Why No Help?

Business By CakeInfatuation Updated 3 Mar 2009 , 9:04pm by littlesweetpea

CakeInfatuation Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 3:35pm
post #1 of 35

I don't understand... I ask for guidance to open a shop and I get virtually no replies. I want to do this right.

Then I see someone who's ready to close up shop because they've had it and you guys come out of the woodwork with books, software, and information.

I want that information BEFORE I open shop so I don't go there because of something I could have prevented.

Are you in essence telling me not to do it? I WILL do this out of my home if I open shop. I WANT to do this. Whether you help me or not, I'll likely get my license. BUT if you think I have what it takes and you have information that could help, I REALLY REALLY want it.

I value the opinions of the business owners and decorators on here. Some of you guys are hugely successful, you've been through the wringer and survived, you are very talented AND I WANT TO LEARN FROM YOU!

Please help guide me through the things that I might not know to look into. The little things that can make or break me. The stuff we need to to know in advance so we don't have to back paddle later.

Please...

34 replies
leah_s Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 3:48pm
post #2 of 35

Maybe if you tell us what you've already done to research this for yourself, we can help you where you're stuck.

Do you have copies of your state's health Code and laws regarding home businesses?

Have you consulted your local zoning authority?

Have you already spoken with your insurance agent?

Have you started your Business Plan?

You'll find things over here in the Business Forum quite different than the other Forums. There's a lot fewer rainbows and puppies over here.

Tell us where you're stuck, but don't expect us to do your research for you. If you're not pretty self reliant, you won't enjoy owning a business.

::puts on flame retardant suit::

cas17 Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 3:50pm
post #3 of 35

sorry you haven't had any responses and i really don't have any advice to give you as i'm in the process of becoming legal out of my home. ccer's are awesome and i'm sure someone will be along to help. i usually start by doing a search for a particular subject which usually turns up quite a bit of helpful info. sounds like you have lots of determination and i'm sure you will do great along with the info you can find here : )

Deb_ Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 4:00pm
post #4 of 35

shill it's hard for somebody from another state to give you advice since the laws differ greatly.

I'm in MA, I have a 2nd licensed kitchen in my home. I know our laws are not the same as PA's laws and I don't want to tell you something that may not be accurate to your particular situation.

The Dept of Health is always a good place to start, that's what I did, they directed me to the proper departments that I needed to deal with.

Please be sure you have a business plan in hand, I decorated and baked for over 20 yrs before I "took the plunge". Taking a Wilton class here and there will NOT prepare you for the "business" end of it. I always advise someone thinking about opening a business to take a small business course at their local community college.

Good luck I hope you have much success!

tootie0809 Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 4:20pm
post #5 of 35

I think the reason you haven't gotten much response is because it's hard to answer "How do I get started" questions. There are so many specifics when it comes to starting a business. I'm in the process myself of getting legal and starting a legit business. I've asked a few questions here on CC and have gotten wonderful answers, but if the questions are too vague, it's really hard for someone to know what you are needing help with.

I agree with leahs that you need to do a lot of your own research first, which can be daunting. I too have had my head swim with all the questions and not knowing where to begin, but I started by calling my state HD and then my city business department about how to get a business started. I've talked to my insurance agent about taxes. I'm researching as much as I can on all aspects of the business. Give that a try. If you have particular questions, post those as they are more likely to be answered if they aren't too broad.

It's not that anyone doesn't want to help you. CC members are beyond helpful. Just give them a little more direction on where you need help exactly and I promise you'll have more wonderful advice than you know what to do with. Good luck!! icon_smile.gif

jillmakescakes Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 4:32pm
post #6 of 35

ok0- so i had about 14 points for you, but my computer lost it-- i've gotta go- but i'll try to get them back later.

-K8memphis Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 4:41pm
post #7 of 35

Yes this is like a huge broad question. I mean it's like saying how do you raise a child? Because that is in essence what you will be accomplishing if you get it off the ground. The you got diapers to do too.

You have to be so self reliant it's crazy.

