Katiebelle74 Posted 25 Jan 2010 , 10:16pm
post #1 of

How many of you get this question from complete strangers? I finally bothered to answer it in a blog today and figured I'd share a copy with my CC friends.

So you wanna start a cake business.........
Ok, bear with me this is going to start off as a rant. My five minutes on the soap box, but I will give some sound advice in the end. And I really don't mean to sound unhelpful, I don't mind giving out some tips, but.....

I've been avoiding this, but it keeps coming up. People I have NEVER met call and email me and they say something like "I love making cakes and I want to start a business, can I come over and you show me how to _____ (a-z of the business)?" for free. HAHAHAHAHA, right.

I paid (am still paying on the loans!) for my Baking and Pastry degree, then a few thousand more to study with Colette Peters and Nicholas Lodge. Not to mention enduring some hell on wheels Chefs that I worked for in resorts and country clubs, but you come on by and I'll teach you everything I know for FREE, you just happen to be the lucky caller who has won the prize.

And the recipes which are considered trade secrets? - sure I'll throw those in too. Right after I win the powerball myself.

While I am truly flattered that some people look up to me enough to want to learn from me (which is a great compliment, especially when there are zillions of talented cake decorators out there), I am also still surprised by the amount of people who think this is a realistic request to come over here and learn tons of info. for nothing in exchange.

That's not to say I would not like to teach some cake decorating classes in the future. I was a teacher's assistant at my college and love teaching. But this is my career, it is a business not a hobby and I would charge for the classes as I have in the past when I taught.

When we each decide to embark in the direction of a cake business we all seek guidance. So the problem lies in the question being asked, not in the need for some advice. I too seek advice on specific issues as my business grows and needed some pointers when I started out.

Luckily, there are two really fantastic online resources. Before I started doing anything I read the business of cake articles by Earlene Moore (Who is AMAZING, I still aspire to do some of the decorating feats she does..... someday maybe when I can afford to fly to Texas and take her class!) her business of cake articles are a WEALTH of information, in my opinion you should read every drop of information she gives before you do anything.... here is her website:

http://www.earlenescakes.com/Index2.html

these are the articles:
part 1:
http://www.earlenescakes.com/business01.htm
part 2:
http://www.earlenescakes.com/business02.htm
part 3:
http://www.earlenescakes.com/business03.htm
part 4:
http://www.earlenescakes.com/business04.htm
part 5:
http://www.earlenescakes.com/business05.htm
she skipped #6 who knows why.
part 7:
http://www.earlenescakes.com/business07.htm
part 8:
http://www.earlenescakes.com/business08.htm
part 9"
http://www.earlenescakes.com/business09.htm
part 10:
http://www.earlenescakes.com/business10.htm

I gave each link for a reason. I can not emphasize enough how informative these articles are.
this is a quote from her website

"As of 2005 we took a sabatical away from the custom order cakes. As a matter of trying to cut down on some of the stress in my life something had to go. Sorry but for right now doing the cakes is the choice. Maintaining the web site, shopping cart, writing articles for magazines, teaching classes and etc is enough to keep me busy and with less stress.
I hope you enjoy the photos and how to articles and new designs will be added occasionally as inspiration comes."

So as you can see she is not really doing cakes as a business anymore, she is doing cake classes and cake decorating product sales. Which is one reason she can take the time to give out so much information, (which also helps market her classes). Oh, and her classes for four days are $600.00 not including whatever you have to spend on airfare, hotel and food!!!

Did you read her articles??? If not GO READ THEM! Seriously! They are filled with everything you need to think about and know before continuing forward. I am thankful she took the time and effort to write all this and offer it for FREE to everyone. It's a great gift to all the aspiring cake decorators dreaming of a business. It helped me think over some details when I started down this path. And her cakes??? WOW. If those aren't inspiration I don't know what is.

Now on to my next favorite place www.cakecentral.com I am addicted to it and find answers to my questions through the very talented cake decorating community @ cakecentral. It too is a wealth of information which will help you as you move into a more serious phase with your business venture.

