I am new to CC. I have enjoyed reading and browsing very much. I'm not really sure if I have a question direct enough to post here, but am just looking for some guidance. My daughter is absolutely in love with cake decorating. As a middle aged person I am now seeing the value of doing something that you love (something I didn't get a chance to do). She is concerned about the marketability of this venture, but is being very smart. She is in college and considering a major in Entrepeneurship - it is a very general business degree to prepare you to own and run your own business. In the meantime she (and I actually) will continue to make cakes for friends and relatives and hone our skills. She hopes to live in a metro area near here, so I think the market should be good. We are just starting to investigate. I would love to see her follow her dream, but she is concerned about making a living doing this. No real question here I guess, just looking for advise. Thanks!
First welcome to CC. 2nd, yes, she can make a living at this. Many people do. Now, is she guranteed to become a milloinaire, no. Will she become the next Sylvia Weinstock, possible, but could be a long shot. But as far as living comfortably & being able to provide for a family, of course. Like ANY career it all depends on how much she is willing to put into it.
Making a living is great - loving what you do is priceless, right? That is my biggest wish for her. To be able to get by while having a ball doing it. We live in a real small area right now where the bakeries (two of them LOL) do real simple, old fashioned cakes, but it might still be worth her time to volunteer. Do you think that the entrepeneurship major is worth 4 years of her life? I am wondering if she should just do business classes at a community college and then take pastry at a culinary school. If nothing else the business degree will be a great back-up for her. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
The youngest in our house just graduated from college last year, and I am going to throw a little cold water here. Not out of meanness, but hopefully to give you an idea of what it is REALLY like to run the kind of decorating/bakery business you need to run to pay all of your bills. First, I would suggest that if she is truly passionate about cake decorating, rather than a culinary degree, she should look into the Cake decorating certificate at the French Pastry School in Chicago. It is $16,000 and because it is a private, for-profit school, the financial aid options are not particularly attractive.
Secondly, I think you need to really look at the economic realities of your location. I realize that for you, you would love to have her close to home, but Michigan has had amongst the worst economic outllooks in the country for over 15 years, and it is not looking to improve any time soon. I imagine there is a very limited market for multi-hundred dollar birthday cakes. Michelle Bommarito, a quite famous decorator, even has to teach classes in pasta making and other things to make a living. To make a living decorating cakes, she is probably going to have to move or marry someone who can be the principal breadwinner.
Lastly, is this what she loves, or what she loves right now. Think about that before investing a significant amount of money in pastry school. Last year , I took on an intern that was the daughter of a friend for 3 months who was in a similar situation. They were willing to send her to culinary school, but wanted her to experience working in a busy bakery for a few months. After one Christmas season, she decided to finish her business degree and not go to culinary school.
Its alway exciting to see your kids enthusiastic about something, cause God knows it seems rare in this generation, but in todays economy, I'd hate to see anyone throw money away, because she doesn't want to do the work that it takes to earn a living in this business.
As far as the degree, a degree never hurts anyone. As far as culinary school goes, and this is just my opionion. You won't get your money back. I think the pastry programs at culinary schools are fabulous! Fabulous. But, they are very expensive and you can get the same hands on training. She is going to have pay for a very expensive program and not come out with the pay to make up for it, like people who go and get a regular degree do. I suggest you google culinary school tution. There are a lot of articles on the negatives of the expense of culinary and pastry programs. I was surprised. Once again, I am for them. I think being properly, classically trained is great. I wish I could be. I can't justify it. You just have to see if it's a smart move for you.
Plus this is also the can easily be done as part time, so she can start slow and see how it goes....then if it grows enough she can do it as her only job. Plus, i think if she already has the passion and a supportive mom like you she'll do great!
And I do like to say to all people who want to have a bakery one day, 4AM. I say 4Am, cause if your a full bakery thats offers everything, not just cakes, they are hard, early morning hours. At least they were at the bakery I worked at.
I am just a hobby baker and do not have a business, but I think she's taking the right path by learning how to run a business in college before trying it. I think so many businesses fail because people try to sell something without knowing how to run a business! Good luck in whatever the two of you decide to do!
Thanks to everyone for your replies. These are just the questions we are asking ourselves - and they are all valid. We need to ask ourselves tough questions as well as the easy ones. I think the business degree will help immensely in that it is a good back up as well as a help if she ends up with a business of her own. I have wondered if the culinary degrees are worth the $$, especially if she is getting a business degree as well. Hopefully she can get a good internship and learn from some great people. We are looking for someone in Michigan who will let her work during Christmas break and someone local to let her intern/volunteer during school. CC is such a great help in this process. Thanks to all. Please let me know if you have any further suggestions. Cheers!