Do you want accounting info? I mean even that one subject is vast. Marketing studies? How to do payroll? How to figure a break even point? How to develop relationships with vendors, the credit application etc.?

Point us in a direction for you.

doughdough Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 5:03pm
post #8 of 35

If you take a look through the business forum, there is already a TON of information in those threads.

It's really not that CC'ers don't care, it's a matter of not wanting to repeat the same information over & over when it's already here. So take a look, and when you have more specific questions that aren't already covered, by all means speak up!

Good Luck with your research!

snarkybaker Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 5:52pm
post #9 of 35

The very first thing you need to do is figure out your recipes and cost out every one of them so you know EXACTLY how much your food cost will be. Don't forget to include food color, boxes, boards, etc. Your business will either if not fail if you don't have your pricing structure down. I spent $550 on cupcake papers this month and $1800 on packaging ...not something you'd think of, is it ?

If you are working alone, you should take that base price X5 as your initial basic buttercream price, and then add an hour rate for decorating. We use $20 per hour.

When you look at those numbers, is that a price point that will sell in your marketplace ? Do some market research ? Because if you are going to open a shop, you need not only to sell cake....but sell A LOT of cake to pay the rent.

drowsyrn Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 6:02pm
post #10 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by bakerbear

If you take a look through the business forum, there is already a TON of information in those threads.

It's really not that CC'ers don't care, it's a matter of not wanting to repeat the same information over & over when it's already here. Good Luck with your research!




Ditto!!!

I haven't been here too long and I have seen approximately 100 topics of how to get started posted since I joined not even a year ago. If you search the topic here, you will get SO much info, it will overwhelm you! I started my business 16 months ago and got most of the info I needed when I searched the "starting up a business" here on CC. Good luck!

CCCTina Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 6:49pm
post #11 of 35

I am also in Southeast PA and just legalized as a home-based business in the fall. If you search through the business forums for PA and check the article on the main page on who to contact to get started, you can find just about everything you need. It has been fairly well explained by others already.

For PA, you need to check with your local township to see if a home-based bakery is allowed and if so, get a letter from them stating you have permission. If they don't grant you permission, then I don't know what you do. Once you obtain local permission, you need to register with the Dept of Agriculture. It is not called a license here, just a registration. There is an application to fill out, then they do a home inspection where you pay $35. Their website will tell you what you need to know for that (the link is on the main page article). That is the 'legal' part and took me about a month. Then you need to choose a name and incorporate to protect yourself (I did an LLC which was $565 I think); get insurance (which I have been told is a few hundred dollars a year, but I haven't done this yet); determine your menu, costs, and pricing structure; obtain supplies; write up a contract; build a website; obtain business cards; etc. I have been doing all of this myself around my full-time job, so it has taken me quite a few months and I am still not ready to advertise beyond word of mouth. I am sure I am leaving out quite a bit, but I figure it out as I go by searching the business forums and other internet sites.

Hope that helps. Good luck on your new venture.

littlecake Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 7:51pm
post #12 of 35

have you found suppliers for your boxes and stuff?

the wrong supplier can cost you a small fortune.

chutzpah Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 8:04pm
post #13 of 35

What Leah said.

It is impossible to help when we don't know the extent of your own research. It's also frustrating when people expect evryone else to do the majority of their research for them.

Running a business sure entails a lot more than Wilton classes. I own a bakery (storefront), and I reckon that the actual cake decorating takes up less than 15% of what I do.

If you have no backbone, nor any BG-panties....... don't do it.

indydebi Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 9:59pm
post #14 of 35

shill, I read your other thread. It was a little vague as to what you were needing. As I read the two together, here's what I see.

- You took Wilton Course 1 last year. I looked at your photos and you do good work, but one Wilton course does not a businessman (woman) make.
- You know you need a variance. You know you need Dept of Ag license. you already know the costs on these.
- You ask if you need liability insurance. This questions causes me pause ... are you ready to open a business if you are not aware that ALL businesses needs LOTS of insurance? The question isn't *IF* you need it ... the question is HOW MUCH do you need?
- You ask if there is another thread out there that covers this stuff? With what leahs has mentioned, this question tells me you haven't done any or much research on your own because the Biz Forum is LOADED with info on this topic.

