So I've made a few cakes for family and friends. . .
I want to go into business. I've read a lot about this but am wondering what the key is.
I want to go into renting a space LEGALLY as in California homebaking is illegal.
However, I have no client base. Craigslist? Is that a good place to start?
Craigs list has never worked for me but it might for you. Bring cakes to the police station fire station library etc..... have your friends recomend you to thier friends. This is the hardest part getting started! Being in CA where they dont let you bake from home is a problem. I do know people that do it just hope you dont get caught.
I started out by doing wedding shows.
My advice...don't jump in feet first. Take your time and do your research first.
Build a business plan. You can get great help at http://www.sba.gov as well as find some examples to work off of. You will need this in order to get a business loan or investors anyways so sooner is better than later. It will also help you find your particular niche to focus on.
If you don't have any business management background. Take a couple of courses at the local community college or tech school. There is a lot more to running a cake decorating business than just knowing how to decorate cakes. You need to have some basic knowledge in accounting and business management. A lack of skill in this area is the reason most small businesses go under. (Or do like we're doing and find one partner to run the business end of things...and be prepared for him to knock you upside the head with a bundt pan if you try to underprice your cakes.)
As for start up money, you're best bet is to secure enough in loans and/or investments to maintain solvency for 2 years (it takes, on average, 2 years for a new business to break even).
Find a couple of books on starting a small business. There are a lot of them out there, they all have strengths and weaknesses, so I just recommend checking out the library first, then sitting in the bookstore thumbing through several different books until you find a couple that work best for you.
Also, make sure you check your state requirements for what forms and licenses you need.
As for advertising, I'd avoid Craig's List as well. Word of mouth is perhaps the best advertising (especially if you have a rich, loud-mouthed lady extolling the virtues of your cakes). A website is much better. You can get a free site, but you're better off registering your own domain name. As Leahs stated, Wedding Expos are great exposure. It takes time to build a loyal and expanding client base.
And don't neglect alternatives to your own shop for starting out. Check with local caterers or other areas where you may be able to rent out kitchen time/space.
Above all, be patient, do your homework, and you'll be ahead of the game when you do open your shop.
Hope this helps...it's based on the trial and error I've gone through starting up our business.
For me, in the long run it's giving the best customer service i can, my customers know i care about them...so i get repeat ,very loyal customers...you want the repeat customers, you don't wanna have to break in new ones all the time.
i have tons of them where i've done their graduation cake...wedding shower...wedding....anniversary...baby showers and kids birthdays...if you are good to them, and go the extra mile, you'll have a client for life....great customer service is so hard to find.
i got one of the nicest compliments from a husband picking a cake a while back...he said "everyone always leaves here satisfied"....that made me feel great!
in many ways you are the product as much as the cakes....if that makes any sense.
I used my local fire and police as my "test rats". I told them I was practicing my recipes and trying to perfect them. I asked if they would be willing to try my goods and rate them. Of course they were very willing. All I asked in return was honest feedback. (I made up a little form for them to fill out and leave for me)
Their word of mouth has been great for me!
Thanks so much! You are all wonderful! I am going to try my police and fire department out!
My husband is in our local vol. fire dep. and he always takes our cakes leftovers and baking for the boys, they love it! I'm most surprised by the love of cake balls!
Word of mouth is perhaps the best advertising (especially if you have a rich, loud-mouthed lady extolling the virtues of your cakes).
i know you posted this forum but was very helpfull for me too...I am taking rght now my cake samples to work but its a good idea to take them to police station or fire dep....sometimes its just really hard to have your coworkers buy your cakes....thanks to all
You can also try the Dr's office. Peds love that stuff. Also the dentist, school, the place you get your car fixed, your favorite bank teller.
Thats just to name a few.
They need to taste it...i used to, when i first got started take a little cake everywhere i went...i'd slip cookies thru that lil drawer at the bank drive in, when i was making my deposits...order a pizza at the shop?...send the pizza dude back to pizza hut with some goodies.
HA HA HA..once i was going to traffic court, and i was gonna that them some treats, but then i thought..."ohhh they might think i'm trying to bribe them"
be like johnny appleseed...spread the joy around...
i said it before, i'll say it again, my best advertisers were teachers.
I'm also a californian and saddens me that in other states, they can bake and sell out of their own kitchen...avoid all that overhead!
This may sound cheesy but I truly think the key to running any kind of business is found in your heart. You have a passion for making cakes, but will you have the same passion when you're trying to pay the rental space or will you have the same passion when you have a bridezilla on your hands.
