What Would You Do If They Were Your Friends?

Decorating By amberkw Updated 5 Jan 2010 , 6:01pm by costumeczar

amberkw Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 6:33pm
post #1 of 58

I kind of started a fire in a few of my friends & women from church. They love my cakes and have started trying to do cakes. They are always asking me for advice and for recipes, and I get, can I come watch you do a cake? Will you help me make a cake? How do I do this?? What do you suggest???.....ALL the time. I honestly love decorating cakes. Its a passion of mine. It is alson going to be a business - soon.

I live in a town of about 50, 000. Enough to start a good cake business. I have been doing cakes for about a year now. I started for family and do some for friends. I guess i am getting good enough, word is getting around and strangers are starting to call because they have heard about or seen my cakes. DH is working on a cake kitchen for me in his building just outside our house. ITs under construction, but its gonna be awhile before its done.

HOw do I tactfully tell them I don't want to share my secrets w/ them? call me stingy, but w/ everything I share, I lose a future customer - especially cause they are starting to make cakes for other people.. I feel bad because w/ out the help of my CC pals, I wouldn't have learned as much as I have.

What would you say?

57 replies
Margieluvstobake Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 6:46pm
post #2 of 58

Oh, that is really a toughie. You could always just laugh (try to keep it light) and say that you are going to be starting a cake business soon and that you could tell them (or help them) but then you would have to "kill" them. If they have any sense at all they will get the message.

Loucinda Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 6:48pm
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So you used to share but now since you are going to open your business, you don't want to do that anymore? What about offering to give classes? (and charge for them, of course) If you suddenly stop sharing when you used to, I could see that being a problem - you won't get the orders that way either. I am of the mindset that good begats good. (and I know a lot of folks disagree with me on that) but it has worked for me. I still share with folks, and have my own business too. I am sure others will give their opinions too - you will just have to do what you feel is the best for you. Good luck with your new kitchen!

FierceConfections Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 6:49pm
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I would direct them to this site and other places on the web where they can find tutorials. If they ask you why you can't just show them, let them know that because you are in the process of starting a business, you just don't have enough hours in the day to be everyone's private instructor.

Grow a backbone now, and it will serve you well when your business gets off the ground!

Margieluvstobake Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 6:49pm
post #5 of 58

And by the way, congratulations on having your own kitchen built and I hope for much success for you.

KHalstead Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 6:49pm
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show them some basics.........I'll give you a for instance

I use the paint roller method to smooth cakes (gets them glass smooth)...I show them how to smooth with a spatula and then viva towels and tell them if they just practice practice practice it will get as smooth as mine.

The fact of the matter is you CAN get it that smooth with a Viva ( I just don't have that much time so I use the roller).....so I'm not misleading them. However, most times they don't want to take the time that's involved in doing it themselves.

I have a good friend who doesn't do cakes who wanted to "help" me when I made a cake for her to give to her friend. We spent hours and hours, long story short...she hated how long it took and came away from the experience having so much more respect for what I do and she always pays MORE than I charge for her cakes and always says "I know how much work you put into these, take the money!" lol

there are things you can show them that will make them feel like you're sharing without giving away ALL of your secrets.

As for recipes, I give out good recipes (they're just not MINE) lol

BooBooKitty Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 7:01pm
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Do they know you are going to open your own cake bizz? Maybe offer classes at your church until your shop is opened.

Like Khalstead said, I have found out that once everyone see how much time/trouble and material cost they soon move onto something else to entertain themselves with.. icon_smile.gif

Manotas Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 7:05pm
post #8 of 58

I 100% agree with KHalstead, I have done few cakes with friends because they insist (I rather work alone so they don't see how much time I spend fixing and hidig mistakes LOL). When they get to my place the cake is already baked so I don't have to share my recipes but I have one I don't mind sharing with them, then we spent hours decorating the cake, cleaning, etc. etc. At the end they all have said they rather pay for it because it is too much work.

