Ok, Need Your Advice!! I Am So Conflicted!

Business By loriemoms Updated 9 Aug 2008 , 5:41pm by loriemoms

loriemoms Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 2:33pm
post #1 of 34

Sorry this is gonna be a long one, but I really need some advice from you guys who have been running your business for a while..(or even maybe in the same boat!)

The past 16-18 months have been nuts! I have been working 100 plus hours a week, with a week off here and there, and the business is literally bursting at the seams. I began to really dread talking to brides, dread making another batch of buttercream, and the little bleep sound of quickbooks was giving me nightmares! I decided screw this, it just wasnt work it and decided to close up shop and go work for someone else.

I worked for someone else for a few weeks part time while finishing my work. I hated it. Nothing against that person, they were wonderful, but I missed working for myself. Do you know what I mean? I got spoiled. Real spoiled. But I figured I would get used to it.

Then i start getting emails from customers, saying I cannot close up, our area needs me (very few of us are really doing good quality cakes, that are still made right and taste good and aren't costing an arm and a leg!) I have brides who wanted to send friends to me and were so disapointed. I had other BAKERIEs tell me that I cannot close up, (some offered me jobs to come decorate for them if I do) as they enjoy working with me so much. (We aren't a very competitive area..again, we just don't have many GOOD bakeries around here!)

Then in come my finacial advisor, who offers some really good ideas on how I can not be so exhausted and still keep going. One of them is to hire a part time baker (15 or so hours a week) so I can do my gum paste work and such while they are baking. We have the room and a culinary jr college right up the street form us, so that seems like a neat idea. Taxes are MUCH easier then we thought for this area (we thought it was going to be a nightmare!) so we can actually afford it. My DH said he will take over doing the contracts and quickbooks (he knows it well) and doing the costing with the brides (the part I hate the most..I am too thin skinned) We would raise our prices (he says to get rid of the bottom 15%, which our finicial guy said you should do every year!)

This would drop my hours from 100plus a week to closer to 50-60 hours a week (which beleive me is great!) I have had some light weeks the past few weeks (just 2-4 weddings) and this has helped me clear my head a little. We were thinking of just taking in weddings and grooms cakes and high end sculpted cakes..and then offer some designs for baby showers and such they can pick from, where i can have a lot of stuff already premade and decorating would be quick and easy. (the cakes would not be prebaked, just the designs premade) and made a schedule of when we would be closed, including all Sundays. (no more consultations all day long on Sunday!)

What do you guys think? Money will continue to be tight for us, but shoot, bakeries are only paying 12-14 dollars an hour for decorating. my other option would be to just back into the IT field (which I HATE!)

Would love to hear your opinon! Is it too late to just start over again? (sorry for the typos, I am from the UNIX world where we don't use real words. hahahaha)

33 replies
countrycakes Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 2:39pm
post #2 of 34

icon_eek.gif WOW! Your business really has boomed........I don't have any sage and tried and true advice....but I hope you do what you feel is best........

PS: Send me some of your business! icon_biggrin.gificon_razz.gif I am having a hard time getting customers.....everybody wants something for nothing.....gr...........sorry to rant there!

I just can not give away cakes..... icon_rolleyes.gif

peacockplace Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 2:49pm
post #3 of 34

I think raising prices and moving to all wedding and upscale cakes it the way to go. It will free up a lot more time. Also, I'm sure hiring someone would help a lot. Best of luck! It seem like you have some really loyal customers!

laynie72 Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 2:54pm
post #4 of 34

Hi there,

I think that you should try do what you have been advise, with all that business you had I am sure that starting again will not be a problem at all.

