I Need To "talk"--Biz Related

Business By Lenette Updated 12 Mar 2010 , 2:04am by sweetlayers

Lenette Posted 6 Mar 2010 , 4:24pm
post #1 of 12

I am frustrated and this will be a bit long.

I have had my licensed home cake biz for 3 years next month. I recently cut back on orders to go back to school because I just can't seem to get consistent orders to make any money.

I invested a lot to have this, separate kitchen space, commercial equipment, etc. Thousands of dollars not to mention advertising, bridal shows, donations, everything I could think of to get my name out.

I have felt very bad about putting my business to the back burner for a lot of reasons. I feel angry and resentful that I have put out so much to support community events but the community has not supported me back.

I have a good product, I always baked my whole life and I get really good reviews. 9 times out of 10 I get a bride in here and they taste the cake, they book. I had a pretty good season last year but not what I had hoped. Then after October it tapered to nothing. I am just tired of being broke and trying to struggle from one cake to the next. Then even if the order came it was just enough to keep the phone on and whatnot. So, I went back to school to get myself qualified to get a decent paying job, always secretly wanting to be able to still do cakes.

I have always wanted my own business and I can't tell you how down I have been that this kind of blew up in my face. Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying school and doing well. But deep down I know I wouldn't be there if I had the success I was looking for with the cakes. I define success for this as where I could have enough money like I would if I were working part time.

Anyway, I definitely see some things I should have done differently. But what really got me going was yesterday I got a pedicure. A friend of mine got me a certificate to the nicest salon/spa in town for my bday so I went. Now, I was not all bowled over with the appearance of this place but the people were nice and she did a good job. Granted this place has been open for years, so they are well established.

What got me was the prices. While I do think it is worth it in a sense, I know that any service they offer can be done elsewhere for half the cost. Now, it got me to thinking, "what the heck have I done wrong here".

I had tried to rationalize to myself that people are not buying like they used to and cutting back on luxuries. But I got to this place and couldn't even find a parking space. They were busy and I chatted to the technician and she was telling me how busy they get when it warms up and that around Christmas she did $700 in one day and she specializes in mani/pedi, no other services, so that gave me an idea of how many she had done.

I know I am not the cheapest place in town but there is another specialty caker (she has a store front) and she charges more than me and is busy. I have had brides come in and tell me that my cake is WAY better than hers. So, I am confident that my cake is on par and it is not just my cake-snob kicking in. I refuse to be cheap, I would rather do it well, I won't compromise the product to get more orders. I am trying to sit back and take an honest look at my work and ask myself is it up to par. I always see flaws but I am trying to make an honest evaluation. I know that price can't be the only factor here.

Like I said, I know there are things I should have done differently--you know, approaching this more as a business, taking care of paper work, being more aware of costs, etc.

The thing is that there has to be something else to it, I would think. I want to know what I am doing wrong because all I think about is having a business. Just changing to a different type isn't going to help any. I want to create, I have a talent for baking and I have invested so much I don't want to throw it all away.

I have read ideas to drum up business and tried lots of them, I joined networking groups, I have donated to events/auctions, made appearances at events, etc etc.

I don't know what about me or my product is not compelling people to buy. I know that there are really 3 of us who are the "players" (for lack of a better term) here locally with wedding cakes. One lady has done cakes FOREVER, the other has a shop, I am the relatively new kid and I work from home. I wonder if I can make it without a shop but the rents are crazy; if I am struggling at home it's stupid to go in deeper. Plus, my family needs me so there is that push pull.

DH tells me to find someone who is where I want to be and emulate them. I see the good in that in a way but even if a person appears successful that doesn't mean they have figured out how to make a profit. You know what I mean?

I know this is long and if you have read it I appreciate it. I just had to get it out. No one really understands if they haven't put so much of themselves (not to mention $$$) into something like this.

I still want to finish school but I would like to have a business that is ready to thrive when I finish. It's all I really want to do but the lack of success is sucking the drive out of me. I don't even want to answer the phone anymore.

I am not depressed just perplexed as to the why. icon_rolleyes.gif

11 replies
leah_s Posted 6 Mar 2010 , 4:50pm
post #2 of 12

Where are you located, Lenette?