In CA (particularly in San Bernadino County where I live), you need to make, bake & package in a commerical kitchen. However, once everything is packaged, then you can sell out of your own house. Most commerical kitchens will need you to be safeserve certified, and for your protection, get rental insurance (i just found out about this). get all your legal paper work in order (business license, ficticious name, home business license, check your county and city on other laws and regulations). most of all believe in yourself and know that if this is what you want to pursue, go for it...with no regrets!
First thing is have a realistic view of what your trying to do. If it fails are you ready for that? If it takes off are you ready for that? Being a success is harder than failing, I think. When your successful you will have NO time. You won't sleep, you'll grab a quick bite, and go back to work. There is no such thing as I'll do it tomorrow. Starting, and running a successful business is one of the hardest things to do. Actually starting is the easy part. Keeping it going is the hard part. You'll forget what sleep is. You'll learn how to sleep any time, any where. That's the easy part. Try, and explain to your spouse why your getting up at midnight to bake a cake. Why, cause you haven't slept in three days, and you fell asleep while drinking your coffee trying to WAKE UP. Now for the good news. LOL The pay sucks also. hehehehe
My sister and BIL started a home-based business 2-3 years ago, and here are a couple of things I learned from her experiences and mine. (They have a party equipment rental company).
1. Say GOOD-BYE to weekends! Those are the BUSIEST days - whether decorating, setting up cake or delivery - say good-bye to them.
2. Just as you celebrate special holidays w/family and food so does everyone else. Are you willing to cut short a Mother's Day party for deliveries/pick-ups?
3. Who can you count on to help you out? ONe person can only handle so much. This can be help washing dishes, making deliveries, making chocolate molds, etc... And when it comes to cakes, even though you may trust someone to deliver a cake - they may not trust themselves (my sister hates delivering tiered cakes).
4. DO NOT EXPECT TO BE ROLLING THE MONEY RIGHT AWAY!!! You need to spend money to make money and at first all you'll be doing is spending money!
5. Mike has a GREAT point - starting is easy, it's the expanding part that is hard. Do you have any marketing/PR skills? Can you produce professional looking documents or will you have to hire someone? Personally, I am still working out MANY kinks in my operation, but as soon as I figure everything out, I know I'll need a detailed marketing plan to roll out. Luckily I have a strong educational and work background in marketing and PR work, so I know what works and what doesn't.
6. Cakes are fun, but as CakesbyKris pointed out, this is a business - you need to approach it as such! Whether that means taking business courses or going to your local Economic Development office, get the info you need so you can have a successful business. I think Indydebi has said it on here before, but talent in cakes is only a small part of a business the rest is dealing with facts and figures.
7. As for building up a clientele, wedding expos are great, word of mouth is BEST, and personally, Craigslist can be cheesy for a legitimate business. Volunteer making cakes for schools, churches, non-profit organizations/events.
Sorry this is long, but it's stuff I've learned though my sister's business, personal experiences, and of course CC!
7. Also figure out what kind of business mentality you want. At this point, I'm all about catering to the people that want an awesome looking and great tasting cake at reasonable prices. I'm so not a hoity-toity cake person and don't think I really want to cater my cakes for them. Others are stricting wedding cakes/custom cakes/whatever - what is your target audience and what philosophy will you be applying to your business.
I was going to say the same thing that ccr03 said, which is to figure out who your customer is gong to be and market yourself that way. I only wanted to do wedding cakes, not birthday etc., so I started with wedding shows and local wedding magazines and networking groups. If I had wanted to do birthday cakes I'd have headed to the local preschools and indoor party places, etc. I also poked around to find average prices in my area and positioned my prices more toward the top tier, since that's the customer I want. Look at the advertising of other businesses to see what looks professional and what looks amateurish, then design your advertising and website accordingly. You definitely do need a website these days, that's basic.
Present yourself from the beginning like you're an established business...Make sure that every piece of paper that leaves your shop is the best quality you can get, and don't be afraid to charge a fair price. Don't undersell yourself just because you feel like you're business is new. The customers you get will refer you to other people, and if you aim for the bargain shoppers at the beginning that's who you're going to be selling to for a long time.
Totally agree with ccr03 and costumeczar.
I also agree that it's totally bogus we have to have a commercial kitchen separate from a residence here in OK as well...
I hadn't thought about taking samples to the fire/police departments...rather than tossing the 'scraps'. We'll have to start doing that.
Oh...make sure you set specific business hours that you'll answer the phone, have the doors open, etc. (obviously, work hours will be a lot different). Otherwise, things will get too chaotic and you'll burn out.
And you should also take a day off each week (like Sun or Mon) just to give yourself a break to recuperate. You'll put a lot of work into starting and expanding your business (and maintaining it), but working yourself to death also leads to burn out and business failure.