Professional Full-Time Home Bakers

Business By PinkLisa Updated 10 Jul 2009 , 4:51pm by PinkLisa

PinkLisa Posted 8 Jul 2009 , 11:05pm
post #1 of 19

I'd like to hear the experience of professional full-time home bakers. What types of cakes do you do mostly -- wedding, 3D, sheet cakes? How many hours do you work weekly? Do you find it profitable given the amount of time and effort you spend? Do you advertise? Thanks!

18 replies
leah_s Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 3:20am
post #2 of 19

I do wedding cakes almost exclusively. I work anywhere from 30 - 80 hours a week. Profitable. yes. I run an ad in the specialized, glossy bridal magazine in my city and participate in maybe 4 wedding shows a year.

Motta Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 4:37am
post #3 of 19

Leahs - do you bake out of your home? What months are not busy or is there a pattern at all? Thanks

leah_s Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 4:49am
post #4 of 19

I do have a licensed kitchen in my home. Weddings start in February, really crank up April through July, decrease in August, crank back up in September through October. There are always a few weddings in November and December, but that's also planning season, and then the wedding shows are in Jan and February. There's really not much down time.

costumeczar Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 4:12pm
post #5 of 19

I have a licensed home kitchen, too, and I find the same kind of patterns in business as Leah does. The least busy time is generally January and February, but that's the post-holiday proposal season, so there are always a lot of wedding shows to deal with then.

I work anywhere between 30 and 75 hours a week, depending on what time of year it is. I advertise in the two wedding guides in my city, both of which are given out at wedding shows. I also do some random print advertising here and there, but the guides are the best because they are handed directly to the brides.

It's profitable enough, but you have to make sure that you don't undervalue your time or you'll end up working for $3 an hour.

notjustcakes Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 4:30pm
post #6 of 19

I am struggling with whether to pursue this as a business. Over the past 7 years I've really accumulated alot of decorating equipment, but cottage kitchens are illegal in my state. So....I am trying to decide whether to lease some space and get licensed..If I do this, I don't want to "putter" along. I would like to make serious money...Leahs, tell us your story about how you got started, what the biggest hurdles were, did you have a business plan, etc

daniassis Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 4:44pm
post #7 of 19

I feel the same way as notjustcakes!
Cottage kitchens are also illegal in my state, so in order for me to start a business I would have to lease a space...
I feel afraid of taking such a huge step. For now I only bake for family and friends, so I've never done a huge volume of cakes. It's all so unclear and scary... icon_cry.gif

daniassis Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 4:47pm
post #8 of 19

I feel the same way as notjustcakes!
Cottage kitchens are also illegal in my state, so in order for me to start a business I would have to lease a space...
I feel afraid of taking such a huge step. For now I only bake for family and friends, so I've never done a huge volume of cakes. It's all so unclear and scary... icon_cry.gif

Motta Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 4:48pm
post #9 of 19

Leahs - I just checked out your site and it's wonderful! You're very accomplished. Beautiful work and very inspiring to me.

I'm becoming more convinced that I want to do this but not FT. I'm going to look into becoming a licensed home baker and see how things go from there. Now just where to get the money.....???

Notjustcakes - I've also accumulated lots of stuff (even an airbrush! I haven't used it yet) and I'm itching to use it to it's full extent but my hands are tied because I have to set up a home commercial kitchen, get permits, pay a contractor, etc. I still think it will be worth it. I'm picturing the praise and the happy faces of my future clients. I want to be part of people's happy memories.

leah_s Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 5:02pm
post #10 of 19

My story is fairly simple.

Retired very early. Went to culinary school, because, well, I'd always said that "someday" I would and I'd run out of excuses, so it was put up or shut up time.

Graduated from culinary school and thought, "Damn, now I have to do something with this education."

So, three weeks out of culinary school, I signed up to have a booth at a local bridal show, made some dummy cakes, printed biz cards on my computer and set up. Talked a fast story. To any question of "can you do . . .?" I said "Sure!"

Came home and thought seriously about having a nervous breakdown. What had I done? Well, now I've got orders, so I have to make a real biz out of this.

So, while it sounds sort of random, here's the backstory.
I grew up in a family biz, so I understood what kinds of sacrifices running your own biz means. I'd had my own consulting biz for nearly ten years, and I have an MBA, and owned the B&B for several years, so I already had my corp set up, tax numbers, and a "mini" health department license. No kids at home any more.

I had to expand the health department license to a full catering license. I already knew, from the other businesses how to build a website, and I'm always marketing.

I didn't have to go into debt, as I was able to finance the small kitchen renovation required for the catering license from my own funds.

