Worth It?????

Decorating By Stephy42088 Updated 23 Aug 2010 , 2:08pm by sullymel13

Stephy42088 Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 1:30am
post #1 of 20

I've only been doing this cake decorating for a few months and have started selling cupcakes at the local farmers market as well as doing some random cakes for people. but honestly, is it really worth it??? i mean the cost of doing business and setting up the initial business is already so much and then there are so many details and so much to learn. not a day goes by when i don't ask myself a thousand questions or not know how to do something. I mean, i'm a business major and just graduated a couple months ago and from a business standpoint the time and effort that goes into this vs what people are willing and able to pay just doesn't seem to match up. and the stress, lack of sleep and constant worry doesn't make it seem worth it. i spend all my time looking for wholesalers for all kinds of bakery products and still cant seem to find reasonable prices...i even have cousins who are food brokers and specialize in bakery and deli and although they are a great resource, if i invest in all of these products, will it be worth it? will i even get the return that i want/need? especially when this is a constant learning experience on my part. does anyone have any suggestions on putting the fun back in cake decorating? or making it worth it, both on the side of time and money? i also recently got laid off (1st real person job ever and only there 1 month) so is this the perfect time to go back to school in culinary arts or at least take some classes? feedback would be appreciated!!

19 replies
Unlimited Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 2:57am
post #2 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

not a day goes by when i don't ask myself a thousand questions or not know how to do something.




Yikes! Sounds like you jumped in to this too soon. I don't know why you would chose this type of business without first knowing how to do it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

I mean, i'm a business major and just graduated a couple months ago




That's great that you spent some time to learn about business aspects. Did you write a business plan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

i spend all my time looking for wholesalers for all kinds of bakery products and still cant seem to find reasonable prices...i even have cousins who are food brokers and specialize in bakery and deli and although they are a great resource, if i invest in all of these products, will it be worth it? will i even get the return that i want/need?




These things should have been done before you started your business, and all of the questions that you're asking would be answered in your business plan. Honestly, no one can answer whether or not it's worth it... only you can decide that based on the research you've done for your market, what sets you apart from the competition, are you good enough to compete within the industy and command the same or similar prices that the others are charging, are you productive enough to make a profit, can you afford to hire employees during busy seasons (plus everything else that goes along with running a business such as worker's comp, insurance, taxes, licenses, etc.), and have you figured out the return that you want/need?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

especially when this is a constant learning experience on my part. so is this the perfect time to go back to school in culinary arts or at least take some classes?




Well... if you haven't yet learned what you need to know to get started, YES, it's time to at least take some classes, or get a job at a bakery so you can get experience while you are learning.

Good luck with whichever type of business you chose to operate after you learn what is feasible for your area. Get started on that business plan as soon as you are able as it may take 6-12 months or longer to complete and you'll learn so much from the exercise that you won't regret finding the answers that you are looking for.

Stephy42088 Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 3:40am
post #3 of 20

i chose it because i like it, I don't know why I would choose to go into a type of business that I don't enjoy, seems silly to me. I am in the process of writing a business plan...my major focused on marketing which is more my specialty. the wholesaler issue is a problem, but with family in the business i can hopefully cut out the middleman, but trying to figure out if thats possible can be difficult. i did not figure it out before i started the business because i believe that everything is a work in progress for a while...the whole ideas of "you don't need to see the whole staircase, just the first step" (i think thats how the quote goes). Most very successful business owners (not necesarily in baking) would agree. those are the people who can make millions, lose it and then make it all back again, plus more. Seems awfully risky and silly but this is how the most successful people I know got started. And unfortunetly, there are not any bakeries in my area that I can work in but I am good friends with some pastry chefs and culinary instructors in my area and in a few states over who are quite knowledgeable.

Thank you for bringing my resources to my attention in a reverse psychology sort of way.

Unlimited Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 5:02am
post #4 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

the wholesaler issue is a problem, but with family in the business i can hopefully cut out the middleman, but trying to figure out if thats possible can be difficult.




I don't understand how having family in the business will allow you to cut out the middleman... you said "i even have cousins who are food brokers"food brokers are the middlemen. If you bypass them, you no longer have your wholesale connection. Trying to buy directly from manufacturers means that you need to have huge volume orders to meet their minimum order.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

"you don't need to see the whole staircase, just the first step" Most very successful business owners (not necesarily in baking) would agree. those are the people who can make millions, lose it and then make it all back again, plus more. Seems awfully risky and silly but this is how the most successful people I know got started.




