Cake Shop Owners - Any Regrets???

Business By christeena Updated 2 Nov 2014 , 12:05am by luvscakes

christeena Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 2:06am
post #1 of 68

The reason I ask is because well that's my dream and a lady that works at the eye dr's office where I go used to have a cake shop (Cat's Cakes) and she made it sound like having her own shop was sheer hell! icon_confused.gif

Do you have any regrets about having your own shop? If so, WHY???

67 replies
wysmommy Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 2:22am
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I'm dying to hear the answer to this one... icon_smile.gif I'm curious too!

littlebits Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 6:11am
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I am also curious to hear what others have to say.

I opened my shop May 1 and I'm not sure how I feel yet. Some days it's the best and some days I think icon_eek.gif what have I done?! icon_cry.gif

MillyCakes Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 6:23am
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My dream as well!!! Let's hear!!

lchristi27 Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 6:24am
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Me too, turns out an opportunity may be opening up for me as well. Something I really need to think (and pray) about...

PieceofCakeAZ Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 9:25am
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I guess I'll go first. icon_biggrin.gif

For the record we are a 2 person shop (my wife & I) that offers only wedding cakes.

It's not that being an owner/operator of a cake shop is all that bad, sure the hours are long and the pay isn't great but the reason many people run for their lives to get away from the business is all about their expectations.

Most people go into the cake business and open up a shop because they think it will be "FUN" and that is where the majority of the problems occur. Cakes themselves are fun, people love eating cake, heck thousands of people love decorating cakes... so of course having someone pay you to do something you love doing would mean that the job is going to be a blast... right? Umm... not usually.

You hear people that don't have their own shops talk about the artistic expression and how wonderful it would be to be paid to do what you love... etc...etc. What they don't realize is that to make enough to pay your shop rent and household bills you can't just take a couple of "fun" cake orders, you end up doing the exact same cakes week after week. The first time you did the cake perhaps you thought "wow, that is awesome" but before long you have become an assembly line cranking out the exact same design over and over again.

Are there still times when decorating is fun, absolutely. Some designs you can really have fun with and take extra time making certain that everything comes out perfectly. When it is finished, everytime you walk by the cooler (ours have glass doors) you say "Holy crap that is cool". But... since you spent extra time having fun with that cake, you now have less time and the same workload... welcome to decorating at 3AM.

Owning a cake shop is really owning a business where the product just happens to be cakes. It is as much fun as you can make it... just like working on an assembly line, or being an accountant or sales rep would be. A main reason why people burn out so fast is that people who would never consider opening a different type of business decide to open cake businesses.

The worst possible thing to do if you just love to decorate cakes is to open up your own shop. Now, if you are entepreneurial in spirit and are destined to own a business of some kind and it just so happens that you have a talent for decorating cakes... a cake shop may be a great business for you. If your love is being creative and decorating cakes, you may be suited better working for someone else and letting them deal with the "business'. Obviously there are exceptions, if you get a handful of decorators working for you and making money for you... the fun begins. You can now pick & choose cakes that you would like to work on every week and really get creative and have a ball (like Colette, Sylvia, RBI, etc).

Also it should be noted that running a cake biz out of your home with no added overhead is worlds different than taking on a few thousand dollars a month in additional expenses.

In general, it's really no different than any other business,there are good times and bad... sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's not... but when someone finds out that it's just like any other business, their lofty expectations aren't met and that's why so many cake shops don't even sell the business to someone else, they just close their doors thankful to be done with it.

One thing that is more fun about this business than any other (at least on the wedding cakes side) is the type of people you deal with. We are lucky enough to work with people that are in the happiest times of their lives (about to be married, of course) and that certainly makes the sales process more pleasant.

As for me, I owned numerous business from ages 17-30 ranging from video distribution to network integration so I looked at this as a business first and got what I expected (admittedly I didn't expect the hours to be this long and I thought the pay would be a bit better). As long as you want to own a business and are willing to view it as a business that just happens to sell cakes... you will be ahead of most.

Best of luck!

christeena Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 1:56pm
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Wow, you certainly gave us dreamers something to think about!! Thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts down for us! I appreciate it!!