Lucky? Maybe. Determined? You bet. Sleep? Not much. Love what I do? Totally. Even at 3 a.m.

notjustcakes Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 5:21pm
post #11 of 19

I didn't go to culinary school, but I have always loved cooking...I am accustomed to huge orders as I am responsible for serving breakfast or pastries at church (1200 members) once a quarter. Plus I do most of the food for banquets and celebrations at our church out of their commercial kitchen...I am trying to convince the powers that be at church to expand the license for the kitchen to a full fledged commercial license so I can rent the space from them...Currently their license only allows for use for church sponsored activities, not catering or baking for retail consumtion. They are convinced that they will have to hire a full time staff person to keep the kitchen to health regulation code...I'm not so sure..It is a very new modern kitchen with all the bells and whistles...

leah_s Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 5:36pm
post #12 of 19

Umm . . .notjustcakes . . . "knock, knock"

What's that?

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKING

Girl YOU are that full time person in charge of the church kitchen.

Problem solved.

notjustcakes Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 5:49pm
post #13 of 19

Allright, Allright...I gotcha Leahs...(hee hee!) I have a 7 yr old and 4 yr old...I would do it if I could do it on my own schedule...I am close to all the pastors at church and have put it out there that they could generate income for the church. I have it from a good source that it is being discussed....Maybe divine intervention? Serendipity? Hmm...could it be the free BD cakes they all get on their birthdays? Nah...not that...

ruthi Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 6:01pm
post #14 of 19

Leahs - you obviously have tons of experience in this - I would like to have a legal home business as well, but have no idea of the steps to take and the legalities required.....in order to have a home business, from the equipment side of things - does my kitchen have to be a commercial kitchen in order to do business out of my house? And if so, what exactly constitutes a commercial kitchen? Because I have a kitchen and workspace readily available in my basement (was going to be a rental, but we decided not to, if I can use it for a home business instead) and this would be my area, but it is a regular kitchen with regular stove and sink and formica countertop....what would it take to bring it up to par for a business. Plus, what are the requirements? 1. a license - what kind of license is required to have a home baking business? - I am not a caterer, I just decorate cookies and cakes; 2. how is the department of health involved? Is the license from them, or from the tax department or I don't know!....Would you mind giving over the general logical steps that need to be taken - I realize that each state has its different requirements, but surely there is a general guideline that all home bakers need to take????

leah_s Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 6:34pm
post #15 of 19

In my state a commercial kitchen is no different than a home kitchen. Notice I said in my state. In fact I asked specifically what constituted a kitchen. It one of those things everyone thinks they know, but maybe not. Always ask for definitions and assume nothing.

The answer from the health department is "A kitchen is a place where you can wash hands, (and food), cook food and cool food." So then I asked, "Then a bar sink, dorm refrigerator and a microwave, like in a wet bar area would qualify as a kitchen?" Answer, "yes."

To be a biz in my state you would need a catering license. Catering means (again, ask) "any food made in one place, but eaten in another place."

You'll need a tax ID which you get from your state, an EIN which you can get online from the IRS. You should get liability insurance (call your homeowner's agent). You might also have to register your biz with a local government.

But first, check applicable zoning laws to see if you can even have a biz in your home. Also HOAs if applicable.

And if you're really smart, you'll write a business plan. There are lots of resources on the interweb.

PinkLisa Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 6:51pm
post #16 of 19

Thank you leahs and costumeczar for your responsesicon_smile.gif leahs your story is very funny and inspiring. I like your gumption.

My sister has a sucessful home wedding cake design business so she's a great resource but wanted to see if her experience was similar to others. My state does not yet permit home bakeries but I'm hoping that will change soon. I'm a planner so like to be prepared.....

Evoir Posted 9 Jul 2009 , 11:20pm
post #17 of 19

Great thread...thank you Leahs for your input in particular - I am a big fan of your work and business nouse (a secret admirer if you will!) and value all your comments on the site.

icon_smile.gif

IsaSW Posted 10 Jul 2009 , 4:40pm
post #18 of 19

notjustcakes,

I just started too, my daughter is 3, it gets crazy, but somehow its working, I have a full time job as a graphic designer, I get up early and bake, my husband takes our daughter to day care, I pick her up at 5pm. at 8:00 pm she is in bed, and then I start decorating the cakes.

After 7 years of accumulating baking stuff, decided it was time to make it real, went to a bridal show, and decided I could do it. Signed up and had 6 months to get real, made a business card and a brochure, made 7 dummie cakes, and this february had the show. It was awesome, kept my prices a little higher, because I don't want too many orders, I can only handle 2 wedding cakes per week. So far 5 cakes ordered.

This morning I had a tasting they order a $772 dollars cake, handed me a $400 dollars cake, and it felt awesome!.

Make a list of all the things you need to do in order to make it happen. It takes time, but if you start tackling them one by one, you will accomplish more.
Oh! one more thing, once I you are open for bussiness you have to stop making free cakes, it will just get you exhausted and no profit.

I am getting my kitchen inspected on July 31st. I didn't wait for them to approve my kitchen, there is a lot to be done, before the kitchen is approved. Good luck!

PinkLisa Posted 10 Jul 2009 , 4:51pm
post #19 of 19

IsaSW -- Congratulations on your success so far!! I wish you the best of luck. Doing all that with a three year old is tough. I have three children -- ages 6, 5, 4. My middle one's just entering Kindergarten this year.

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