I agree, it is risky and silly, and it sounds like you'd be setting yourself up for failure to attempt to emulate them by making $, losing it all, and making it back again. Maybe the people you know that started this way had unlimited funds to be able to support that kind of thinking or only invested what they could afford to lose. I hope you're wealthy enough that the risk factor involved doesn't hurt if you don't get very far up the staircase.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

I am good friends with some pastry chefs and culinary instructors in my area and in a few states over who are quite knowledgeable.




Cool... sounds like great resources are available to you. I hope their classes continue to be fun for you. I've heard that many culinary schools teach very basic cake decorating and only for a tiny portion of the classes (something between several days or up to a couple of weeks). If you're specializing in more than pastries, and leaning towards mostly decorated cakes, you might consider signing up for some Wilton classes instead (more affordable too).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

Thank you for bringing my resources to my attention in a reverse psychology sort of way.




Sorry I can't tell if you're being sincere, or using a sarcastic font, so I'll assume you mean this in a geniune way. I'm not trying any reverse anything here... just pointing out that there are certain logical steps to consider with any project, and they need to be done in the appropriate order before you can grow or move on to the next goal. I hope this helps.

indydebi Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 5:59am
post #5 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

I mean, i'm a business major and just graduated a couple months ago and from a business standpoint the time and effort that goes into this vs what people are willing and able to pay just doesn't seem to match up. and the stress, lack of sleep and constant worry doesn't make it seem worth it.


You're suffering from "new college graduate-itis". It's a common ailment. I've seen it over and over and over in my lifetime. And it's not your fault. While in college, you are inundated with promises of how easy life will be for you since you will have a degree. And how much money you will make with your degree. And then you graduate and join MY world. The real world. And you are shocked and surprised that its all not easy-peasy and practically handed to you like they promised you it would be.

I'm not anti-college. I'm in college right now, at the age of 51, to get my teaching degree. But I'm telling you ..... 30 years of seeing these college graduates walk into an office expecting to make 6 figures a year and practically cry and stomp their foot when they only make $25K has taught me that it's not your fault. It's the implied message the colleges give you when they DON'T teach you what it's really like out there. The "Time and effort" that goes into any job (or cake business) vs what any employer (or cake customers) is "willing to pay" is always WAY different than what they tell you in college. Caking and running your own business is the same thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

i did not figure it out before i started the business because i believe that everything is a work in progress for a while...the whole ideas of "you don't need to see the whole staircase, just the first step" (i think thats how the quote goes).


Darlin' I don't know who told you that was a good way to start a business but that's just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

Most very successful business owners (not necesarily in baking) would agree. those are the people who can make millions, lose it and then make it all back again, plus more. Seems awfully risky and silly but this is how the most successful people I know got started.


People you actually and personally "know"? Or people that have been profiled in a textbook?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

And unfortunetly, there are not any bakeries in my area that I can work in but I am good friends with some pastry chefs and culinary instructors in my area and in a few states over who are quite knowledgeable.


Is your question on how to decorate and make cakes? Or is your question on how to run a successful caking business? Being a chef and an instructor on how to prepare food is a different vocation than running a retail business. Not saying they may or may not have not experience on the topic, but don't assume that someone who knows how to decorate or make a pastry automatically is someone who knows all the ins and out about running a business. Two totally different things.

Th best source for anyone starting a business is your local SBDC. They have classes (free and/or low cost) on many of th questions you are asking. Your local Chamber may have a SCORE proram that you can access for some business advice. Give these a try! thumbs_up.gif [/img]

scp1127 Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 10:08am
post #6 of 20

Inydebi, great answers. Every successful business person I know had a plan, worked and fine tuned the plan, made intelligent decisions... or inherited it.

cakeythings1961 Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 1:55pm
post #7 of 20

Stephy, you sound very confused. Perhaps you need to clarify what it really is you want to do, now that you've finished college. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't hear a lot of enthusiasm in your posts....do you REALLY want to do this? You've been given some excellent advice in the above posts for you to consider. I'm not a small business owner, nor am I a professional baker, but just from a common sense perspective, here are some questions to ask yourself:

What was your plan for post graduation? Did you intend to get started in a cake decorating business, or have you just sort of fallen into it?

Are your baking and decorating skills at a professional level or do you need some training and practice before you transition into doing this for a living?

How will you support yourself while you build your business?

Do you live in an area that can support the type of baking business you have in mind?

Congrats on your recent graduation, and the best of luck to you!

icon_smile.gif [/i]

kger Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 7:42pm
post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088

the whole ideas of "you don't need to see the whole staircase, just the first step" (i think thats how the quote goes). Most very successful business owners (not necesarily in baking) would agree. those are the people who can make millions, lose it and then make it all back again, plus more. Seems awfully risky and silly but this is how the most successful people I know got started.




