Alice Simba has made it her business to tease tastebuds with all things sweet and tasty. When you enter her business establishment, BlackForest House on Koinange Street, the first thing that greets you is her warm smile and then when your eyes land on the black delectable cakes, laden with fruits and chocolate shavings with a generous amount of white cream, you become transfixed like a child who has entered a house full of candy. Her story is as enriching as it is inspiring.
Simba has come a long way from her humble beginnings in Kilifi where she baked using local ingredients and a jiko to the ritzy establishment. As she attests, growing up in a large family taught her many values, especially about hospitality.
“I remember we used to bake using local ingredients and a jiko and sell the pastry around the village for a small fee. When people saw my style and skill, they urged me on, which really touched me.
What I regarded as a hobby in between college and work seemed to have potential,’’adds the mother of three. In 1997 she came to Nairobi and had envisioned taking a different path.
As much as she wanted to further her education, she still derived pleasure from her first love – baking. Little did she know that the pastime would turn into a grand business.
Simba enrolled for entrepreneurship studies and learnt the element of leadership and business ideals at the University of Africa and USIU Kenya. When she got her first job, she learnt how to handle customers, especially how to accommodate their different traits and demands.Alice Simba, 45, followed her heart and quit her job in 2008
In 2008, she gave into her desire to go her own way and she left work and joined the business world.
After having discussions with her husband, BlackForest House opened its doors along Koinange Street in Nairobi.
“I prayed and took a leap of faith and this was an opening. I then talked to my husband and he saw the potential of the business. We put structures together and set off.
After a while our bank saw the viability of our business and gave us a loan to expand our operations with a capital injection of around Sh2 million,’’ she adds. Simba was keen to stick to the traditional nutritious recipes and this made them a unique spot.
“In this business, I realised one has to be sensitive to the demands of customers. We strive to be creative so as to be ahead of the pack and this has worked for us,’’ she says. Because of the market vibrancy, Black Forest House has had to adjust to suit a growing demand base.
“We deliver a fine product based on customer’ specifications. That is where our strength lies and we have built trust based on that approach.
We are dealing with an emotional product; customers are appreciating their spouses, getting married, having a birthday or just appreciating one another,’’ she adds.
Simba has opened another shop at the Nakumatt Mega City Mall in Kisumu City, which is also attracting rave reviews. “From where we sit, it has been a great run and we are not holding back. This has pushed us to come up with fresh ideas for the market,’’ she adds.
Black Forest House recently introduced “Cake on the Go’’ concept, which delivers customers’ orders in 15 minutes. “Customers appreciate freshness and quality. The fact that they can choose their toppings and get their order in 15 minutes has worked in our favour.