Since I love to decorate cakes, I just couldn't imagine why having your own shop would be paramount to a torture chamber! I mean, this woman had nothing good to say!! Maybe she ran into too many bridezillas in her business!!

johnniekake Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 2:22pm
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piece of cake said it well!!

Regrets................No......I do work alot.......but I LOVE it..............Im not rolling in the dough.....................but i do have a little icon_lol.gif .................I wish sometimes I didnt have a storefront were people can walk in,because that tends to slow me up.......................but all in all its definately the passion for it that drives me.................. of course it might drive me into the ground icon_lol.gif

wysmommy Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 2:33pm
post #9 of 68

I actually tend to think he's telling the truth and it's probably more realistic than we'd like to believe (especially since I close on a new store in August!). Fridges break, people cancel orders or are never satisfied no matter how great a job you do...things happen.

I used to own a little kitchen store and coffee shop in a quaint little new england costal town. Every single day at least one person would come in and say "oh this shop is so lovely, I always wanted to own a shop like this. It must be so much fun."

I always wanted to reply "It is fun 40% of the time, town festivals, nice weather with the doors open, christmas time, surprise nice weather days in the winter when you do outstanding sales during a slow period. It is not fun when the police call you at 3 am because the front door blew open and rain got all over your inventory, when you get a call on your second day of vacation that you are out of cups and the coffee order didn't come. It's not fun when a crazy person is insisting she return a $125 pan because something is wrong with it, when the something that is wrong is that she boiled it dry and burned the heck out of it. It is not fun when you just put your son down for a nap and get a call saying the person that was supposed to work never showed up, and the one who is there has to go to another job. It was not fun when you get 8 bounced checks in a month, when your credit card machine breaks during christmas. It's not fun when the same woman, says to you for the 10th time, 'I want a blue spatula, not THAT color blue, a different color blue are you sure you don't have one in a different color blue?' and your sure you don't. AND it's not fun when payroll screws up and your checks don't come and you know some of your employees can't wait another day to pay their rent, or someone shoplifts a $400 espresso machine." That being said, I loved my shop with all my heart and it killed me to sell it.

I think that with any business we need to be prepared to LOVE LOVE LOVE the good and to deal with and accept the bad. icon_wink.gif

cupcake Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 3:56pm
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Most of you that are home decorators or hobbists do not realize that your own business is not just decorating cakes or cookies or whatever you do. Your own business is a commitment, a lifestyle change, sacrifice, long hours and the ability to self-motivate. In all cases you go from household responsibilities to now adding business responsibilities, often times you must be super woman and no matter how tired you are, or sick, or have sick kids, or other unexpected problems, you still have to produce and get your orders out and please your customers, if you don't you won't last long. It is expense, often large, and your profits may not show up for several years, depending on your initial set-up. You also have to think about employees, they are counting on your ability to keep the business running so they can get a paycheck. You must possess skills in management, marketing, accounting, buying, public relations, general business, food sanitation and preparation, good common sense and of course creativeness, organizational abilitiy, time management and talent. This is not a business you can just jump in, you must do research, check out demographics, city planning and competition. You ask about for me, I have had years of learning new things and enjoying the freedom from the corporate world, however, sometimes it would have been easier just to go work for someone else and at the end of the day you just leave and not worry about someone else's business. Since I am a workaholic it was not a burden for me, work keeps me driven, ambitious and focused, if you are a lazy person, or whimp, this is not the business for you.

indydebi Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 4:24pm
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cupcake, I think everything you mentioned is why it's taken me this long to get a shop. I have been very fortunate to have full-time jobs that gave me great training in customer service, sales, marketing, pricing strucutures, purchasing (and man oh man if you haven't learned hard-a$$ negotiating skills in the purchasing field, you are doomed!) etc etc.

Had I done this 25, 20 or even 15 years ago, I'm sure I would have failed. I didn't have the management background, I didn't have the experience dealing with employees and HR law and so much more.

Having a cake decorating skill is about 20% of the business ..... running the business is 80% of it.

paolacaracas Posted 9 Jul 2007 , 11:03pm
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I have my shop for one year now, although the above said it´s all true, It´s still a great joy to have my own bussines. I do have one regret, I have my shop at shoping mall, but the kitchen in someplace else. If I had to do it all again both things would be together, so i´m allways precent when I´m needed. I run from one place to the other all the time.

