Juan-Pierre Schulz is just 22 years old, but he already owns and runs his own business – J Cakes, creating cakes of all shapes and sizes for any occasion. Based in Bedfordview, Johannesburg, Juan-Pierre graduated from The International Hotel School in 2010.
We caught up with Juan-Pierre to find out more about the journey his hospitality qualification has taken him on and asked him if he would recommend IHS to prospective students. JPʼs answer was “Absolutely, any day, without a doubt.” Hereʼs why…
Why did you choose to study hospitality?
Since I was in Grade 4, Iʼve wanted to become a chef, and I was very focused on that decision. In Grade 9 I went to The International Hotel Schoolʼs information evening before I chose my Grade 10 subjects… Once I attended the info meeting, I knew this is what I wanted to do and that I had chosen the right place for my tertiary education.
I completed the full-time 3 year Diploma in Professional Cookery and Kitchen Management, and I also studied the two Management subjects via correspondence to obtain the Hospitality Management Diploma as well. I enjoyed both chef and management roles when I was on practicals and wasnʼt sure which course to choose, leaning towards the chef side, so I decided to take hospitality management as a correspondence course.”
When you look back on your hospitality studies, what are your fondest memories?
The fact that IHS offers practical experiential semesters to gain experience in the industry, and not just theory-based lectures. It was awesome – I met great friends, there was good networking even after studying, and it was a home away from home.
Iʼm still in contact with quite a few of my fellow IHS students, as well as some lecturers. I had a few favourite lecturers… Caroline King and Mrs Drews, Mr Oosthuizen, Ms Davel (Mrs Breuwer), Mrs Nel – their ways of lecturing and helping you understand the work, their helpfulness, kindness, and friendliness was awesome!”
What did you decide to do after graduating?
Well in second year, I started my business – it was small and quiet, doing the odd cakes on weekends for friends and family. In third year, we had a subject called ʻNew Business Developmentʼ and one of the big assignments was to create a ʻcompanyʼ and pretend we were entrepreneurs. We had to do all the technical tasks of opening up a business, so I used my own company, Jʼs Cakes and Catering, as the project.
I was told I should consider going full-steam ahead and expand my business – run it properly for my 6 month third year practical semester – which after discussions and arrangements, I decided to do just that. I was evaluated and closely monitored in relation to what I needed to achieve for my practicals, and at graduation I was awarded a trophy for the Best Experiential Learner at Sandton campus!
Since then, my business has grown tremendously; Iʼm extremely busy and itʼs such a blessing for it to be so successful. Iʼve been attending the Wedding Expo since 2009, and Baby Expo since 2011, where I exhibit my wedding cakes and birthday cakes, and all the other items I do as well.”
When did you discover your passion for cakes?
During my practical semesters I worked at Emperorʼs Palace and The Airport Grand Hotel in Boksburg. Iʼve always enjoyed pastry and confectionery, and being given the opportunity to be in Emperorʼs Palace pastry section was amazing and made my mind up right there and then.
I absolutely love what I do – I would have closed down if I didnʼt. Everyone thinks working for yourself is great, and from home even better, but not actually. Itʼs hard work, long hours, and making sure everything is done to perfection all the time is a big job.”
How hard was it for you to start your own business?
Well, starting my own business was easier than finding a job, but I tell you itʼs extremely hard work that takes strength, determination, and long hours. I had a lot of ideas of going overseas, gaining experience in Europe, working on cruise ships, or starting my own company, each of them with their pros and cons.
It takes a lot of dedication and time, but it benefits yourself and not a boss, so itʼs worth it; thatʼs how I look at it. I would have loved to have travelled and worked abroad first, and then opened my own business, but in the same sense, the sooner you begin and make a name for yourself, the better. I donʼt know any other people with a business thatʼs well established at the age of 22.”
How did your studies prepare you for running your own company?
Not so much in the confectionery side, which taught me a lot, but definitely the management aspect of what I learnt at IHS, I apply today. I realise now it aids me with communicating and handling clients, planning and control, and has equipped me with the knowledge to run my own business as a chef, manager, and owner.
I do everything, to sum it up, from baking and icing orders, going to buy stock, ordering supplies, meeting clients, arranging cake tastings, attending and exhibiting at exhibitions, advertising, marketing, admin, returning emails, quotes and invoices, delivery and set up of cakes… Basically Jʼs Cakes is run entirely by me, with help from family members where needed, and I have a baker who I have trained to do the baking for me.”
What are your dreams for the future?
I would like to be in a shop or separate working space as I currently work from home… Iʼd love to be the next SA Cake Boss! But on a more realistic focus, itʼs my dream to own a wedding venue one day.”
Any advice for other hospitality students?
Donʼt leave for tomorrow what you can do today, and to reach the top of a ladder you have to step on the steps on the way… Follow your dreams, no matter how far or close they might seem.
Thanks JP! We wish you all the best on your journey to becoming South Africaʼs next ʻcake bossʼ!