If you have read Earlene's articles and are going to move forward seriously consider getting the cakeboss software (or at least some sort of accounting software) which will help you figure out where to set your prices and help you keep track of everything. You need to realize what your expenses are and how many labor hours you are spending on the order are vs. what you are charging.

It is... after all - a business! If someone offered you a job for 2.00 an hour, no medical insurance, no paid vacation, no retirement plan, would you take it?!? What would you expect a potential employer to pay you for it to be worth it to you to accept the job offered? Whatever that answer is - is the minimum you should be paying yourself, charge accordingly for your cakes.

52 replies
leah_s Posted 25 Jan 2010 , 10:30pm
post #2 of

I had a similar conversation on the phone one day with a breathless young thing who wanted to open a cake business specializing in wedding cakes. Wanted to come over here and let me teach her everything about cakes AND business.

me "Where are you planning to open this business?"
her "right here in mytown."
me "so you're expecting me to train my competition and give you all my trade secrets?"
her " yes!"
me "Think for a minute and maybe you'll understand why I'm saying no to that."
her (dejected) "oh."

People are nuts.

johnson6ofus Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 12:49am
post #3 of

But Leah---- see pouty lip and watery eyes----- "Pleeeeezeeeee?"

Yeah, amazing what people could ask for. Like a Collette cake from a magazine or book for $1.00 per serving, right?

People will continue to amaze us all..... sheesh....

adventuregal Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 1:08am
post #4 of

I do understand where you are coming from-we spent alot of money on this career we chose and its not something we want to see someone else get for free, but I am wondering what you ladies think of interns? I've never been opposed to the idea of an intern/assistant, but really it is the same thing it seems as what you were speaking of (someone coming in and learning from us for free) and so I'm wondering if you are against that as well?

SallyBratt Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 1:16am
post #5 of

OMG...thank you so much for posting this information!!! I'm getting cakeboss right away (the scariest thing for me is costing my cakes and not doing it right...math is NOT my strong suit). I'm also going to read every word earlenescakes.

thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!

KawaiiCakeCook Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 1:20am
post #6 of

Can I follow you around with a camera! It'll just be like cakeboss! Right?

PattyT Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 1:22am
post #7 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by sillysierra

I do understand where you are coming from-we spent alot of money on this career we chose and its not something we want to see someone else get for free, but I am wondering what you ladies think of interns? I've never been opposed to the idea of an intern/assistant, but really it is the same thing it seems as what you were speaking of (someone coming in and learning from us for free) and so I'm wondering if you are against that as well?




Interns also work - wash dishes, clean up, tint frosting, crumb coat cakes etc. etc. etc.

Jayde Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 1:34am
post #8 of

I did it once (Leahs please dont slap me!) and will NEVER do it again. It bit me in the butt in a bad way. She was supposed to be a friend of mine. She begged and pleaded and said all the nice flattery things. I was a newb, and I said yes.

I carted everything over to her house cause she couldnt come over to mine. We baked one day and then decorated the next day. She actually LEFT me at her house at one point because a friend called her and asked her to come over for a little bit. I did the whole cake myself and pretty much for nothing, even though she provided all of the ingredients. She didnt help me do squat.

Live and learn I guess, but it was a tough lesson. I will never be so nice again. And if I ever do feel the urge to be so nice I just read a couple of Debi's posts and the urge to throw fondant at someone comes back to me. She helps me find my cake balls.

leah_s Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 1:48am
post #9 of

Jayde, you paid well for that education. No slappin' from me. icon_smile.gif

Jayde Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 1:59am

I should preface that I wasnt out any money, everything was done at her house and with her ingredients. My time and expertise was the only thing that I gave away.

It is all too easy to get sucked into the glam world of cake decorating, until you see all of the work and time that gets dedicated to it. They have no clue that this gorgeous creation take hours and hours of work and hours and hours to clean up. If they are truely interested, I refer them to Wilton classes, or tell them to look up videos and tutorials online. I even have a couple of websites that have great info and pictures.