CindiM Posted 10 Jul 2007 , 3:20am
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I've had my shop for 6 and 1/2 years. I love it. I still have to pinch myself. My regret would be I wished I was able to have built my business earlier in my life. (I worked for 30 years in the corporate world and like indydeby, I learned sales/marketing/finance/customer service/training/computers/communications/legal/human resources/payroll,etc.)
Yes, it is very demanding. Like the rest of you, I thrive on deadlines, problem solving and being able to practice my art. I network with other vendors and I am friends with the other "Cake heads" (definition-head in cake books) in my area, that's what my husbands calls us. He says, Don't you ever get tired of cake? No, not really. I enjoy "cake meetings" to meet the brides and to design the cakes. I love a challenge. It is feast or famine. In the beginning I had to subsidize the cost with "my money". Now it pays for itself. I hired an assistant 6 months ago. People who say, get some help if you are that busy, do not know what it cost to really hire someone. I am by appointment and in a shopping center. I try to only do fondant! I also learned how to say no. Now, I only do the cakes I want to do. This week is fun. I have a little red hatbox, a giant cheeseburger, a pineapple shaped pineapple upside down cake and a wedding cake of my own design with my handmade calla lilies in red. I wear a lot of hats, but like Duff, I wanted to do cakes, My Way! icon_wink.gif People say, You make cakes? And I smile and think, I make money. thumbs_up.gif

wysmommy Posted 10 Jul 2007 , 10:39am
post #14 of 68

I just had to say, your post really made me smile. Thanks!


tashaluna Posted 10 Jul 2007 , 1:04pm
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thanks who ever asked this question. It was great to know. I think I will be a home baker for a LONG time yet.

katerpillrgrl Posted 10 Jul 2007 , 6:18pm
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Cindi. I'm curious. How do you "say no?" Do you mean that some brides or clients ask you to do cakes and you turn them down if you don't want to do them, even if you are available? If so, what do you say to them? Also, when you started saying "no" were you at all worried that your business might suffer?

Lastly, when you choose to do a cake for someone, is it because they allow you to get creative with the design or is there another qualifier for you to say "yes?"

indydebi Posted 10 Jul 2007 , 7:10pm
post #17 of 68
Originally Posted by katerpillrgrl

..... How do you "say no?" ...... when you started saying "no" were you at all worried that your business might suffer?

Saying "no" to someone is not a bad thing! When you are booked solid, it sends the message of "She's is in high demand! Her cakes must be really good! You better book her early if you want one of her cakes!"

When I had a full time job, my co-workers were wanting cookies. I told them my schedule was full .... if they wanted oven time, they'd have to get on the schedule early! And they did. They planned ahead and ordered way in advance.

If my calendar is full, how is saying "no" a bad thing? My calender is full!!! How am I suffering from saying "no"? icon_confused.gif

Do you know how many brides many of us turned down for 7/7/07? It didn't hurt my business because of it..... I still had 3 weddings that day (a total of 2 cakes and 2 food caterings). Saying "no" is OK! thumbs_up.gif

katerpillrgrl Posted 10 Jul 2007 , 8:26pm
post #18 of 68
Originally Posted by indydebi

If my calendar is full, how is saying "no" a bad thing? My calender is full!!! How am I suffering from saying "no"? icon_confused.gif

Thansk for your input Indydebi. Actually, I asked how she says "no" even when she is available.

Just trying to learn and find out what everyone means when they say they learned to say "no".... It's kind of an abstract idea and any advice would be appreciated because that seems to be a very common problem among cake artists.

CindiM Posted 11 Jul 2007 , 1:39am
post #19 of 68

When I started doing cakes, I would do "everything" I could, like desert cakes, not even decorated. I currently make at least several wedding cakes a week and that is fine.
Now I say, "I am sorry, I don't do sheet cakes, cupcakes, edible images, rum cakes, x-rated stuff, fruit cakes, etc. I prefer to make wedding cakes. I am a wedding cake designer." That is my focus.
Or, I am sorry, I don't do birthday cakes normally, what did you have in mind? If what they request is something I want to do, I do it. If not, I tell them I would really rather not make a train or a truck or what ever.
I am very honest and try to be kind. "That sounds like fun, but I really don't want to make a motorcycle." icon_rolleyes.gif
When brides call, I check my availability first. Then I ask if they have an idea of what they want. I don't make up that I am busy that week. Again, I am too honest. If it is a wedding cake. I am on it! And Indydebi is correct, if you are booked you should not overload yourself. I used to overbook myself and then complain I was too busy. Duh! I found I was happier making cakes "My Way" and my business keeps growing. You don't have to do everything just because somebody calls you to make it for them. I hope that answers your question. thumbs_up.gif