Lenette Posted 6 Mar 2010 , 4:56pm
post #3 of 12

Thank you for reading all that Leah, I sent ya' a PM. icon_wink.gif

heavenlys Posted 6 Mar 2010 , 5:22pm
post #4 of 12

We have been in business now 8 years and I can't even tell you how many times I thought we wouldn't make it in the first 5. They are the toughest years!! It was almost magical how things really started clicking in that 5th year! I t was amazing. But you can't sit back and wait for that 5th year, we worked our tail off promoting and building the business.

I just want you to know that the hard work and effort pay off. Sometimes it takes time. Good luck with whatever you decide.

leah_s Posted 6 Mar 2010 , 6:06pm
post #5 of 12

It does take time to get established and this recession has kicked everyone's butt. I'll say this, though, I can't find prices on your website. I threw up the name of your city and state plus the words wedding cake and your biz did not come up in the search engine on the first page. Also, given the name of your city, you're missing a truly outstanding biz connection - that name should be your signature product and in every part of your advertising.

You can buy another domain and put it on redirect. You can think more like a bride. 77% of brides search first (and a large part of them exclusively) for vendors on the interwebs. On the first page, your website has to answer the question, "What's in it for me?" (from the bride's point of view.) I just read some research that says you've got 3 seconds to capture their attention. 3 seconds.

Your website is lovely, don't get me wrong, but it's built for you, not your customers. What sets you apart? Why should I buy from you? If I don't know your biz name, how do I even find you?

Are cakes permanently on the back burner now that you're in school? Or do you want to ramp this thing up?

PS to everyone - giving away cakes to "get your name out there" is ALWAYS a bad idea. ALWAYS. I've been burned too. But not for a long time.


Lenette Posted 6 Mar 2010 , 6:30pm
post #6 of 12

Thank you all so much for taking the time to read that super long post. I really appreciate all the responses and PMs of encouragement and the constructive criticism.

I want this business to be ready to go to an even higher level when I graduate next year. Perhaps to some extent it is a matter of perseverance. I am glad to know it is not uncommon for me to have such a struggle.

Thanks again! icon_smile.gif

loriemoms Posted 6 Mar 2010 , 6:51pm
post #7 of 12

To the OP: I hit that wall myself at exactly about the same time...3 years in. I was exhausted, wondering what I was doing, broke, depressed and sick of it all. I got a part time job workign for someone else decorating cakes while finishing up my orders and HATED IT. I quit after a few weeks and took a vacation for about 2 weeks and then reapproached it all. I revamped they way I did things, and decided I was killing myself. I decided no more sheet cakes, no more simple cakes, just high end, sculpted cakes. I got rid of the bottom 15%. If you are booking almost every wedding coing in, you arent charging enough. I used to book 90%, now I book 50-60% and you know what, I am making more money!! You can't please everyone. Find your niche!

I also agree, there is something magical about five years..I hit five years this year and our sales are up 450% from last year!!! I was mainly doing weddings,and hired some help and now am doing 6-8 weddings a weekend and 10-15 party cakes and am getting more rest then when I was doing half that! I had to learn to trust others to do work, and well, just approached it all differently! You just gotta sit down and make a list and figure out what is most important!! And don't give up!

loriemoms Posted 6 Mar 2010 , 6:55pm
post #8 of 12
Originally Posted by leah_s

PS to everyone - giving away cakes to "get your name out there" is ALWAYS a bad idea. ALWAYS. I've been burned too. But not for a long time.


Oh man tell me about it...I did have ONE good freebie though..did a cake that went up for as a door prize for a luncheon for other wedding professionals. A caterer won it, and fell in love with it, me, my services, etc and we now have a great relationship! So you CAN do free cakes, but WHO they are for counts. I have had NO luck with schools, charity events, wedding luncheons for brides, and office managers. They just want free cake. hahaha!

leah_s Posted 6 Mar 2010 , 9:31pm
post #9 of 12

And apologies to Lenette. I always said that if I could spell I'd get better results with a Google search . . .

Lenette Posted 6 Mar 2010 , 11:49pm
post #10 of 12

No need to apologize! You made very valid points and if was helpful. I appreciate all of the help I have received.

It really helps to know that I am not the only one who has gone through this and this situation has good potential to get better if I keep at it. icon_smile.gif

melodyscakes Posted 8 Mar 2010 , 12:35am
post #11 of 12

I've just seen that overhead is rising and customers budget is shrinking.
I moved my business back home because of high overhead, and am loving it!!
good luck!

sweetlayers Posted 12 Mar 2010 , 2:04am
post #12 of 12

I'm saving this. I love good advice!

Quote by @%username% on %date%