I have a culinary degree but all my cake decorating learning was self taught! I remember in my last pastry class we had to decorate a shocase cake and my teacher insisted in buttercream because she didn;t even knew how to use fondant! (this was 10 years ago). I think if she has a strong baking base and takes a sanitation course to be familiar with proper food handling, then she can just do cake decorating courses and be fine.
ANother note on the college, I am a HUGE supporter of getting a college education. A business admin degree would be great. Two of my siblings have them and they have taught my sister (she and her husband run a business) and me SO much. This is is also the PERFECT time to take some marketing/communication courses. I have my degree in Communication and Spanish. When I was in high school I remember wanting to go to culinary school. I'm glad I didn't. My degree in Communication, and past job experience in which I used it, have helped me SOOO much in this new venture I am taking. It's also going to come in handy when I take the next step in my business.
I agree, a college education is very worth it. I have my BA and now am looking at the Pastry program at my local community college, which, in my area is nationally recognized/certified and vastly respected. AND it's on the super cheap! So the cost benefit is totally in my favor. I think the steps you are taking with your daughter are perfect. That degree is transferrable for many industries/companies and if the cake decorating doesn't work out, she has something to fall back on.
Ok, I'm going to argue in favor of the Pastry degree. I went to culinary school--expensive, yes, but you do get a lot of instruction in a short amount of time. That being said, I would be careful about where you go--don't necessarily just go to the local school. Do your research--I've heard good things about the French Pastry School, and also the Le Cordon Bleu (that is one of the actual le cordon bleu schools, and not the affiliated with ones we have in the us) up in Canada.
I think the business school is more important if she wants to run a business--many cake decorators just don't have the business sense to make it.
Yes you can do it by working your way up, but the pastry school sort of jump starts that--if you go to a good one.
The best thing you learn from internships, and early work experience in a production bakery is speed. If you can't learn to do it faster without giving up on quality you're probably not going to make a decent living on it in the long run. I started out working as a supermarket decorator and then in 2 production bakeries, and thats what I learned--speed, which I can now translate to the much higher quality work I do know.
1 - She (and you) should read Anthony Bourdain's book Kitchen Confidential
This is what working in a restaurant is REALLY like.
2 - She should intern throughout college in bakeries (not just in-home decorators, but store-front shops, too) and in restaurants.
3 - Get the college degree.
4 - Get fluent in Spanish.
Tell her to jump in, get immersed in the cc "family" and learn as she goes. This board is a HUGE resource. Hands on is key. Get practicing. You don't need a teacher to have that experience.
I do wedding cakes for a living (some random b/day, shower cakes ect. here and there) but, mostly wedding.
I have found that the biggest thing that has helped me is to never stop practicing (I'm self taught). And the next biggest thing is to be as kind as you possibly can to the couples that inquire about your services. They want (just like all of us) to be treated great...and spoiled a bit. I go out of my way to make sure all of my customers enjoyed their experience with me along with their cake. That is why they then tell other people. You have a connection with somebody, they are going to pass that along to somebody else that might be needing a great cake.
As far as the "business" end goes...I've learned that as I went along. I sold alot of cakes much cheaper than I should have. I had little confidence when I started out (still waivers at times until I get the thank you's from my brides). Now, I have learned to fake confidence when I need too! That was a big challenge for me.
I've always been very proud of the fact that I am 100% self taught. But, I also am older and have bigger priorties (my kids and hubby) now than going to culinary school. If I were 18 again and graduating from school...I would possibly explore that option. Maybe taking just enough classes to start out with that confidence that I have had to work through.
One more thing about Michigan... Yeah, jobs look bleak...we have a business (not cake) that I would love to sell because it is no longer profitable with so many people being out of work. But, my cakes have not suffered at all. Sure, I have couples that downsize their weddings, push off their wedding day because of job loss and eliminate more expensive details in their cakes...but, they still get married and still want a cake. I have not noticed losing business because of the economy. The biggest issue your daughter may have in Michigan is the need for a commercial kitchen. If she works for somebody else, she has less control and may not get every penny she earns on a cake. If she goes out on her own, commercial kitchens aren't cheap and neither is the insurance. But, many of us do it...and continue doing it (not only because we love it) because we earn a living doing it.
I think it's a great job.
Just my two cents worth. As far as culinary school is concerned, have you checked out the local community college for culinary degrees? You can get an excellent education at half the cost and the same experience as the big name schools. You learn how to do the same things at the half the cost. We had two chefs at my local community college, one went to the CIA and the other to another local community college. They both taught us the same thing maybe different methods but the same thing.
Just something else to think about. I would definitely encourage the Business Administration degree, that will come in handy no matter what other decisions she makes in life.
It's great that she has you in her court and supporting her all the way!
CC is great! You all are wonderful. We appreciate your time and expertice so much. I will keep you updated as we continue in this process. Any and all comments and suggestions are welcome! Thanks again. If I were younger and in a different situation I would jump in and do this with her.