Sibahle Khumalo: Balancing a baking business with my studies in Genetics

For some us, side hustles only became real when we started our careers. For others, it starts much earlier. Sibahle Khumalo is a university student and a #MotherlandMogul. Between studying to complete her degree in Genetics, she bakes and sells cakes. Sisi Lwandle recently caught up with Sibahle for a chat where she discovered what it takes to balance studies and entrepreneurship, and what Sibahle views as success.

How did the idea for your baking business come about?

It was actually my mother who had the idea of me starting a baking business. I learnt how to bake muffins and cupcakes from my mom and I had tried baking cookies and brownies before, but I had never baked a “big cake” as I called it. So, early last year I was feeling brave and I searched on the internet for a good chocolate cake recipe. To my surprise we had most of the ingredients I needed in the house. I just had to buy a round cake pan, after which I proceeded to bake my chocolate cake and decorate it.

It was the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted and everybody in the house was so surprised to see that I could bake a delicious cake in just one try. My mother loved it so much she took it to work the next day to share with her colleagues and they loved it to. She then told me that I could actually start my own small baking business and from then I started modifying the recipe and practicing to bake it perfectly. After some time I started advertising my creations on Facebook and well one thing led to another and I found myself starting my own small business.

Where did your capital funding come from? How were you able to start up?

My capital funding came out of my pocket as I have a part-time job as a coach at a local high school. I used the little money that I had to buy equipment and even now I use some of the business’ profit to build the business. Slowly but surely my dream of having my own bakery is coming together.

You’re studying a degree in Genetics. This is a complete contrast to the industry of your current business, where and how do they both fit into your future plans?

That’s a very good question. I plan on continuing my studies and going into medicine as it has been my life long dream. At the same time, I plan on growing my bakery business to the extent where I don’t have to work myself but have staff working for me, I’m planning for it to become a passive form of income.

As a full time student, how do you juggle academic responsibilities and the demands of your growing business?

I won’t lie, it’s very tough. Sometimes I find myself having to turn down customers because of writing tests or exams. Other times, I find myself stressing and not having enough time to study. But with the help of my mom and aunt I get everything done in time, which usually means going to bed at midnight.


How has being an entrepreneur and student affected your social life?

I’m surprised it hasn’t affected it too drastically, I still have time for my friends and family. It just takes a lot of pre-planning for things to work. So now I actually have a use for calendar/journal.

What advice would you give to other university students who wish to become entrepreneurs?

Go for it! There’s nothing worse than just keeping business ideas in your head, start small and grow your business from the ground up. Understand that success isn’t something that happens overnight, but know that all the hard work will pay off soon.

And also, be prepared to have to choose sometimes between your education and your business.

If you won the lotto right now, what would you do?

If I won the lotto I would open my own bakery/cafe. And I’d also treat myself to a long deserved holiday, baking can get really tough.

What motivates Sibahle Khumalo?

Making my customers happy, there’s nothing better than putting a smile on someone’s face.


What is your favourite aspect about being an entrepreneur?

Being able to say, “I have my own business” has to be my favourite part!

But, what I love the most about being a black female entrepreneur is having the platform to inspire other people.

How do you define success?

Success is the result of an ongoing process of bettering yourself and working on your goals.

Which company or business person inspires you?

Buddy Valastro, the owner of Carlo’s Bakery, most commonly known as the Cake Boss.

Want to see women you know featured on SLA? Tell us what amazing things women are doing in your communities here.

About Sisi Lwandle

Sisi Lwandle is a journalist. She has worked at Independent Newspapers Media and contributed articles to the Washington Post and several local South African magazines including One Small Seed and EDGARS MAN.

Sisi is also co-founder and Executive Director of Ithuba Lesibili, a NGO that feeds and clothes disadvantaged women and children. She is an avid Chelsea supporter and is currently studying towards a degree in medicine.

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