XtraSpace believes in the entrepreneurs it supports to the extent that some have become suppliers to the company.

That’s the case with 34-year-old Jessica who rents XtraSpace’s coffee shop spaces, supplying food and drinks to staff and clients using The Workspace co-working facilities in Johannesburg.

Jessica grew up baking but hadn’t considered making a business out of it. But when her (now) mother-in-law refused to teach her how to make her husband’s favourite milk tart, Jessica vowed to bake the best revenge milk tart ever. After all, it was Jessica’s own recipe her mother-in-law had used to bake the famous tart!

“I tried it and to my absolute shock I got it wrong. So I gave her a call and very nicely asked what I did wrong and to my absolute disbelief, she did not help. That got me so revved up that I did nothing but try for the next few weeks until I finally made the perfect milk tart… and now I can do it with my eyes closed,” says the proud owner of Jessica’s Patisserie.

Jessica says she’s a “diamond in the rough” who didn’t come from a privileged background, but refused to let this prevent her from reaching her full potential and leave a legacy. The experience with her mother-in-law helped her discover her true passion.

“I always want to show others you don’t have to have it all to become something in life. My hard work and love for what I do has led me to become a role model to all the young girls in my family and it warms my heart to know that I have already made a difference, no matter how small,” she says.

Jessica says her husband, Jeremy, is her inspiration and that all she wanted to do was cook and bake for the man in her life. “He’s my muse,” she says. “The only person that I trust to say it to me like it is. With his support and help I started experimenting and baking and making novelty cakes.

“In 2008, I started doing catering and baking part-time, and a year later I went for a basic cake decorating class. I started selling some items to friends and family, which helped me fund my expensive hobby,” she explains.

It was a challenge not earning enough to fund her passion. So while she had a corporate job, she started Jessica’s Patisserie as a small business on the side, something to “look forward to after a long day in corporate”.

But in 2012 she decided to take a “leap of faith” and, with the support of her husband, resigned and started her own business.

“Starting off in business you don’t always make the right decisions. I lost my first store but kept holding on, keeping the faith that when one door closes another one opens. God always has a plan. A positive mind and the right kind of support go a long way,” she says.

Now she dreams of opening her own bakery and a training school for under-privileged young women to “teach them a skill and help them become independent women”.

She describes the sector she works in as incredibly competitive, with “a cake store or catering business on every corner”. Her edge, she believes, is due to “relationships, personalisation and a good product, made with love and the very passion that got me into this industry. This is what I believe makes me stand out”.

“I believe we live in a great country with potential and plenty of opportunity for all of us to have a bit of the sunshine.”

Jessica’s advice and learnings

​What are the three most important lessons you learned along your entrepreneurial journey? 

Patience, cash flow management and perseverance!

In hindsight, what would you do differently? 

If I have to be honest, I would say nothing, because if I did not make those initial decisions, I would not be where I am or who I am now, in business as well as personally.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs starting out now? 

Educate yourself, research, take constructive criticism and have faith.

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Jessica's Story