Myra Kivuvani-Ndung’u, 35

Director and co-founder

Le Grenier à Pain

This may sound unbelievable but Myra has no French roots.

However, she has pastries named after her at Le Grenier à Pain, a bakery in Nairobi’s upscale market and the only franchise in Africa of the company that has 30 branches across the globe.

Interestingly, her rise in the culinary world started as a hobby.

“My first cake was as hard as a rock,” she recalls. “I was a marketer for digital brands, and I only baked as a hobby.”

"“My first cake was as hard as a rock...""

One day, she quit her job as a marketer and went into baking French pastries full time from her home kitchen, all in the pursuit of her passion. Her baking skills improved over time and she refined her recipes, thanks to being adventurous in the kitchen. Soon, the orders started coming, and not long after, overwhelming her.

While still toying with idea of opening a bakery, she met Yan Welffens and together they opened the first Le Grenier à Pain branch in Africa. Yan, currently the managing director of the Nairobi branch, had just quit his job and was looking to open a French bakery in Kenya. Myra on the other hand oversees production, events, marketing and customer service at the bakery and restaurant that serves an average of 300 customers a day.

Myra says passion for what she does has kept her going, even when the noise to stop baking was louder day in, day out.

“While baking from home, I got criticised and looked down upon by naysayers, but I continued improving my skills each passing day,” says Myra, who holds an MBA in Global Management from the Swiss Management University.

There are days she went to bed past 1am because she was experimenting with a new recipe or racing to satisfy customer orders.

However, the toil is finally paying off and in a few weeks, she will be a judge for The Great Kenyan Bake Off TV competition, a spin-off from the The Great British Bake Off, which Myra has been watching since she was a child.

Away from the limelight, Myra helps women and girls sharpen their baking prowess in order to earn a living from it.

“I like to help, especially women, I believe there is a reason God has brought me this far,” says the mother-of-one.

When she is not overseeing operations at the bakery, she is painting, reading or travelling.

— Lynet Igadwah