LuvLyrics Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 2:13am
Quote:
Originally Posted by PattyT

Quote:
Originally Posted by sillysierra

I do understand where you are coming from-we spent alot of money on this career we chose and its not something we want to see someone else get for free, but I am wondering what you ladies think of interns? I've never been opposed to the idea of an intern/assistant, but really it is the same thing it seems as what you were speaking of (someone coming in and learning from us for free) and so I'm wondering if you are against that as well?



Interns also work - wash dishes, clean up, tint frosting, crumb coat cakes etc. etc. etc.




I was an intern myself for a well known Chef at his Italian restaruant, it wasn't for pastry but I learned a lot.. I did get paid for what I did, even thought I would have done it for free just to work at his restaurant.... If you are choosing an intern, make sure he/she comes from a school, you can learn about their work ethics trough a chef instructor, also they work very heard b/c their deisre to learn, if you do take an intern do it because you love teaching and you want them to succeed in what they love, we've all learn something valuable from someone else, either one on one or as we do here, when we share tips and sites for other...just make sure u take someone responsible and worth passing on what you know...

Anna

SallyBratt Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 2:30am
Quote:
Originally Posted by LuvLyrics

Quote:
Originally Posted by PattyT

Quote:
Originally Posted by sillysierra

I do understand where you are coming from-we spent alot of money on this career we chose and its not something we want to see someone else get for free, but I am wondering what you ladies think of interns? I've never been opposed to the idea of an intern/assistant, but really it is the same thing it seems as what you were speaking of (someone coming in and learning from us for free) and so I'm wondering if you are against that as well?



Interns also work - wash dishes, clean up, tint frosting, crumb coat cakes etc. etc. etc.



I was an intern myself for a well known Chef at his Italian restaruant, it wasn't for pastry but I learned a lot.. I did get paid for what I did, even thought I would have done it for free just to work at his restaurant.... If you are choosing an intern, make sure he/she comes from a school, you can learn about their work ethics trough a chef instructor, also they work very heard b/c their deisre to learn, if you do take an intern do it because you love teaching and you want them to succeed in what they love, we've all learn something valuable from someone else, either one on one or as we do here, when we share tips and sites for other...just make sure u take someone responsible and worth passing on what you know...

Anna




The intern at our school worked HARD! He didn't get paid and he certainly didn't get the extra schooling for free. He gave twice what he got, IMO. I'm actually going to be apprenticing at the school as well. I'm also not going to be paid but Bonnie will be getting some free gumpaste sculpting work done as I get to watch her and her assistant create some amazing wedding cakes. Both of us are getting a pretty good pay off, I think.

*edit...I don't mean to put down my school when I say "he gave twice what he got". My school was awesome. I only say that because he'd already paid for some courses and he really did work very hard and was a huge help to everyone. He gained a vast amount of knowledge as well and was allowed to sit in and participate in any class that he hadn't already taken.

Mensch Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 5:59am

I get those e-mails and phone calls every single day.

I'll come work... FOR FREE!

For some reason, they think the "FOR FREE" is going to reel me in. Um, nope. My insurance doesn't cover that, and I don't think the union OR the tax authority are going to be too happy about that.

Interns. We have an extremely small space. Three people just won't fit in my bakery. I just don't have TIME to teach as I go.

If they want to learn, they can sign up for my classes.

tesso Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 6:25am

I am innocent in this regard. The lady I wanted to learn from lives in a different town..so no competition..and I was happy to pay her her hourly fee of 50 dollars !! Plus my expense for ingredients. I showed up to find a note that said, sorry..vacationing in florida for the next 3 months. icon_surprised.gif Seriously.. she was gone. I decided to teach myself at that point.. so I did. And what i don't know.. I am finding out here..and everywhere else I can find. I am planning on taking a few wilton classes in chicago. Gumpaste kicks my ass !! icon_biggrin.gif

panchanewjersey Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 6:35am

I think we all run into crap like that whether were newbies or pro's, someone always wants to know what you know and wants you tro teach them everything. Thanks for that though.