PieceofCakeAZ Posted 11 Jul 2007 , 2:45am
post #20 of 68
Originally Posted by katerpillrgrl

Cindi. I'm curious. How do you "say no?" Do you mean that some brides or clients ask you to do cakes and you turn them down if you don't want to do them, even if you are available? If so, what do you say to them? Also, when you started saying "no" were you at all worried that your business might suffer?

After getting the date from them we usually say "unfortunately, based on our schedule that week, we wouldn't be able to accept your order but I can definitely refer you to a couple of other great local companies that may be able to create your cake".

That way you aren't lying to anyone, you aren't saying you are booked when you aren't, you're just saying that your schedule doesn't allow it (which could mean taking that order could cut into your laying around time icon_wink.gif ).

We typically turn down 10+ calls like this a week and sometimes they call us back a few months later looking for another cake (which, to me, means they don't hate us for it. icon_biggrin.gif )

snarkybaker Posted 11 Jul 2007 , 5:10pm
post #21 of 68

Here are the nuts and bolts of it: By the time we get our bakery/gelateria open, we will have $250,000 invested, and $3100 a month in rent ( $21 per square foot) which means to make a living, we need to sell close to $2000 in product PER DAY.

That is compared to my current job, at which I get $55,000 a year, whether or not there is any baking to do, plus a nice bonus for hitting certain sales goals, I never have to worry about the fact that vanilla is getting close to $150/gallon and people come in behind me and wash the dishes and the floors.

If you really like decorating cakes, and that is what you want to do, do it, but realise that has very little to do with the day to day running of a business and that the commitment involved in being able to support yourself doing cakes means making a lot of cakes you don't particularly like, working when you'd rather be at your son's baseball game, and always being a little worried about the home bakers who can undercut your price by half because they don't have rent to pay.

jen1977 Posted 11 Jul 2007 , 8:18pm
post #22 of 68

Wow txkat! $2000 a DAY? That's a lot to sell! Good luck!

giggysmack Posted 12 Jul 2007 , 12:31am
post #23 of 68

I may think opening a business in the future. What a great thread.

Jenn123 Posted 12 Jul 2007 , 1:08am
post #24 of 68

I grew up in a very profitable family bakery (age 11-23). We sold it because I wanted to start a family and my parents wanted to retire.

Downers of owning a storefront:
- Holidays are no longer any fun. I used to dread Christmas because we didn't get to see the light of day during December.
- Employees - Yuck. The paperwork, emotional turmoil, scheduling, etc. is not fun. You have to watch everything they do and keep track of everything. Sometimes the cake you send out the door isn't just like you would have done it...but you are too busy to do every cake yourself.
- Picky, annoying customers keep coming back...why???
- Getting your supplies on time and at the right price is sometimes difficult. You have to watch your suppliers because the prices mysteriously rise.
- Paperwork, taxes, sales tax, paperwork, insurance, payroll, p-a-p-e-r-w-o-r-k (nuff said)
- LONG hours
- No time to eat or pee
- Working when you are sick
- You don't always have the time to spend on the fun stuff you started your business to do in the first place.
- You are never free from the worries of being the boss even on vacation
- Vacation? what's that?
- Saturdays are the busiest day (And when are all the kid's games?)
- PAIN- in your feet, back, and hands. My hands fall asleep and hurt at night from repetitive squeezing. It took years to go away after I stopped decorating full time.
- The ultimate weight of everything is on your shoulders

Great things about your own business:

- You can do things the way you want
- You can have your family around (If you want to) and teach your kids a wonderful skill!
- You can take the kinds of orders you want to take. (I loved making displays and photo albums with new "stuff")
- You can get HUGE satisfaction from a job done well
- You can be really proud to tell people what you do
- It feels great to have the whole shop working hard in harmony and cranking out lots of beautiful and tasty products. (This was my favorite when everyone was getting along and things were going smoothly)
- Lots of money if you do it right!