I have so many issues with this statement, I don't know where to begin.

First of all, I don't know what kind of college business program taught you this, but it's flat-out wrong. You must, must, must have a plan. If you are to get any kind of financing, you need a plan. Even if you are just going to fund it yourself, you need to have a plan. You can change the plan along the way, but you need to know what you're doing and where you're going. Just flying by the seat of your pants will get you nowhere and fast.

Now, these millions that you speak of, you will not find them as a home baker. You will not find them even if you are able to organize yourself enough to open a bakery. The only way that you will come anywhere close to these millions is if you write a plan and map it out and do your research and analyze the data to figure out exactly how long it will take you to realize whatever goals you have.

As for whether it's worth it, that depends on you. What are your goals? What are you expecting to happen? Personally, I'm a hobby baker and what makes it "worth it" to me is the relaxation it brings me, the hunt for the perfect recipe, the glee of a beautifully baked cake fresh out of the oven, the satisfaction of a completed cake, the enlightenment of a lesson learned, the expression of someone's face when they see or taste what I've baked.

If it's money you're after, then you need to turn to your plan. Come up with some dollar amount that you're aiming for, figure out the cost of your ingredients, overhead, consulting fees for accountant and attorney, business licensing and inspection, marketing, etc., figure out how many cakes or cupcakes you're going to have to sell to get to that amount, and figure out how long it's going to take you.

adventuregal Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 7:58pm
post #9 of 20

Hi Stephy-
On Friday night I read your post about finishing and delivering the grooms cake that you and your mother thought was unacceptable and you replied that you re did the whole thing over. Did it turn out ok? I hope you got some good suggestions for the fondant.
I think that taking some cake classes sounds like a great idea since you said you are going to have some time off. From a professional stand point I think it would be invaluable to re access your skill level and learn some new techniques-it's also a fun way to bring the enjoyment back into cake decorating. The way I see it is if you have trouble with your abilities going right into business is not a good idea. I think if you are passionate about caking and you take the time necessary to learn you can be very successful-I look at it as any other artistic career. Sometimes it's hard, but there will be people willing to pay the big bucks for something amazing.
I'd take Wiltons beginners classes, youtube, CC, and read alot of cake books. I'd also just practice for friends and family before setting out to do the big stuff before you're ready. That will take away stress icon_smile.gif

Stephy42088 Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 9:03pm
post #10 of 20

It wasn't a business statement (the quote) more like a statement on living life. I do not have college graduate itis....trust me, i know its hard, I made a reasonable college graduate salary at my first job out of college(although i also just got laid off) and it was great, i loved it. however, now i need to reevaluate my career choices and what it is I want to do. I have the opportunity to join a large insurance firm that my family owns, or join the food broker business that the other half of my family owns, or go my own path and do something completely different. Truth is, I don't know what I want to do in my life, I'm young, 22 years old, I don't have to know yet. I can fall flat on my face and its going to be OK. I don't have a family or a mortgage yet. So yes, I'm going to try now, when else would i? when I have a family of four to feed? I always have a couple of large family businesses to fall back on where I can come on as an insurance agent or other various sales positions. Those are the people I know with that business philosophy. I have been in sales for a couple of years and my family has been in sales for 3 generations. They have been fired hundreds of times from previous jobs, made horrible investments and gone out on their first appointments not knowing a damn thing (welcome to sales) but it worked out for them. You learn by experience just like with anything else. During my first sales jobs I had to jump on the phone or jump into appointments without even hardly knowing any of the ins and outs of the products I was selling but thats how you learn and how to find out if you can really do it. as for my abilities, I have better abilities than I probably let on in my post, but it is still frustrating as is most things when you don't know the answer. Once again, learning from experience comes into play here. I have taken some classes with wilton but found them quite elementary and the instructors were hardly a resource. some great propaganda from the folks at wilton though. I do enjoy caking/baking and decorating. In a world of business, it's nice to have a creative outlet and I enjoy it very much. But with anything, like I said before it can be frustrating and horrible at times. Which i am sure all of you can understand and relate to. The cake from last turned out much much better. I pulled an all nighter and learned a lot but was happy with the result. It's just hard to find the time to practice when I'm still on working notice and trying to find another full time job to pay the bills (mostly student loans!!) but will probably go back into full comissioned sales.

adventuregal Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 10:19pm
post #11 of 20

