serve as testimony or rather a guideline from which the youth can read and draw inspiration.
After all, entrepreneurs and SMME’s present the greatest growth opportunity for the South African economy and a major source of desperately needed job creation.
“When I was young, my grandparents would send us chocolates for Easter or whenever we would visit them, we would come back with bags of chocolate”
Yavanna was born in Polokwane to a Tshwana mother and a Belgian father. Coming from a diverse family, she was able to dabble in two different cultures, and her Belgian roots account for her love of chocolates. “When I was young, my grandparents would send us chocolates for Easter or whenever we would visit them, we would come back with bags of chocolate”. Doughnuts, cookies, cake, cupcakes, you name it, as long as they were chocolate flavoured, she was on it. Funny, because the first and only thing she knew how to make when she was younger were pancakes, but it was at that moment she knew that she wanted to pursue a career that involved making confectionaries.
“It was at her final practical when her pastry lecturer randomly came to her station and stated that her hands are meant for pastry baking.”
Yavanna matriculated in 2011 and left Polokwane to pursue her studies in Johannesburg which she did not complete because of her passion for the culinary arts. As a result, she decided to enroll into culinary school in Midrand where she obtained her National Diploma in Culinary Arts and obtained her internationally recognised 2-year diploma with HTA School of Culinary Arts. At HTA, she learned about Spanish and French cuisine as opposed to baking and confectionaries. It was at her final practical when her pastry lecturer – who sits on the South African Culinary Olympic Team – randomly came to her station and stated that her hands are meant for pastry baking.
After her final practical, she served as the pastry assistant lecturer and worked under her pastry lecture whom she learned a lot from about pastry baking. She had the opportunity to witness her make a bumblebee cake for her niece’s birthday and this is what really sealed her passion for baking cakes. “I was doing plated desserts but when I saw this cake, I immediately fell in love. I was intrigued by creating real-life things that are edible.” Her time at HTA as a pastry assistant lecturer only lasted for 6 months as she decided that she wants to go into the industry and work a 9-5.
“Although she learned a lot, she states that it was a very diffcult time in her career…”
Yavanna was hired at KOI Restaurants in Sandton and Rosebank where she held the position of head of pastry chef. Although she learned a lot, she states that it was a very difficult time in her career as she was entering a space that has been established for over 10 years, and most of the staff have been working there for over 10 years and here is this young lady changing the menu and calling the shots – “all of them were not comfortable with these new changes”. Once she realised the restaurant was not suited for her, she decided to start, Oh So Baked, making cakes on the side and build a clientele of her own. Unfortunately, it did not go far because she was not as focused and disciplined as she was supposed to be.
She decided to resign because of the long working hours and little pay however, she did not adequately plan and put in the necessary work to grow Oh So Baked, and as a result, forfeited another opportunity to make her business work. During this period of change, she was blessed with a baby girl which forced her to relocate back home to Polokwane where she got a job at Limpopo Chefs Academy in Nirvana to support her and her daughter. Unfortunately, her time at the academy was short-lived as she had bigger dreams for herself and felt restricted.
“One of my clients posted the picture of the cake I had made for her along with my details and my orders literally skyrocketed overnight.”
When she left it was difficult but this time around, she was focused and determined to make Oh So Baked work. When she was making cakes at the academy, she saw her potential and what she was capable of which gave her the motivation she needed. Not to mention, she was lucky to have support from both her mother and aunt who initially funded all her resources and ran her errands for her. But it was not easy, the first 6 – 12 months were slow as she would get minimal orders per week but she kept at it with faith that it will happen for her one day. And low and behold it did – “one of my clients posted the picture of the cake I had made for her along with my details and my orders literally skyrocketed overnight.”
“When starting your own business, you need to be focused, you need to know what you want.”
Yavanna states that if you are thinking of being an entrepreneur, you need to have discipline – “when starting your own business, you need to be focused, you need to know what you want.” Everything is dependent on you and if you do not deliver and do what you are supposed to, there will be no money coming in. She goes onto say, directly talking to the youth, that working for yourself is difficult, you work ten times harder, you work ten times more hours but at the end of the day, you do it for yourself. You ultimately build and develop yourself.
Shedding light on being a baker, she says that there is so much time and effort that goes into baking and decorating a cake that people overlook. Clients will request a cake for a special occasion but will not be willing to pay the price. Although she still faces some sort of undermining in the entrepreneurial space, she still encourages people to leave their 9-5 if they are passionate about something and there is a market for it.
She closes off her advice to the youth with the following words: “you can’t run your business like a freelancer and expect results like a CEO” – Elizabeth McCarthy
Pati Kwakwa is a Bachelor of Arts undergraduate and Business Management postgraduate who currently serves as the Research and Content Development Assistant Freelancer at Matoyana.