Congratulation on the kitcken!!

indydebi Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 7:12pm
post #9 of 58
Originally Posted by BooBooKitty

Like Khalstead said, I have found out that once everyone see how much time/trouble and material cost they soon move onto something else to entertain themselves with.. icon_smile.gif

Absolutely agree. If that many are asking, I think you have a great income opportunity for classes. I read a Wilton stat (if I can recall correctly) that 3 out of 10 who take classes actually go on to continue to make cakes. The other 7 decide it's either too much work or just a passing whimsey. Sometimes they take the class just so they can make a cake or two for their kid and then they're done.

TexasSugar Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 7:37pm
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I'd say ask the powers in charge to delete this thread and direct them here, as well as to Wilton Classes.

Give them ideas and suggestions for resources where they can find the information, and be a friend to answer little questions when you can. Not everyone that dabbles in cakes will go on to do it as a business and there really is enough cakes to go around. icon_smile.gif

As far as your recipes, unless you came up with the recipes on your own I'd either direct them where you got them or make suggestions where they could find recipes for things like bettercream. You can also just explain that you are working on becoming a legal business and that your recipes are now trade secrets.

Why is it sharing with 'strangers' is easier than sharing with friends? We all come to a place where we give out alot of information about our cakes and recipes, but when Susy next door asks for a recipe we freeze up?

Not everyone that makes cakes wants to become a professional baker. Alot of people take the Wilton classes just to do cakes for their kid's or grandkid's birthdays. Some may sell a cake here or there, but not always on a grand scale. I do alot of cakes for my SIL. One could say that because I am doing them, it takes away from someone else doing them, when chances are if I didn't do them, she wouldn't order as many. Does that make sense?

LaBellaFlor Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 7:45pm
post #11 of 58
Originally Posted by FierceConfections

I would direct them to this site and other places on the web where they can find tutorials. If they ask you why you can't just show them, let them know that because you are in the process of starting a business, you just don't have enough hours in the day to be everyone's private instructor.

Grow a backbone now, and it will serve you well when your business gets off the ground!


cylstrial Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 7:48pm
post #12 of 58

I would do three things mentioned previously in the post (but all together).

I would explain that you're going to be opening a business and that you can't divulge your secret recipes but that there is a great place on the internet that can help them learn. In addition, you are willing to teach cake decorating classes for $x.

MrsNancyB1 Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 8:12pm
post #13 of 58

I agree about many people not even continuing with cake decorating after learning a little bit about it. I have a friend who I invited over because she wanted to learn how to make MMF. We made the MMF together, and then I took a step back so she could make the cake herself, and when the cake was finished she decided she had had enough of cake decorating for a while. icon_razz.gif

I also agree that it's best to keep it light, since it's between friends. People usually get the hint.

Loucinda Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 9:50pm
post #14 of 58

I have had students that have become great decorators, and then some that have decided it isn't worth the trouble. Even the ones who have become great decorators STILL refer others to me if it is something they are not comfortable doing, or if they are booked. I don't regret sharing anything and I have been doing it for over 4 years now.

I still think the classes are a great idea, and you can share without "giving away" your secrets and still make others feel like you have helped them. IMO it is a win/win doing it that way.

amberkw Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 10:51pm
post #15 of 58

Because I haven't been doing it very long - its not like there are too many secrets. Everything I know, comes from asking questions, researching on the computer ( I do have hundreds of hours invested in that.) and trial & error. I think it would be so much fun to have a cake club or something like that. I love these girls. Like I said, they are friends.

This is one example of sharing vs being stingy w/ what I have found. No one here has had a good experience w/ fondant. They love the look but have never tasted any that is worth having on a cake. I have used macsmoms BC fondant & michelle Foster's w/ the white choc version. They LOVE it. So no way am I going to shre the recipe. If others come to me because they know mine tastes good then thats in my favor. I tell them I use MMF and a white choc fondant. So they can research it if they want the recipe bad enough. I do give advice here and there, and am honest in my opinions. I never tell someone to do something that will turn out like crap so I look better. I think that would be so mean.