Quote:
Quote:

Then I see someone who's ready to close up shop because they've had it and you guys come out of the woodwork with books, software, and information.

I want that information BEFORE I open shop so I don't go there because of something I could have prevented.




I was able to offer *A* single concrete suggestion to this person because I'm in the "been there done that" column and know exactly what she's been thru to get there and I know exactly what the process is for what she's feeling now. I can't offer *A* single concrete suggestion to your previous thread because it was very very vague and generic. The questions leahs and k8 and others mention are just the tip of the iceberg. No way could any of us give you a complete (!) list of things you will need. Each business and business owner is different.

COmparing your orig thread with the thread of the person who was ready to shut down is comparing apples to poptarts.

We are more than happy to help with specific questions. I have seen every single one of the people in this thread share their expertise over and over.

But because we do run a business, we can't write a book for you. We'll happily help you with specifics. You need to help us help you.

To get started, I will offer my suggestions:
1) Write a business plan. This will answer 95% of any question you have.
2) Be business smart. That means do you know how to do the books, the HR, the purchasing, the costing, the pricing, the negotiating, the sales, the marketing, etc. You can make the best cakes in the world, but if you have NO idea on how a business operates, you are going under. Period. If you need help in this, contact your local SBA. They offer lots of classes and will help you in any way.
3) Once the biz plan is written (and this can take you anywhere from weeks to months to complete), talk to a banker/financer to see what kind of loans you qualify for and how much you will need to invest to get this biz started.

To answer the question in your other thread, "How long does this process take?" Well, from my first cake to hanging the "open" sign in my shop took just under 30 years for me. icon_biggrin.gif Seriously, AFTER I spent 9 months writing the business plan (which included the help of a CPA, an organization who specializes in writing biz plans at a total cost to me of $2500 ... JUST to write the plan), and AFTER I went to 3 banks before I finally got the money approved, it took me close to 2 years to actually get the shop opened.

Many of my friends thought it was like renting an apartment .. sign the lease and move in the next day. No way. Do not think this is an overnight process. Depending on the direction you are going, this takes a LOT of time.

FromScratch Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 10:00pm
post #15 of 35

Wow... while were at it do you want us to come and do your books for you too? I think it rather brash of you to pretty much demand help and say that were are not giving you what you want when you haven't really asked specific questions. Coming into a group of professionals who have worked hard and done their homework and put in the time in the trenches to get the info needed and demanding help is not the way to get the help you want.

In your previous post people did come and give you a general jist. I saw people aking questions trying to figure out what exactly you wanted for info. You didn't really state where you were hung up. If you do a search for opening a new business... or state regulations... or check the sticky at the top of this forum that says "New States that license home kitchens" and see if your state is listed and if there is a link to the state offices... you can't just come in and say I want to do this and you need to tell me what I have to do. You have to get out and seek out what you need. Ask some specific and constructive questions... let us know what is giving you troubles.

We all like to help people who are just starting out... but we're too busy to hold your hand the whole way through. Do some leg work and come back with your questions... then we can really help you rather than giving you generalities. icon_biggrin.gif

michellenj Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 10:09pm
post #16 of 35

I would start out by making a very thorough business plan, and a competitive analysis. That will make sure that you think about the nuts and bolts of the industry, and will be a huge help to you in seeing where your weaknesses lie. Once you have done those, maybe you could ask more specific questions and will get more helpful answers.

rockysmommy Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 10:17pm
post #17 of 35

I do cakes for a hobby right now...as being a previous business owner of a marina on a large lake...boat sales, repair, etc for a number of years...I am not looking to getting right back into any business venture anytime soon.

I was fortunate enough to own my land, and building which helped a lot on my over head. Our inventory at most any given time was into the millions of dollars. When one boat cost in the neighborhood of 100 grand, you can imagine how that would add up quickly.

The insurance, the employees, the taxes, the accountants, the company lawyers...on and on.