SallyBratt Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 6:45am

I don't mind passing on information and helping people out tho. I'm an artist and I know how to paint and sculpt, and I know a lot about colour mixing and how to make things look like what they're supposed to look like. If people ask me questions about stuff like that I'm more than happy to help. It's something I got for free because I was born with it. but I would certainly draw the line at a stranger who wanted to learn for free what I paid a lot of money for...ie cake decorating techniques

Texas_Rose Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 6:53am
Quote:
Originally Posted by SallyBratt

I'm an artist and I know how to paint and sculpt, and I know a lot about colour mixing and how to make things look like what they're supposed to look like.




I noticed that about your work on Flickr. Wow! icon_biggrin.gif

SallyBratt Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 7:24am

icon_smile.gif Thanks

I hope that didn't sound like I was bragging...I didn't mean it that way. It's just something I was born with and have always been able to do. I'm lucky I guess. I get it from my dad. (that's about all I got...but that's another story for another forum!)

cookiecuttersweet Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 9:54am

Hello Has anyone purchased the Cake Boss software is it worth purchasing Many thanks Jackie.icon_biggrin.gif

Mensch Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 11:03am

I have no problem telling folks how to do stuff or how to use equipment. I have a store where I sell cake decorating equipment, so I have to help people, and I do it every day.

It's the ones who think you should take two hours and explain stacking, or some other really complicated procedure. Um, sign up for a class.

As the ones who say, "Oh yeah I think it might be fun to learn about caking. I'll work for free." No, thanks.

mommabuda Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 2:26pm

I called up a local lady to see if I could come over and look at her kitchen that she added onto her house and she was SO helpful! She let me and my husband come over and check it all out and talked to us for about an hour about getting started and what we needed. I didn't care to ask about cakes because my cakes are better than hers (in my opinion, lol) but I thought it was awfully nice of her to offer the time for me and my husband to come over. I have tried with other businesses and they seem to be very unhelpful. When we do get our kitchen built and I get overbooked, I'll be sending any extra business her way for sure!

FierceConfections Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 2:58pm

I was asked to help a friend make a cake for her cousin's bridal shower. I told her to come here and look for a cake design she liked. She picked this one:

http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-photo-1380353.html

Did I mention that she wanted to make it on Friday and drive it 300 miles to the shower on Saturday? Yeah. I had to let her down gently. She finally decided on a 1/2 sheet with a gp bow. All I really did was supervise and give her some tips, but she did all of the hands-on work herself. The cake turned out really well for a first timer. I was really proud of her. She was shocked that a cake that looked so simple took so much time to produce. Victory!

Oh, well, I guess this story falls more in line with being PRO teaching for free. However, if I would have ended up doing all of the work for none of the credit (or $), it would have been very different.

cakesweetiecake Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 5:55pm

Great thread.

cakesdivine Posted 26 Jan 2010 , 7:56pm

On the intern issue...

I contact the local culinary school, all students must do an internship at an establishment (ie:restaurant, bakery, etc.). Those students while still students are close to graduation. They come and work for free, they receive a grade from me too. I get the help I need but can't really afford, they get the school credit and some "in the cake world" experience. I don't discuss the business end of it...they simply do the tasks I ask, and if I have to teach them something that they haven't done before then I feel like we both win. They are never with you long enough to learn too much other than all the grunt work...kneeding fondant, rolling out fondant, cleaning the kitchen, making the mundane repetative fondant & gumpaste pieces, etc...LOL! So if it is a true internship program from an accredited culinary school I say go for it. It really is a win/win situation.

On Cakeboss Software...IT IS WORTH EVERY PENNY AND THEN SOME! It is awesome and I wish I had known about it so much sooner in my business. But as soon as I did I bought it, and then paid for the new upgrade difference with all the new bells & whistles. You just can't go wrong with buying it.

But to address the OP's actual topic...no I will not openly share with a stranger who randomly calls, emails, or comes in. I teach classes and they have to pay if they want to learn, end of story. I don't use my own students as interns, if they get good enough and my cake biz ever gets to the point where I can afford and need an employee then I will consider hiring one of my students. But the classes are usually private lessons and usually few and far between. Especially when they can go 30 miles to town and pay a fraction of what I charge for a Wilton class, but then again the Wilton Class only offers a fraction of what I offer. But people still think what I offer is the same. It really isn't.

