Wendy Maeobia during a visit to the IumiWaka youth co-working space in Honiara, Solomon Islands on 19 July 2019. (Photo: UNDP/Merinda Valley)


Some successful businesses begin with extensive training and experience.

Some start with a sandwich.

Wendy Maeobia is a young entrepreneur who went from marketing sandwiches and pineapple pie to operating a bakery with an average of 40 orders every month.

“I started from nothing,” Wendy said. “I just picked supplies from the house — eventually I started buying my own things.”

With tips from her partner, a commercial chef, she taught herself about baking, decorating, ganache and garnish.

Wendy stopped and re-started several times since 2012, but the 33-year-old’s aptly named Haus of Baking is now her full-time job.

The cakes she makes in her modest home kitchen are swirled with tropical flavors and meticulously sprinkled with sweet toppings.

She followed her interest and ingenuity to develop skills and introduce techniques like edible sugar prints to the Honiara market.

But the process of building her business wasn’t as smooth as her cakes.

She navigated the hurdles of her shared kitchen — like having to wait for another dish to cook before putting batter in the oven.

And she persisted through major changes.

“When I had a small baby, it was a bit challenging,” Wendy said.

“Sometimes you’d be busy with the baby, or they’re sick and then you have cake orders.”

Childcare responsibilities and lower levels of education than men and women without children contribute to the fact that only 28 percent of young mothers in Solomon Islands’ urban areas are in paid employment.

Doubting the dream

Around the time that the IumiWaka youth co-working space opened in February, Wendy was ready to abandon baking.

She was willing to settle for any job and not worried about a career or an outlet for her talent.

She came into IumiWaka on her search, and what she found helped her banish doubts and give her business another try.

“Wendy, through IumiWaka, has been able to access personal development sessions, business trainings, and mentoring whilst interacting with other local youth who are facing similar challenges,” IumiWaka officer Glennis Masaea said.

“Wendy takes each opportunity seriously and always comes back during co-working hours just to discuss further and ideate around new things that she has learned.”

Now, she’s a regular.

Rising

Wendy is comfortable in the co-working space with its open floor plan and WiFi, which she uses to manage orders and maintain Haus of Baking’s Facebook page.

With fellow young entrepreneurs, she listens, brainstorms, shares experiences — and occasionally her cakes.

“I have a lot of customers just from being part of this place,” Wendy said of IumiWaka.

“When you come, you can grow in terms of business.”

Her growth included formally registering Haus of Baking and creating a business account.

With new technical knowledge and a bigger customer base, Wendy is chasing her long-term vision: a shop that offers cakes, imported baking supplies and classes for aspiring bakers.

She wants to pay it forward by supporting someone else’s dream.

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With funding from the Country Investment Facility, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration established the IumiWaka youth co-working space and small business incubator. The hub in Solomon Islands’ capital, Honiara, is intended to empower youth to create economic opportunities and nurture development of prototypes, ideas and solutions.

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