It takes a lot of leg work and as everyone has said...things that you will need to research out for yourself. Everyone has been very kind to share with you. Good luck to you...you still have a lot of homework to do...:^)

I am thinking about joining in with a friend of mine who caters...still checking into that.

CakeInfatuation Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 10:33pm
post #18 of 35

I didn't demand anything and I never asked anyone to do all the work for me. Despite research, there are things that one just might not think about that isn't out there.

Stuff that only experience has taught you. "Please help guide me through the things that I might not know to look into. The little things that can make or break me. The stuff we need to to know in advance so we don't have to back paddle later."

I'm not asking you to do my research. The things I would "know" to look into are the things I can find out on my own. I want to know the stuff that you wouldn't necessarily think about. Stuff that is unique to the cake decorating world. Stuff that those of you who have been through the trenches learned despite the research and effort you put it. It's that "if I'd only known" kind of stuff.

I am not opening a business out of a shop. This will be out of my home. I'm not going to open up and have a lot of business in a week. I will build over time. I don't already have a slew of customers. I've learned that it is a "no no" and I want to do it right. So I'll get my license and build slowly.

BUT there's still stuff that only you experience decorators know. I'm sorry if I came across as demanding. But tone of voice can't be put in a thread. I was actually "pleading".

I've learned in my life that it's better to learn from others mistakes than to make them yourself. I don't know anyone that can share their wisdom in the cake business world.

I'm a hard worker, a go getter, a perfectionist, and a people person. I'm not demanding, expecting anyone to do the work for me, or happy that anyone would interpret my post in such a way to respond in a negative manner.

I apologize.

FromScratch Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 1:57am
post #19 of 35

See... now there is something to go on. icon_smile.gif

Is there anything specific that scares you? Once you get past the licensing and insurance and all that BS it's not all that hard. You need to sit down and make a business plan. Figure out what you want out of your business. How much will you have to sell to make it worth it for you. This will help you figure out your base price per serving. Obviously... the higher your fee the less work you will have to do to hit your mark. Look into insurance rates for both your business and your car. Since you will be using it as your work vehicle while delivering your cakes you will most likely need to have commercial insurance. Liability insurance is affordable. My policy was just under $300 for the year for a 1 million dollar policy. The only thing I can't do is serve coffee to clients since then I would be a "cafe" and it would be a different rate.

You need to be outspoken... not be afraid to say "hey... my cakes rock and you *need* to have them". That was hard for me (still is really). Get yourself out there... no matter how good your cakes are, no one will even think about them unless you make them. Marketing is key. You don't have to spend hundreds on advertising either... just pound the pavement and never stop selling. Pass out cards to everyone... don't be shy. It does get easier, but that is what I find to be hardest. I am terribly self-conscious and not super confident... so if I can get out there anyone can. I saved up and did a bridal show on Feb 22nd and it was great. Well worth the money and it has already paid for itself with orders.

Do you have your recipes worked out? Do you know how much they cost you to make? THat is important too. Once you know what it costs you you can better set a price, and with your biz plan you can figure out how much you need to sell to make a profit at the end of the year.

This should help a little... keep asking questions though. If we can help we will. icon_biggrin.gif

indydebi Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 2:09am
post #20 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkalman

You need to be outspoken... not be afraid to say "hey... my cakes rock and you *need* to have them".




Absolutely!! I met with 3 brides today. As part of my closing speech, I tell them, "Once you've done your comparison shopping, you give me a call and tell me 'Oh debi we're going with you because you have THE most AWESOME cake we've tasted' .... oh yes, that's what they tell me! .... then I'll need your deposit soon after that." It's light, everyone laughs, but I make a subtle point. (Ok, so being subtle isn't my strong point but you get what I mean!) icon_biggrin.gif

Quote:
Originally Posted by jkalman

Pass out cards to everyone... don't be shy.



Heck I even give them to the girls wearing engagement rings who are working the drive-thru's! I'm working on a manager at Wendy's right now! icon_lol.gificon_lol.gif

jlsheik Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 2:31am
post #21 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkalman

Pass out cards to everyone... don't be shy.



