Delights by Cynthia have created these African themed cupcakes as part of a collection. Theses incredible but edible cupcakes celebrate African arts and crafts – textiles, sculpture, beading and of course, nature.
The African themed cupcakes are not only a delight to the eyes, but they taste delicious too. The flavours available are from Delights by Cynthia owner, Cynthia Akinsanya’s African store cupboard.
Cynthia Akinsanya created this collection to celebrate Black History Month and as a nod to her West African heritage. Her family is from Sierra Leone.
She took some time out from her busy schedule to talk about her business, black women in business and why Black History Month is important to her:
Tell us about your business and what inspired you to start it
I run my own cake business, Delights by Cynthia – www.delightsbycynthia.co.uk I create custom cakes and cupcakes for events and celebrations. The business is in its 11th year and is growing slowly and steadily. I love the fact that I have the opportunity to be creative with each project I take on; and the fact that my cakes are the central part of some of the most joyous occasions – birthdays, baby showers, weddings and anniversaries. I made my first graduation cake recently.
I have always enjoyed baking. I baked my first ‘celebration cake’ when I was eight years old. As I got older, I continued my love of baking and combined it with entertaining. I would invite family and friends round and would bake cakes and create desserts for them to try. People, especially my mum, kept telling me
that I should be doing this as a business. In 2004, I was working full-time, coming back on a train from a work trip. I went to the buffet carriage; I bought a cup of tea and a packet of cake. I bit into the cake and thought ‘I can do this, and probably better’. From then on, I started to planning and researching to start up the business. I’ve never looked back since.
Since starting the cake business, I’ve set up a series of workshops for women who want to start-up a business or creative project called ‘It’s Your Time to Flourish.’ It’s a chance for women to step away from everything and focus on their dreams and passions, and move them forward.
Why is it important to you to inspire black women in business?
It is important for me to inspire black women in business for a number of reasons. Firstly, I need to inspire and set an example for my daughters (Jemimah 13 and Phoebe 8). I need to show my daughters that it is possible to work for yourself, and have a career that fits around your family and lifestyle. Running my own business means that I can still be at the school gate at 3.15pm, and be there for the prize-giving and assemblies too.
To be a black woman in business ultimately means independence and choice. Even the women in the most rural and under-developed parts of Africa; the ones that trade, even on a small scale, they’re the ones who can send their children to school or pay for the borehole, so that the whole village to have water. As an African woman, I know the extended value of being in business. When black women are successful in business, the whole community usually benefits.
To be a woman in business means you can set your own goals, visions and ethos. You can drive your own dreams forward. And dare I say it, you can do what you like with your hair, without having to conform or get permission from anyone…
Did you have any role models that inspired you to start a business?
The biggest role model that inspired me to start my business would have to be my mother (she passed away in 2004. The following year I decided to start the business). She was very entrepreneurial. As an African woman, being in business empowers you and gives you independence. My mum always used to say “you’ll never be poor, if you run a good food business, people always need to eat.” My mum used to run an African food stall in the ‘80s, selling Joloff rice, puff-puff, plantain and beans, during Carnival. She also had a clothes shop selling African attire. She would be thrilled with the way that African food and fashion is so on trend, now.
I come from a line of black female entrepreneurs. My great-grandmother was a well-known trader in Freetown, Sierra-Leone. Even my daughters are thinking of starting a little enterprise. I’m right behind them to support them.
For Black History Month, what inspired you to create these cakes?
I have always wanted to create a collection of African inspired cakes or cupcakes. The designs have been in my head for a long time (I still have more designs to come). I wanted to create something for Black History Month, or for cultural celebrations that we would be proud of. I didn’t want to do something tokenistic, but a collection that took direct inspiration from African art and design – sculpture, beading, wax prints; even the beautiful shape of the continent.
Culturally, when you go to visit someone, it’s always nice to take a gift, why not take some cupcakes, celebrating our rich heritage. I took a box to a baby shower recently and everybody loved them.
Sometimes we forget that all the wonderful ingredients that we cook and bake with are from Africa, because we are used to just seeing the end product. Chocolate is from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, coffee from Ethiopia…
Why is Black History Month important to you?
Black History Month is important to me, because it is a time to celebrate our heritage and to learn and reflect. It is a time to encourage those who aren’t black, to learn about a different aspect of black history or culture. We cannot move forward, without reflecting back.
There will be a number of events going on during Black History Month, film screenings, festivals, exhibitions; these are all learning opportunities and should open up a wider discussion. It would be a shame not to take part or be involved.
Black History Month for me is not just defined to one month in our home. It is important to continually bring up the past and bring it into perspective, with what is going on today. There are some things my daughters will not learn at school, it is our role as parents to teach them and widen their horizons.
How do you think black people can continue to celebrate and keep Black History alive?
We can continue by celebrating in our homes, through the spoken word. We can pass down those stories that are placed within our own families, before even opening a single history book. We can get together with family and friends, go to events celebrating and showcasing the positive aspects of black culture. We must also prepare a good cultural legacy for our children. I’m already putting together a music, film and music list for my daughters. Also, start your own family traditions. Maybe this is the time of the year that you have a family reunion.
Any advice for black women who want to get into business or start a business
- To start with, I would say ‘just do it’, you have nothing to lose. Start small and grow your business slow and steadily. I was working full-time for quite a few years and running the business. I was working ‘nine to five’ and some evenings, ‘working five till nine’.
- Do one thing each day to move your goal forward – a phone call, some research, visiting your competition and finding out what you can learn from them.
- Be professional from the get-go. If you’ve told a customer you will deliver at 3pm, 3.30pm will not cut it.
- Sort out your branding and your vision for the business.
- Tell people that you are in business. If you don’t tell people they will go elsewhere. There are lots of people who make cakes, but the mums at the school gate, or the people in my church know to come to me first.
- Do everything above board – insurance, tax and any legal issues relating to running your business.
- Give back – find a charity which you can support. Donate some of your profits to this charity, or give back in time.
- Know your market – research it fully and keep up to date with what is going in your specific industry.
- Refine or brush-up on your skills. There is always room to learn something new. Move with the times.
- Unless your product or service is specifically for black people alone, widen your market as much as possible.
Today, we are fortunate that a number of foodstuffs and ingredients from different parts of Africa are readily available in supermarkets; I’m old enough to remember having to wait for family members to bring simple ingredients like coconuts or plantains over in their luggage. Now I just walk up the road. African food is resourceful and exciting.”
To view the Delights by Cynthia cake collection, go to: Delights by Cynthia
For information on the African Cupcakes class go to: her events page.