The saying that ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’ still applies today. Many people are hard pressed on every side as they weather the storms of an economy gone to the dregs. Many people are just focussing on staying alive. Survivors in the current economy are those who have an entrepreneurial spirit. That is the spirit that Ruth Dube, fondly known as Gogo Makeke, has had since 2000 when she started her catering business. Gogo Makeke’s story is a lovely journey from cakes to catering.

   Ruth was born from the Muteweri clan in Buhera, but married the love of her life, Shadreck Dube from Gwanda. Like the Biblical Ruth, she also said, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16 NIV). God blessed the couple with four charming boys; Jabulani, Bongani, Mandla and Dumisani, all adults now and following their own professions.

   Years back, before she was labelled Gogo Makeke, Ruth loved baking cakes for her family. When her third son, Mandla, had his first birthday, she decided to bake a chocolate cake that was enjoyed by those who came to celebrate with the family. When there was a Couples’ meeting at her church, a member who had enjoyed her son’s birthday cake requested that she bake a cake for that occasion. Another also noted how good Ruth’s cakes were and asked her to make a wedding cake for her. This was a well-known woman in business at her church.  Ruth chuckles and says, “So, I said, ‘NO! I can’t! I have never baked a wedding cake before. It requires so many ingredients that are not easy to obtain. I do not want to mess up! No, thank you!’ ”

   The lady persisted, saying, “But, I did enjoy your cake during the Couples’ Meeting. I am going to buy all the ingredients required, and yours is just to make the cake!” Ruth continued to brush the idea aside, and the client was equally persistent. Today, Ruth is still thankful that this client did not leave her in peace. The client proceeded to purchase and bring to her the required ingredients. Ruth then began the task of baking a four-tier arrangement for the Chifamba wedding. The end-result made her confidence soar, and to her pleasant surprise, more people brought new orders

 As Ruth delivered orders and attended some weddings, she began to note certain trends in wedding background preparation. During one particular wedding, her critical eye could not stop roving and taking stock of the Caterer’s attire and equipment. She says, “The Caterer and her assistants were rather shabby to a certain extent. How can the boss lady wear mapatapatas (flip flops) and the whole team serve with their heads not covered? I also noted that the soup was carried in buckets and I cringed within to note the cutlery used. The decoration of the place also needed sprucing up. I said to myself, ‘Ruth, you can do a better job than that!’ The desire to do catering for big functions was birthed then.” 

   Ruth had worked in a hotel before and so her training and practice came to the fore in planning her steps towards doing some catering. “First, I consulted my husband Shadreck who was first amused at the idea. When he noticed how serious I was he said, ‘Ah, all right. I will not stand in your way. You have been doing fine on cakes, but this …? Carry on if you want to do that and good luck my dear! I shall do what I can to support you.’ I thanked God and claimed for myself the Scripture in John 14:13 which says, ‘And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified.’ I also began to dwell on the blessings mentioned in Deuteronomy 28: 1-14. God promises many blessings untold if we obey his commandments.

One of the most recent Church decorations

Ruth used the proceeds from her cake making ventures to start buying plates, pots, cutlery, and uniforms. “I told myself that Rome was not built in a day, so I started building my stock bit by bit, slowly but surely. It took me two years to have what I thought was decent stock. One day, I was approached by a person who needed a wedding cake, and he said he was also scouting for good catering. I mentioned that I was also gearing for that. He wanted to see my utensils. After I had shown him what I had, he gave me the job. I quickly consulted colleagues on how they went about charging for such services. I looked for some girls to help me and tried to do my very best to prepare for that wedding. I catered well, then had another, and another opportunity. It is joy when clients send a thank you card or note showing great appreciation for the service rendered.”

Graduation cake  

    “As more and more requests came to cater at weddings, birthday parties, funerals and memorial events; my services also kept improving. It gives me joy to see people enjoy what we have prepared to their satisfaction.
    “Sometimes when I finish doing some cakes, as they await collection, I look at the products with joy and satisfaction and say, ‘Lord, is it really Ruth who has done this? You are amazing!’. Then I look back to where and when I started! I view the growth and continued improvements and see only the Lord’s faithfulness and grace. Thus equipped, I was not left destitute when my dear husband passed on in 2011. I continue to be grateful for his unstinting support while he lived. We even use our garden in Highfields for wedding photographs; a good legacy that Shadreck prepared for me. That also brings in some income. The proceeds from cakes educated my four boys who always supported the ventures. One of my sons, Dumisani, bought a gas stove for me so that business does not grind to a halt when electric power is not available.”
   Ruth says the catering business has also enabled her to help some young people to get a living. She has helped train the young people she employs to cook well. Some of them aim to become chefs by profession. Often, their parents provide good feedback when they express how grateful they are for what she has done to train them well.

Gogo Makeke’s assistant ready to serve

Though Ruth is quite comfortable as she gets more and more jobs, her profession is not without challenges. She has had to contend with influential family members who try to do the task for her when serving time comes. She has learnt to become firm and do things her way to meet and satisfy her clients. There are times also when a client will claim they have only 300 participants but at the end of the day, there are 500 members. That can make good service become a nightmare. And, at times a client promises transport for the equipment and utensils, but when the function is over, they are left stranded. Then there are times when one is not able to get the well-trained assistants to help serve because of competition in the field. Ruth is not deterred by challenges. She says, “All the challenges turn out to be a good learning experiences and enable me and my team to plan and organise better for future events. I cannot complain. God has been so faithful to me in all the ventures. I can never thank Him enough!”

Gogo Makeke’s cakes in her garden

Gogo Makeke’s dishes

We applaud the quiet tenacity of Gogo Makeke and have watched her rise from cakes to catering.

Ruth (nee Muteweri) Dube was married to Shadreck (late) and she has four adult boys and two beloved grandchildren.