Trust your unstincts icon_rolleyes.gif

My best wishes to you,

RRGibson Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 3:00pm
post #5 of 34

Believe it or not, I'mthinking of going to just wedding cakes also. Cakes aren't all I do in my business so when I get the birthday cakes and stuff like that, they tend to just get on my nerves. I feel like I'm only making those cakes and other small orders to pay for supplies for the wedding cakes, which is necessary but it takes time away from other things. So, I think that's a good idea, that's where the bulk of your income comes in anyway, weddings and other large party cakes. But if you decide to continue on with all cakes, I think if you can afford it, a PT employee would be great. I lucked out and am getting an intern this month and I can't wait! Maybe I'll have time to breathe again!

RRGibson Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 3:01pm
post #6 of 34

Believe it or not, I'mthinking of going to just wedding cakes also. Cakes aren't all I do in my business so when I get the birthday cakes and stuff like that, they tend to just get on my nerves. I feel like I'm only making those cakes and other small orders to pay for supplies for the wedding cakes, which is necessary but it takes time away from other things. So, I think that's a good idea, that's where the bulk of your income comes in anyway, weddings and other large party cakes. But if you decide to continue on with all cakes, I think if you can afford it, a PT employee would be great. I lucked out and am getting an intern this month and I can't wait! Maybe I'll have time to breathe again!

tracycakes Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 3:03pm
post #7 of 34

That sounds like an excellent plan to me and I love hearing about it! I love the idea for the pre-made decorations for the shower cakes and going after high-end. I've been working on my skills with some possible plans for a bakery in the future but I don't want to kill myself working either and that is what scares me away more than anything.

The plans we've talked about are going after high-end and charging for them....basically the cakes I can't afford and would never purchase myself. icon_redface.gif

I love your plan! Keep us updated on how things work out!

soccermom17 Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 3:04pm
post #8 of 34

Do the part time helper to bake. While I enjoy making my cakes/desserts from scratch, it does take a lot of time. When what I really want to do is decorate! I think that would be first, then raise your prices and adjust your menu (so to speak). Definitely schedule one day closed a week. This should help you get your sanity back, get some sleep and be ready for the next bride! Good Luck!!
-Michelle

Solecito Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 3:23pm
post #9 of 34

Seems like you already have a plan. Go for it!!

leah_s Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 3:40pm
post #10 of 34

I think you've got a plan! You might also consider buying gumpaste flowers. Although I can make them, thery are not worth my time, especially when I can buy beautiful ones for cheap.

justsweet Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 3:44pm
post #11 of 34

Sounds like your plans is going to work. You should look at your calendar and schedule yourself a three day weekend in September - so you can rest. Also, decide on some other days you may want to close so you and your family can rest and have time together. (thanksgiving weekend and the Christmas day until New Years - if you can. ) Having some breaks in between even if it a three day weekend may help you, go get a massage or just sit on the couch and relax.

Good luck with your decision, I am sure it is going to be the right one.

Chef_Stef Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 3:51pm
post #12 of 34

It does sound like it might be time to hire some help...but...

Just be sure that it *pays* to hire the extra help, and that you can handle dealing with employees--who can be an endless headache of "I can't make it today; I'm need more $; I need to leave early; my mom says you're working me too many hours; I think I have an earache".

My DH and I have found over and over that hiring someone to help in our business full time so DH can have a life that doesn't include 100-hour weeks, means we have to up production a certain amount to cover the wages, withholding, unemployment tax, etc, but we're not making any more money; we're just getting more deliveries done and sometimes (only sometimes) saving him a little time. It always turns out to not be worth it, (we've gone thru 7 different "helpers" in the last year or so), so we have decided to tough it out for two more years until some of our big heavy equipment loans are paid off and we can relax a bit. I tell him, "Until then, bud, you better smack yourself on the butt and grab another gear, 'cause it's just you."

So you you have 3 choices:
1. Hire help, with the headaches and expenses that it entails (and there are headaches).
2. Raise prices and reduce order quantities.
3. Smack yourself on the butt and giddyup go until you can afford #1 or #2.

I'd try the specializing and raising prices--I'm so sick of employees today that I can't tell you.