Maybe I will have a cake party and share some very basic ideas. It might tide them over for awhile, and make me feel better. It could really build some great friendships while we are having fun.

alliebear Posted 9 Dec 2009 , 11:10pm
post #16 of 58

who knows, maybe they will be future employees if you business takes off.

JenniferMI Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 12:22am
post #17 of 58

I agree on the class thing!

Best wishes to you!

Jen icon_smile.gif

Rosa2745 Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 12:55am
post #18 of 58

Well a similar experience happened to me. The wife of my husband's friend kept asking me to show her how to make cakes. And get this--she flat out told me she wanted to learn so she could open up her own business.

Well she shows up (uninvited) on Saturday afternoon since she found out I was going to be working on a cake. I just couldn't work. It was a 3-D helmet cake for a friend. I just wanted her to go away. Every single thing I would do she would come around and ask, look, and suggest icon_mad.gif . I was so fustrated.

I am the type that doesn't want anyone around when I am decorating a cake. This is my time and my space. Well long story short she left till 9pm and the cake looked pretty awful when she left. I took a short break and finished it in about an hour after that. Once she left it was like my talent came back.

So I know it's great to help others but not at our own expense. I like many others have learned from research and plenty of trial and error (self taught). If she's really serious about doing this she'll do it with or without your help.

LaBellaFlor Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 3:12am
post #19 of 58

Why in the world didn't you just tell her to leave? icon_confused.gif WOMEN OF THE WORLD it is wonderful to be helpful and considerate of others...except when it is to our own detriment.

1)loss, damage, disadvantage or injury
2)a cause of loss or damage

amberkw Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 5:01am
post #20 of 58

....And I really value all your ideas & opinions. Thanks!!

Loucinda Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 1:21pm
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Amber - I think you are going to do just fine. Cake Club is a great idea too - we started one here in central Ohio last year - and we all love it. Those who are willing to share do, and those who are wanting to learn have an opportunity. You do not have to share ALL of what you know - a little kindness goes a long way. thumbs_up.gif

Rosa2745 Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 1:49pm
post #22 of 58

Oh, I also have a friend who makes cakes (occasionally) and her mom has a business making cakes. Well a friend of her mom's gave her the "let me come and help you, so I can learn to make cakes for my family". So time and time again she would show up to learn.

Well a few months later she had one of her clients tell her, "Oh there is this lady that makes real good cakes too". It turned out to be HER FRIEND. The one that just wanted to learn to make cakes for her family, uh huh. Yeah, some people are just not very honest. Would she have let her sit in if she'd know her intentions? Don't know but I really doubt it.

It's great to help out and provide helpful hints but some people just take advantage of a good person. My friend and I exchange tips a lot but I don't EXPECT her to give me a wilton lesson. Just my thoughts...

alvarezmom Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 2:15pm
post #23 of 58

Some ppl are just tacky!!! LOL thumbsdown.gif There are a couple of ladies at wk that have asked where I take my classes. I simply tell them I take allot of classes for diffrent things. It usually helps me I say I take a class for fondant, then another for baking, then one for butter cream and another for cookies...you get the jist... icon_lol.gif Once ppl really know how long it takes to learn to decorate and all the tricks and $$$ they will usally come back down to earth.

There are some ladies that will ask for a recipe and some times I give it to them, but not to my cakes. I have told my SIL but she couldnt bake to save her own life.

When they ask about coming to watch you make a cake you can say that you will be holding a class and can send them information on the class and prices. I think it's okay to help but some ppl will ask for a inch and take a whole darn yard from you.

amberkw Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 2:38pm
post #24 of 58

Loucinda - What do y'all do when you hold your cake club gatherings? I thought maybe we would have one very small project we would work on together, and eat - of course! I know we would talk about cakes, just wondering what you do.