Heck I even give them to the girls wearing engagement rings who are working the drive-thru's! I'm working on a manager at Wendy's right now! icon_lol.gificon_lol.gif[/quote]

I am watching this one for replies....I am just starting my business too. Good to know I am not the only one that passes out cards in wierd places...I overheard mom and daughter in the scrapbook isle at Hobby Lobby talking about invitations....slipped her my card.

I am my number 1 fan it has taken me very far. I learned that very quickly...I am not afraid to tell people my cake is great!

You ladies that take time to post and be helpful are so great. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

tjrobin31 Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 2:35am
post #22 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrTina

I am also in Southeast PA and just legalized as a home-based business in the fall. If you search through the business forums for PA and check the article on the main page on who to contact to get started, you can find just about everything you need. It has been fairly well explained by others already.

For PA, you need to check with your local township to see if a home-based bakery is allowed and if so, get a letter from them stating you have permission. If they don't grant you permission, then I don't know what you do. Once you obtain local permission, you need to register with the Dept of Agriculture. It is not called a license here, just a registration. There is an application to fill out, then they do a home inspection where you pay $35. Their website will tell you what you need to know for that (the link is on the main page article). That is the 'legal' part and took me about a month. Then you need to choose a name and incorporate to protect yourself (I did an LLC which was $565 I think); get insurance (which I have been told is a few hundred dollars a year, but I haven't done this yet); determine your menu, costs, and pricing structure; obtain supplies; write up a contract; build a website; obtain business cards; etc. I have been doing all of this myself around my full-time job, so it has taken me quite a few months and I am still not ready to advertise beyond word of mouth. I am sure I am leaving out quite a bit, but I figure it out as I go by searching the business forums and other internet sites.

Hope that helps. Good luck on your new venture.




i to am from pa, i was just wondering in order for you to be licensed does your kitchen (you use for your cakes) need to be completely seperated from your home kitchen, i've gone to the website for the dept of ag, but for some reason i can't open the document on my computer, just curious, thanx soo much

Kitagrl Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 2:49am
post #23 of 35

The Dept of Ag stuff is a .pdf file so just make sure your computer has Adobe Acrobat reader installed.

Hey OP I did email you. icon_smile.gif I hope I was not included in that "why won't anybody help me." icon_smile.gif

I do notice that there are alot of things that work for one and don't work for others. There are several ways that this business is unique for everyone. For instance I know a girl in my area who has tremendous success with advertising on "The Knot". I, however, have not had a huge success and do not have the money to continue paying for it. I am going to experiment with other methods of getting my name out as money and time allows this year.

I find a professional looking website and good word of mouth have been my two best friends over the past several years. Just this week I got a corporate order from a lady who attended a corporate party I did a cake for like 2 years ago....and although she is working for a different company now, she remembered who to call when they needed a cake for a big occasion. Word of mouth.

Anyway my point is that there are alot of basics you can research on and you can plan ahead on but some things you will just have to work from scratch and do yourself. Everyone does wedding tastings different....everyone has their own style. Everyone has their own ways of advertising that work for them. Everyone has their own target customer base. Everyone has their own preferences as far as deposits and payment schedules...pickups or deliveries, etc. Nobody on here can tell anyone else exactly how to run their own business, but only give general pointers and ideas.

And yes in PA the home kitchen is perfectly allowable, no seperate space necessary. Although the Dept of Ag guy did tell me that if I ever remodeled, a seperate handwashing sink would be great. Its nothing to keep me from having a license, but it would be his first choice for me to add if possible.

