AARTI J NARSEE
THE SMELL of creamy butter and sweet sugar hits you as you walk into TonybyTone-Cake Décor, a tiny business in Mofolo Central, Soweto.
Out of the hot oven come trays of freshly baked scones that taste just as good as they look and smell.
Leonard Lethea, known as Tony from his childhood, is the driving force behind this small family business whose scones have become well known to customers.
Tony said he was inspired by his grandparents who he used to visit during school holidays and helped bake scones. “This scone recipe is my grandmother’s,” he said.
However, just like the many South Africans who face difficulty in setting up a small business, Tony’s journey was not a simple one.
“In 2006, I was working at Mr Price Home and renting a place to stay in someone’s garage. I would take orders for scones and sometimes had to work at odd times of the night.
“The change came for me when I realised that I was not growing in my current job. My wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) was going to university and I wanted balance in our relationship and I wanted to provide for her and create work for myself.”
Tony was able to obtain a R10 000 loan from a bank in order to start his business.
“In the beginning, I did not know what I was doing. I was taking a risk. I began with just one oven, one baking pan and a few utensils,” said Tony, who now has eight ovens.
In 2007, he managed to secure his current premises. After making some changes inside the small shop, he began to focus on getting more customers by baking scones for local funerals and weddings and providing them for the ANC and the DA.
However, his profits were at a minimum as most of his money went towards rent and taking care of household responsibilities.
“Aside from having to buy stock, I still had a loan to pay off when I started off my business.”
He believes that starting and running a small business requires a lot of hard work and discipline.
“I am still learning. Nothing is easy but anything is possible. Certain things just take time.”
Although Tony’s shop also sells biscuits, queen cakes and jam tarts, his scones are the most popular among customers.
One of his employees, Thandi Shabalala, 28, who dances while mixing the dough for the scones, said, when asked what the secret to the delicious tasting scones was: “Eish, it’s the quality of the ingredients used and in our measurements. It is also about the way we mix the dough.”
Tony’s scones literally sell like hot cakes. The business goes through on average of 500kg of flour in a month. Customers say four scones are worth the price of R8 they pay.
Johanna Kekana visits TonybyTone-Cake Décor at least four times a week to buy scones.
“The scones are so delicious, always freshly baked and crispy. The place is also extremely clean,” said the 36-year-old.
“I always buy scones for myself and my family. The scones are worth the price,” says Simangele Tshabalala, another regular customer.
Tony’s small business has now been operating for six years, which challenges the trend of most small businesses that close down after five. Although the business is going strong, it still faces many challenges.
His business has six branches, four in Soweto, one in the Joburg city business district and one in Spruitview, Ekurhuleni.