SallyBratt Posted 27 Jan 2010 , 4:32am

Just bought cakeboss. I haven't checked it out yet cuz I'm too bloody busy with books but I wanted to let y'all know that cakecentral folk get 10% off. You just have to enter your user name

k...back to work

Katiebelle74 Posted 27 Jan 2010 , 5:00am

I was not referring to interns, I went to Culinary College and had to do an internship myself. You WORK while your there, do grunt work and learn some tidbits along the way. These are not interns, these are people who have no schooling and just want to come over and hang around and get free training, free knowledge... while slowing down production. I told one who is a friend of a friend that she could have a tour of the kitchen (but said no to showing her all of my book keeping / "how I run my business" and also no to "could she come over and sit around and watch me work". That would be going in the direction of a demonstration class .

BecuzImAGurl Posted 27 Jan 2010 , 6:10am
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakesdivine

On the intern issue...

I contact the local culinary school, all students must do an internship at an establishment (ie:restaurant, bakery, etc.). Those students while still students are close to graduation. They come and work for free, they receive a grade from me too. I get the help I need but can't really afford, they get the school credit and some "in the cake world" experience. I don't discuss the business end of it...they simply do the tasks I ask, and if I have to teach them something that they haven't done before then I feel like we both win. They are never with you long enough to learn too much other than all the grunt work...kneeding fondant, rolling out fondant, cleaning the kitchen, making the mundane repetative fondant & gumpaste pieces, etc...LOL! So if it is a true internship program from an accredited culinary school I say go for it. It really is a win/win situation.




I agree...I'm a student at The French Pastry School...I need to do Stages which is like volunteer work. We are requested to do it because its part of completing the program. I think we should have an opportunity to get some actually hands-on experiences. No one tell you to teach your trade secrets. And I understand if its some random person who dont have to pay a cent to learn their things. I mean I wish there is apprenticeship like in the olden days, but in this modern fast-paced world, everyone wants to learn the secret and not anything else...while back then you start from scrubbing your master's kitchen from top to bottom to polishing pots for the first 2-5 years then you move to the next level depending on how your master think of you. Now...you learn what you can in such short periods of time.

If someone wants to intern...let them...if they are dedicated and determine, show them more, and maybe one day it will come back to you, they can help you out one day, in business its all about networking, help each other out.

Katiebelle74 Posted 27 Jan 2010 , 3:44pm

As I posted just before your post - this thread was never meant to refer to interns. I was an intern myself. The people wanting to sit in my kitchen as if this were a live version of a cake show off television are not interns.

Katiebelle74 Posted 27 Jan 2010 , 3:58pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by KawaiiCakeCook

Can I follow you around with a camera! It'll just be like ! Right?




Honestly I think this person has nailed part of the issue here. There are a lot of people out there that see a cake show on t.v. (and do not realize that a film crew filmed for anywhere from 16 hours to a week before they edit the footage down into an hours worth of made for t.v. entertainment). Some people just ask to come over here and sit in the corner and watch me work as if it were going to be real entertaining. They've no clue that it's a ton of work before anything remotely entertaining happens, and then a ton of clean up after.

Katiebelle74 Posted 27 Jan 2010 , 4:06pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakesdivine

On the intern issue...


But to address the OP's actual topic...no I will not openly share with a stranger who randomly calls, emails, or comes in. I teach classes and they have to pay if they want to learn, end of story. I don't use my own students as interns, if they get good enough and my cake biz ever gets to the point where I can afford and need an employee then I will consider hiring one of my students. But the classes are usually private lessons and usually few and far between. Especially when they can go 30 miles to town and pay a fraction of what I charge for a Wilton class, but then again the Wilton Class only offers a fraction of what I offer. But people still think what I offer is the same. It really isn't.




Yes, this is what I mean. I NEVER EVER meant for any of what I said to be associated what so ever with an internship. I have trained many Interns and they are people I still keep in touch with years after their internship. Interns are usually very wonderful.

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