CCCTina Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 3:29am
post #24 of 35

[/quote]i to am from pa, i was just wondering in order for you to be licensed does your kitchen (you use for your cakes) need to be completely seperated from your home kitchen, i've gone to the website for the dept of ag, but for some reason i can't open the document on my computer, just curious, thanx soo much[/quote]

The only specifications are no pets (can't remember if it was in the kitchen or entire house since I don't have any), all supplies and ingredients separated from personal supplies, and cleanliness. No separate anything needed. The inspector didn't even look at my cabinets or pantry. He just asked if my cleaning supplies were locked up and all baking gear separate. He did say that some people have been rejected for having kitchens that weren't clean. It was incredibly simple to get registered by the state. I actually had a harder time getting approval from my local township. They refused to provide the letter of approval needed for state application.
To open the form, download Acrobat Reader. It is free.

tjrobin31 Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 3:53am
post #25 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrTina


i to am from pa, i was just wondering in order for you to be licensed does your kitchen (you use for your cakes) need to be completely seperated from your home kitchen, i've gone to the website for the dept of ag, but for some reason i can't open the document on my computer, just curious, thanx soo much[/quote]

The only specifications are no pets (can't remember if it was in the kitchen or entire house since I don't have any), all supplies and ingredients separated from personal supplies, and cleanliness. No separate anything needed. The inspector didn't even look at my cabinets or pantry. He just asked if my cleaning supplies were locked up and all baking gear separate. He did say that some people have been rejected for having kitchens that weren't clean. It was incredibly simple to get registered by the state. I actually had a harder time getting approval from my local township. They refused to provide the letter of approval needed for state application.
To open the form, download Acrobat Reader. It is free.[/quote]
thanx soo much for the info thumbs_up.gif

kellertur Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 5:03am
post #26 of 35

Good luck to you. icon_smile.gif I have a rather new (legal) cake busn, out of my home. I can tell you that there is A LOT more paperwork than my worst nightmare could have conjured up. icon_rolleyes.gif I did loads of research ahead of time and build forms, etc (and insurance company ready to work with me) but still there is always more... icon_cry.gif Don't even get me started on wholesale invoices and ingredient lists...

I also always keep cards with me. I was just standing in line at Walmart and the lady in front of me started looking through a bridal mag. I went up and handed her a card. It's uncomfortable at first, but it's the way of the business... No one is going to "punch you in the face", like I was afraid of. But that's me, and I'm weird. icon_rolleyes.gif

kjt Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 3:34pm
post #27 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by shill


Stuff that only experience has taught you. "Please help guide me through the things that I might not know to look into. The little things that can make or break me. The stuff we need to to know in advance so we don't have to back paddle later."

I'm not asking you to do my research. The things I would "know" to look into are the things I can find out on my own. I want to know the stuff that you wouldn't necessarily think about. Stuff that is unique to the cake decorating world. Stuff that those of you who have been through the trenches learned despite the research and effort you put it. It's that "if I'd only known" kind of stuff.




I think one of the problems here is that WE don't KNOW what you do or don't know already...make sense icon_wink.gif ? . Everybody here would like to see you succeed, and most probably do all they can to help. That being said I'm a little concerned that you really can't see the trees for the forrest, if you know what I mean. I guess what makes me think that is when you said "the little things that can make or break me". All those little things have a way of adding up, and there is no way to list them. I agree with all the PP's who suggested that you begin with a business plan-completing that will be HUGELY eye-opening, and provide you with invaluable information. My business plan, like Debi's cost several thousand dollars, and took the better part of a year. It really does make you LOOK at ALL the aspects of a business. It also leads you into thinking/realizing not only that you need something-say insurance, or permits, equipment-whatever- but also how you go about the next step; oftentimes the next step is a series of steps.

Best wishes in moving forward.

chutzpah Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 7:46pm
post #28 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by kjt


can't see the trees for the forrest, if you know what I mean.




Actually, the idiomatic expression is 'can't see the forest for the trees'.

kellertur Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 8:05pm
post #29 of 35

this is off topic, but: Chutzpah, is that a Jim Jones reference? icon_confused.gif I watched a documentary that exposed what really happened and they were actually forced to drink the kool-aid. The footage was rather grotesque... and quite sad. icon_sad.gif

kelleym Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 8:44pm
post #30 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by K2cakes

this is off topic, but: Chutzpah, is that a Jim Jones reference? icon_confused.gif I watched a documentary that exposed what really happened and they were actually forced to drink the kool-aid. The footage was rather grotesque... and quite sad. icon_sad.gif




It has a common colloquial usage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kool-Aid

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