Greetings all! I'm new here, and I've been enjoying the business forum. I'm a hobby caker, and I'm wondering at what point you all have felt confident enough with your skills to go from hobby to pro?
I've been contemplating a business for a few months now, and yesterday I did 2 cakes for 2 different friends' kids' b-day parties and at each one, all the guests were just raving and on top of me with questions: How did you do that? How long did it take you? Are you going to start a business? etc. So my first question is at what point do you take the plunge? I have the motivation, but not the experience, at this point. This week was my first experimentation with fondant and I've never torted a cake, for example. It's been all bc and straight layers up to this point.
I'm in VA, and I've researched the legalities, and I know it's possible to do a home bakery, but I also know there are several custom home bakers in my area (DC Metro). And now I keep seeing signs at the grocery stores for "designer cakes". So my 2nd question, is how much competition is too much competition? I was really thinking that 1 cake ever other week would be fine for me, a SAHM with little ones. I can really only work in the evenings, so I'm not looking to take the cake world by storm just yet... more of a money-making hobby, but, of course, I would want it to be legal and legit, regardless of how small.
Any words of advice ?
Once people started commenting that they wanted to buy the stuff I was making I decided that it was time to get the business license and start off the legal way. I didn't want to pay some kind of a huge fine just because I didn't pay a $50 license fee. Good luck!
I also live in an area where home bakeries are allowed. I like this option very much, because I don't want the bother of tending a store. I make a lot of cakes for family and friends, anyway. Even though there are usually fairly stringent requirements for home bakeries, it's worht it to me: if I get a lot of orders (I wish!), I'm set up, and if I have a dry spell, I don't need to worry about going out of business. Obviously, I don't make my living from this yet, but as I retire fully from my "day job", I'm hoping this will turn into something steady. I also, of course, have the luxury of drawing a pension (with no "you-can-only-make-so-much-a-month-extra-before-losing-it" strings attached). I think this is the only way I'd do this, because I've never had the "risk it all" business mentality: if I don't know for sure that I can pay the rent, I have a hard time sleeping at night and concentrating on the things that will make the business successful, like making gorgeous cakes! Hope my ramblings help a little bit!
Taking the plunge: I can tell you from experience that if it's on your mind you are almost there. Having your own business is about what works for you & setting your own schedule/timeline for what is best for you & your family. I started baking when mine were 4 & 5 (now 15 & 16)... I went legal when they were 6 & 7. For me parenting has always come first & there have been times when cakes have taken a back seat. You are doing the right thing by seeking advice & listening/weighing options and figuring out what will be in your best interest/sanity. :0)
How muuch Competition: Being from DC metro area I can tell you there's enough business for everyone. Try going to the CASNOVA (cakeclub.com) meetings & I am sure you will find help from several designers there. You can also get information from Sally at Fran's Cake & Candy a great resource for meeting other designers in the area. :0)
The DC area is a great place to start a business and you can set your own pace of growth to fit your family life! :0)
Hi Kger and welcome to Cake Central! You will find this is your new addiction.
As someone who opened her business just last summer, I want to mention a few things that you need to think about before jumping into a business. This is not meant in anyway to discourage you but give you some things to think about.
Now, hopefully, I will start channelling IndyDebi (luv ya' Debi!)
Have you done a business plan? Do you know what it costs you to make a cake? and don't forget gas, water, electricity, paper towels, soap, boards, boxes and all of the other miscellaneous things it takes to make a cake.
Remember that having a business is much more than just making cakes and taking in money, even if you are doing it on the small scale. You have to be able to run a business, handle customers, pay taxes, insurance, etc.
You say that you only have one week of fondant experience and have never torted a cake. I would say that you probably need a little more experience in those areas if you plan to offer those types of cakes.
It is about confidence but it's much more than that, it's about running a business, even a small one. It's about knowing what you plan to sell, and how you plan to make money.
It takes a lot of though and planning. I don't want to discourage you, just make sure you are ready in all areas.
tracycakes, you gave great advice and said some of the exact same things I was going to say. I too opened up officially as a business last summer (although I do this from home in my licensed, separate bakery). The expense is huge! A typical wedding cake costs me $85-$100 in ingredients. That includes not just cake and icing ingredients, but all the components of a finished cake. Meeting with a client and all of the time involved in actually getting a typical order is usually 3-5 hours of time whether it's face to face, phone calls, emails, research, putting information into the system, filing, etc. Delivery for the typical cake takes 1.5-2 hours from putting the cake in the car, traveling, setting up, coming home, and getting all supplies back in their respective places.
I remember about 2 years ago when I first came upon Cake Central and had in the back of my mind wanting to open a business one day and read one of the very wise posters threads stating the actual baking and decorating of cakes is only about 15%-25% of her time and that the rest was the "business" side of things and how it was so time consuming, and I had thought "No way! That's insane. It doesn't take that much time to do business stuff." Uh, DUH!!!!! I now, a year into my business, completely agree with that initial statement. You have to love to decorate cakes, but you also have to have incredible time management skills, people skills, business skills, and still want to decorate a big cake after all of that is done.
I wish you the best of luck if you do decide to open a business. This business forum has been invaluable to me. I have learned so much here. If you are thinking of opening a cake business, take a couple weeks at least and read as many of the threads in this forum. It's amazing how much you will learn and start to be ready for the business side of cakes before you even open your doors.
how much competition is too much competition?
Although there's probably more than enough business to go around, it wouldn't hurt to know more about your competition so that you may better find ways to set yourself apart from them. What will make your business more unique or what will attract your customers to you over the existing competition? I'd recommend at least doing the portion of a business plan about your market, and your competition.
Thanks for the advice, guys. I have been brainstorming a little to figure out what would be unique for me, and one idea is to do special dietary cakes, like low sugar for diabetics, gluten-free, or dairy-free. I did a low-sugar for a diabetic's baby shower a few months ago and it went over well. I would just have to work on perfecting recipes.
Another idea I had was to also work on baked party favors, like cookies on a stick, mini cupcakes on a stick, etc. I haven't seen much of that around here.[/quote]