After 8 years in other jobs and being a SAHM, I decided to work without a storefront and with no employees. I have a website and deliver all cakes. I make great money doing 2-3 weddings a week, and maybe 10 other occasion orders. I have very little overhead or paperwork. I can set my own hours. I have time for my kids and I'm really happy.

VACakelady Posted 12 Jul 2007 , 6:06am
post #25 of 68

Thank you for starting and contributing to such a great thread. I have people ask me all the time when I'm going to quit my job and open a shop. I always say "Never". DH is self employed, so benefits are essential. Aside from that, I don't really enjoy decorating cakes that much. I don't mind the baking and the business part comes natural to me. The decorating is just work to me, not a lot of fun. I enjoy my full-time job more I guess. I continue to do this, and I'm overwhelmed with orders, because it's MY money. My paycheck pays all of the bills and my cake money is my personal $$. I am successful and motivated by my business, but I'd much rather leave the creativity and decorating to someone else if I could.

So, if anyone wants to start a business because they love the decorating part so much, I'm the one to partner with!!! LOL.

christeena Posted 12 Jul 2007 , 1:31pm
post #26 of 68

WOW! icon_surprised.gif What great responses!! You cake shop owners have sure given us 'wanna-be's' something to think about! Personally, for alot of the down-side reasons to having your own shop, I would much prefer to have a 'by appointment only type studio' where I can pick and choose what I want to do but I desperately want to do it legal and licensed. There-in lies the difficulty: I've researched what it would cost in my state to be legal even on my own property and we would be talking, thousands of $$$$ just convert my garage to code and then build the DH a new garage for his crap and it just doesn't make sense to me to spend that kind of money for a hobby decorator justing wanting to do 3-4 cakes a MONTH! I've looked into a TINY one-person shop and the start-up costs of that scare the bejeebers out of me too! So what are us dreamers supposed to do???? icon_cry.gif

indydebi Posted 12 Jul 2007 , 1:45pm
post #27 of 68
Originally Posted by christeena

..... and we would be talking, thousands of $$$$ just convert my garage to code and then build the DH a new garage for his crap and it just doesn't make sense to me to spend that kind of money for a hobby decorator justing wanting to do 3-4 cakes a MONTH! I've looked into a TINY one-person shop and the start-up costs of that scare the bejeebers out of me too! So what are us dreamers supposed to do???? icon_cry.gif

Unfortunately, in most places this is an "all or nothing" industry. You have to buy the whole oven, no matter how often you turn it on. You have to buy the whole refrigerator, no matter how full you fill it. You have to have the health dept approved flooring to cover the whole floor, no matter how often you walk on it. And so on and so on and so on.

As far as the costs go, being legal and doing it part time is like being a "little bit pregnant" .....

Jenn123 Posted 12 Jul 2007 , 2:13pm
post #28 of 68
Originally Posted by indydebi

As far as the costs go, being legal and doing it part time is like being a "little bit pregnant" .....

icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif That cracks me up!! icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif

christeena Posted 12 Jul 2007 , 2:43pm
post #29 of 68


You are so right! Hence the utter frustration I feel!! Also, hence the hundreds of home bakers doing just enough "paid" cakes to pay for their cake decorating obsession hoping that the HD doesn't get wind of their little operation!! I had a fellow church goer who owns a bakery in another county remark that they find it extremely hard to get wedding cake business because of the "underground" of home bakers!! AND he is completely understanding of the catch 22 home decorators find themselves in!!

countrycakes Posted 12 Jul 2007 , 2:51pm
post #30 of 68

icon_sad.gif I became legal in May of this year.....and yes, I am finding out just how hard that the 'underground' bakers are taking away wedding cake business.....I know of 2 within 10 miles of me. icon_sad.gif I only sold by word of mouth until I became LICENSED AND LEGAL.....and now seems like cakes are nonexistent with the wedding cakes......what's up? I got licensed for a reason.....I will just keep plugging along....birthday and all occasion cakes are doing well...but not the wedding. It's tough...and kind of disheartening. icon_sad.gificon_cry.gif

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