I just took a call from my DH while I'm typing this: Our newest teenage helper (family--WORST group to choose from) says now his mom doesn't want to drive him to work any more, and he wants tomorrow off to do something fun, and he has football starting, but he could maybe come help on Friday? DH told him to go home and call it a summer. icon_razz.gif
Another one bites the dust...

Good luck! It sounds great that your business is growing and filling a need in your area!

Kim_in_CajunCountry Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 3:52pm
post #13 of 34

Go for it! You did it before and now you have a chance to do it again, but differently based on what you have learned and the advice given by others.

I would think this would be an easier decision than if you were still working at your I.T. job and trying to decide whether to leave it, or not.

BTW, I'm in an I.T. job and envy you for leaving yours to pursue your cake decorating dream job. I am well compensated and have excellent benefits, but the same isn't true for DH, so leaving my job isn't an option. Instead, I cheer on those of you who are able to follow their dreams.

You've gotten off to a good start because you have a plan. Now go for it! Good luck.

costumeczar Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 4:12pm
post #14 of 34

I second that advice to raise your prices and go the wedding cake/sculpted cake route. That's all I do, except for an occasional birthday cake for wedding cake customers only. I don't take random cakes from people whose weddings I haven't done. The little cakes are the ones that drive me crazy, and you can't charge enough for them to make them worthwhile, most of the time.

margaretb Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 7:19pm
post #15 of 34

Go for it. If you still feel burned out in a few months, you can close up again. No ones going to chain you to the mixer and glue a decorating bag in your hand and tell you that you had your chance to get out and you blew it. Maybe send out a letter to all your past customers thanking them for past business and encouragement, and here are the changes you are making to your business.

I like your baby shower cake idea of having set designs.

Is it worthwhile to sell just sugarpaste work for someone who can bake and ice a basic cake but wants to punch it up? Just a thought, since it seems that is what you enjoy doing.

melodyscakes Posted 4 Aug 2008 , 11:46pm
post #16 of 34

you have to go for it! when you hire help it makes life so much easier!!!!!
I am closed on Sundays and stay far away from the bakery, and on Mondays I run errands, buy groceries/supplies for the week, then groceries for the house. so really I only get one day off, and it is always much needed.
if you love being your own boss, hire the help you need.
also, I don't mess with quick books or anything....don't have the time, so I hired an accountant to do all my paperwork and I don't do any of it...just hand over reciepts and all paper work in a cake box once a month.

good luck!


melody

-K8memphis Posted 5 Aug 2008 , 12:04am
post #17 of 34

Cake-Buddy, it's never too late to live happily ever after. (((hug)))

snarkybaker Posted 5 Aug 2008 , 12:46am
post #18 of 34

If money is very tight, then you will need to make sure you're doing the right thing, because inevitably, mistakes cost money.

You need to take into account the amount of business you will lose if you raise your prices. What is your current mix of business ? If you decide not to do birthday cakes etc...Does that leave you enough money to pay yourself AND your assistant ?

You really need to make up some spreadsheets and answer these questions for yourself, because what you are changing your whole business model. The math will be very different.

loriemoms Posted 5 Aug 2008 , 9:20am
post #19 of 34

Thanks everyone!

We sat down with our numbers and have decided to continue on...The pay I would get for working for someone was A LOT less then the bakery was making, so it made no sense to us. We are going to raise our prices a little and not hire anyone yet, to see how the price changes affect bookings. And do the proper model: Get rid of the bottom 15%. We think this will help a lot in the work load, yet make the same amount of money. Doing 6 weddings a weekend was crazy! (plus grooms cakes, and celebration cakes) So we are hoping the raise in price will cut it down.

We use quickbooks for invoicing,and my business account. I love it, its fast and easy, I just email my files to my accountant and they go from there. I just didn't want to LIVE in front of it all the time! It got to the point where I had the thing opened and had to do something in it 10 times a day. How can I do cakes if I am doing accounting? I cannot afford to just take the papers to my accountant..man, that would cost a fortune! (especailly during wedding booking season, we do a LOT of invoicing!) so our solution is my DH is going to take over doing all the accounting (hes the one with the business degree) and I will continue to just do my cakes. We are working on a communication system to keep track of the contracts, and such..