Loucinda Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 3:04pm
post #25 of 58

Amber - we meet once a month (2nd Tuesday from 7 - 9) We have an adjenda made up 3 months ahead, so we all know who is teaching and what. The first few minutes are business related (we do the Roberts Rules stuff - you would not have to do that route) then we jump into the fun stuff! This month was our annual cookie exchange which was a blast. Next month we are sharing how to use the Cricut machine, in Feb. there are 3 of us sharing how to do truffles, petit fours, and cake balls, for March we have a member demo'ing how to do pulled sugar. Some of the things are hands on, and some aren't - it is up to the person doing the demo as to how she/he wants to do it. We all share, and have a great time.

rosiecast Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 8:06pm
post #26 of 58

Loucinda, that sounds like a great group.

Loucinda Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 8:22pm
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It really is a great group! icon_smile.gif We have all skill levels, there are several bakery owners, several home based business owners, and I always invite my students - there were actually 5 of them there for the cookie exchange! We've been together for a little over a year now, and it just keeps getting better. We all have learned things and have made life long friends there.

JuneBugBaby Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 9:30pm
post #28 of 58

I am in the position of your friends. I have a lady down the end of my road who has been doing cakes for about a year now. My friend across the street and I made her birthday cake and it piqued my interest in wanting to make cakes on my own. I have asked her if I could come watch her make a cake and she said yes but I could tell she was not really meaning yes. So I have taken it upon myself to sign up for a cake class & find CC so I like the idea of others by either offering some sort of class where you get paid (which I did offer to pay her and she still acted like she didn't want to do that) or just tell them you are busy with that you've got going on (which is what I hear... haha) and you know a great site (CC) or place, if there is one in your town where they can take some classes. That way you aren't being "mean" you are just not giving them anymore "help" than you want! icon_biggrin.gif By the way I hold nothing against the lady down the road. I know that is her business and how she makes money so I TOTALLY understand that she doesn't want to give away all her tricks!

CookieMakinMomma Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 11:01pm
post #29 of 58

I have a similar problem, but with an in-law that recently started a cookie business as well. I found this out right before Thanksgiving and it led to a tense few moments as I tried to explain to other family members (not the particular in-law, who wasn't there, but her mother and a few others) why I won't share my recipes. I create my recipes very specifically to meet my criteria for flavor, texture, appearance, etc., and have invested a lot of work into it. I am more than willing to direct her to good websites, share where I buy my supplies and offer marketing tips (I have a business degree too) and such, but the recipes are my babies. They even tried asking what ingredients I use or what I did here and there, and as politely as I could I answered in the vaguest of terms. They used the argument "Oh, she's too far away to affect your business!" which is true, but it's not the point. Sharing these recipes would be like handing someone a paper you wrote and allowing them to get an A+ without them doing anything to earn it. Considering she is trying to make a living from it, I would hope that she would invest more effort into honing her craft. If you want to excel at something you have to do so on your own merit.

Of course the OPs situation is a little different as these friends live in her town and are somewhat hobbyists. However, if they are baking for others, then hobbyists or not they are competition as they are likely giving away cakes like yours for free that others might otherwise have been willing to buy from you. If I were in her situation I probably would hold to the same rules as I do now. I will offer them the tools but they must learn on their own. Tell them where they can learn the stuff (forward them useful youtube videos, other websites, books and such) and if they turn around and say "for the LIFE of me I can't get this fondant to lay flat!" or something to that effect, perhaps offer to come by some evening (provided you have nothing else you need to do) and give her a hand. Watch her and helpfully point out where she is goofing up instead of letting her do the easy part of watching you. It moves the focus away from you doing to them doing. (Plus you can excuse yourself more easily than it would be to boot a friend out of your house!)

ETA, regardless of where you got your recipes, if they will be part of your business' product they become intellectual property. No restaurant on earth is going to throw you their famous pumpkin pie recipe just because it came from the back of a Libby's can. The quality of our products is what sets us apart from our competitors and we should cling to what makes us unique. Every recipe started somewhere and just because you got it from someone else doesn't automatically require you to disclose it.

Loucinda Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 11:22pm
post #30 of 58

Every recipe started somewhere and just because you got it from someone else doesn't automatically require you to disclose it.

Now that is a good statement. thumbs_up.gificon_smile.gif

I am not for full disclosure, I am just of the camp that good begats good.

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