We are going to offer "set" celebration cakes, we think it will help a lot in the time we spend with these people who say "I don't know what I want" and you have to coax out of them what they want. I am sure you know what I mean! haha!

We are excited about our renewal! Sent in my contract today for the big wedding show in January (we booked over 80 weddings from our local wedding show last January and we kind of consider it our "Black Friday"! hahaha) so theres no turning back now!

Thanks again for all the great advice!!! I LOVE the idea of just taking Sunday off! We also did a vacation schedule so we know not to book those weeks..(last year we kind of went "oh look, we have a day off!" hahaha!)

loriemoms Posted 5 Aug 2008 , 9:28am
post #20 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by txkat

If money is very tight, then you will need to make sure you're doing the right thing, because inevitably, mistakes cost money.

You need to take into account the amount of business you will lose if you raise your prices. What is your current mix of business ? If you decide not to do birthday cakes etc...Does that leave you enough money to pay yourself AND your assistant ?

You really need to make up some spreadsheets and answer these questions for yourself, because what you are changing your whole business model. The math will be very different.




That was our main decision: If I went back to IT, it would be contract work and I would make a TON more money, but it wasn't worth it to us for me to be miserable sitting at a desk all day. (and you have time between contracts) I talked to most of the major bakeries in our area, who said Yes, come on in! and the pay was ridiculous...I was making more in a weekend then I would a month with them! And I did research and it showed the pay they were offering was actually ABOVE the average for cake decorators...man, we are paid WAY too little!

Currently my business is 85-90% weddings. The wedding season is winding down (except the Crazy October we have around here..I have 35 weddings that month alone) and we feel like we have been to every hotel, golf course and country club in the triangle area at least 4 times! (we went to Duke Gardens so much this summer, we feel like we should have our own parking spot! haha) so we just dont see any real loss in not taking all those little baby shower cakes and first birthday cakes, unless they want a stock item. We figured we would make more money just doing weddings as everyone knows those little cakes take sometimes MORE time then weddings! (you would think not!) When I first started I was thinking I would do a lot of celebration cakes in Nov, Dec, Jan and Feb because I thought those were the "quiet" months. Man, I was wrong! So I agree, changing my "model" isn't a good idea, but it kind of changed on its own, as things happened.

It was interesting as we sat down with all our papers and invoices and bank accounts...I recommend everyone do this once in a while, man, it was an eye opener! (I think most of the year we are walking around with our eyes closed because we are so tired! hahaha!)

MamaBerry Posted 5 Aug 2008 , 9:44am
post #21 of 34

Hey Lori,

I haven't been on in a while but I thought about your problem and the first thing that came to mind is interns.

Is there a local culinary/pastry school near you? Non-paid interns are a great addition to a shop especially when they have the basics down BEFORE they get to you.

If you choose to take on interns you may want to have a set amount of hours they need to work. Out here it's 200+

Good luck and i'm glad to hear you've not given up on your dreams.

loriemoms Posted 5 Aug 2008 , 9:48am
post #22 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaBerry

Hey Lori,

I haven't been on in a while but I thought about your problem and the first thing that came to mind is interns.

Is there a local culinary/pastry school near you? Non-paid interns are a great addition to a shop especially when they have the basics down BEFORE they get to you.

If you choose to take on interns you may want to have a set amount of hours they need to work. Out here it's 200+

Good luck and i'm glad to hear you've not given up on your dreams.




The local comminity college is litteraly up the street from us (about 10 minutes) and they have a culinary school there (as a matter of fact, was thinking of taking some classes myself) We were debating contacting them for a student but have heard you have to write up a report every week and give it to the school and they won't accept home bakers and such....so we kind of back burnered it...

CakeWhizz Posted 5 Aug 2008 , 9:54am
post #23 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaBerry

Hey Lori,

I haven't been on in a while but I thought about your problem and the first thing that came to mind is interns.

Is there a local culinary/pastry school near you? Non-paid interns are a great addition to a shop especially when they have the basics down BEFORE they get to you.

If you choose to take on interns you may want to have a set amount of hours they need to work. Out here it's 200+

Good luck and i'm glad to hear you've not given up on your dreams.




Excellent suggestion! When hiring interns IMHO, their attitude and willingness to work hard is far more important than their ability as you can teach skills but not the right attitude. I wish you the very best and do let us know how you get on.

marknelliesmum Posted 5 Aug 2008 , 10:31am
post #24 of 34

Just wanted to wish you luck! You not being burned out/stressed out is very important too so make sure the prices you charge affoard you to take proper time out - 'no cake-talk' days! You are the most important asset in this business and need to do whatever works for you - not clients etc. From the disappointment felt when you stopped I'd say you will have no problems getting started again.
Good luck!!

poshcakedesigns Posted 5 Aug 2008 , 5:37pm
post #25 of 34

I agree - move to weddings and upscale cakes. That's what I have done and yes I have lost a few customers but they were on the 'cheap' end anyways and to much of a pain to deal with.

loriemoms Posted 5 Aug 2008 , 5:55pm
post #26 of 34

I cannot beleive its only been a day since I put on my web site I am reopening. Already have three consultations for weddings next year and a order from a "regular" for the holidays. One of the other bakeries in town called me and said they were so glad I was going to stay open! I had to fight back tears, i was so touched! And it was actually kind of fun to turn down a sheet cake request....hahaha! I am terrible.

PiccoloChellie Posted 6 Aug 2008 , 1:52am
post #27 of 34

Lorie, I'm glad to hear you're reopening. You have far too much talent to go back to office work!! I wish my cakes looked just half as wonderful as yours. icon_biggrin.gif

littlecake Posted 6 Aug 2008 , 2:54am
post #28 of 34

We are going to offer "set" celebration cakes, we think it will help a lot in the time we spend with these people who say "I don't know what I want" and you have to coax out of them what they want. I am sure you know what I mean! haha!

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i'm gonna do this too, if i have to draw a different thing off the pages they bring in for every cake...it just takes so much longer...i'm working on some "themes" for celebration cakes...the more often ya do em the faster ya get...i got a bunch of dummies...if i ever get time to do em.

i'm glad you're not going out of business...it would be a waste....i just got a girl that comes in just to clean up after me...worth every penny!

i'm lookin for another one to come in and help me ice cakes and get ready for saturday.

mayamia Posted 6 Aug 2008 , 3:12am
post #29 of 34

go for it, you can do it. thumbs_up.gif

loriemoms Posted 6 Aug 2008 , 11:38am
post #30 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by littlecake

We are going to offer "set" celebration cakes, we think it will help a lot in the time we spend with these people who say "I don't know what I want" and you have to coax out of them what they want. I am sure you know what I mean! haha!

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i'm gonna do this too, if i have to draw a different thing off the pages they bring in for every cake...it just takes so much longer...i'm working on some "themes" for celebration cakes...the more often ya do em the faster ya get...i got a bunch of dummies...if i ever get time to do em.

i'm glad you're not going out of business...it would be a waste....i just got a girl that comes in just to clean up after me...worth every penny!

i'm lookin for another one to come in and help me ice cakes and get ready for saturday.




Yeah, we were talking about that as well, if we had someone baking (I am experimenting with different mixes as even these gals in culinary school can't bake from scratch!) we would probably have them do some cleanup and filling and icing and things like that. (especially while things are baking, they need other things to do!)

this will be probably next year...(you know how every year you grow more and more! )

I like the idea of themes too..!

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