I understand your stress, but it seems like you're trying to be a professional in a field that you aren't skilled in yet. I hope you don't take this as anything other than constructive criticism, but the cake you posted and asked help for was very novice. Your mom was right in saying that she would never pay the amount you were charging. You said yourself that you've only been decorating for a few months-maybe you need to take more time to learn before you get frustrated that its not working out. From a professional stand point I would put all your ducks in a row before you start your business because by delivering the kind of cake you posted you could have ruined future business orders. I'm 22 as well and I put in the amount of time necessary before I went out and tried to advertise my cakes because I wanted peoples first impressions of them to be the wow factor. From the cake I saw I feel that you could learn something from the Wilton courses instead of deeming them "elementary." It looks like you need help with fondant, leveling, smoothing, putting things in order, time management, and details. The fact that you are on cakecentral proves that you are smart enough to get advice which is awesome, but at this point it may be best to find a business job and practice cakes at home.

Stephy42088 Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 10:30pm
post #12 of 20

The cake I posted was horrible, I would never have presented that t a client. It fell apart on account of the recipe being too moist, the buttercream not stiff enough and the board not stable enough. I redid the cake and it was very professional and much much much better. no leaning sides, no fondant errors and much cleaner. I appreciate the constructive critism, however, many people are quick to make judgement but I apologize if I was unclear in my posts as far as my skills and abilties go, I as frustrated and exhausted. I have gotten compliments on my cakes from people in the industry that have said they are surprised ive been doing this for such a short time because they have seen cakes from people who have been doing this 5 years and are not as good, so I was probably unclear in my post. Other than that, I went to a good college witha great business program and taught me how to write a business and marketing plan as well as an undying list of other important business structures. Some comments were made from a personal standpoint.

dawncr Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 10:55pm
post #13 of 20

Sounds like you have all the skills, talent, and resources you need, then.

Not sure what feedback or advice you were seeking.

Best wishes to you. With all that you have, you're sure to succeed!

Gingerbread_from_Germany Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 11:33pm
post #14 of 20
Quote:
Quote:

I have the opportunity to join a large insurance firm that my family owns, or join the food broker business that the other half of my family owns, or go my own path and do something completely different. Truth is, I don't know what I want to do in my life, I'm young, 22 years old, I don't have to know yet. I can fall flat on my face and its going to be OK. I don't have a family or a mortgage yet. So yes, I'm going to try now, when else would i? when I have a family of four to feed? I always have a couple of large family businesses to fall back on where I can come on as an insurance agent or other various sales positions.




Well it sounds like you are a very lucky girl to have such a support net - and you are very selfconfident - or as we would say in England "a bit full of yourself" icon_cool.gif

I have no business experience, but a lot of life experience and the best advice I can give to you, is that if you ask for advice, then don't be too snooty to take it.

As you wrote, you are young, you'll probably learn one day... icon_wink.gif

Until then, have fun, life's what you make it.

cakeythings1961 Posted 22 Aug 2010 , 11:40pm
post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gingerbread_from_Germany



Well it sounds like you are a very lucky girl to have such a support net - and you are very selfconfident - or as we would say in England "a bit full of yourself" icon_cool.gif

I have no business experience, but a lot of life experience and the best advice I can give to you, is that if you ask for advice, then don't be too snooty to take it.

As you wrote, you are young, you'll probably learn one day... icon_wink.gif




LOL!! I love the British sense of humor!! icon_lol.gif

indydebi Posted 23 Aug 2010 , 12:10am
post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephy42088


.... but it worked out for them. You learn by experience just like with anything else. During my first sales jobs I had to jump on the phone or jump into appointments without even hardly knowing any of the ins and outs of the products I was selling but thats how you learn and how to find out if you can really do it.


Learning on the job is what all of us do when we get our first real job .... and our 5th real job .. and our 10th real job. That's just how it works. But that's not the same thing as starting a businss and investing thousands of dollars into something that you plan to learn-as-you-go.

I've done both. I've been the employee and I've been the business owner. Trust me on this. They are TWO DIFFERENT things.

I also think you are a very lucky person to come from a family of successful business owners, where you were probably fortunate to never have to worry too much about your future (you're the 4th generation, right?). If something doesn't work out for you, no problem.....you just (to use your words) "fall back on" the family business to give you a job. YOu have a good group of folks who can mentor you in your pursuit of whatever it is you want to do.

But please heed at least some of the advice from those on here who have to actually work to find a job; who don't have a mom or dad or uncle charlie to just hand us a job whenever we decide to stop "finding ourselves".

Yes this is meant to be a little "mom-finger advice", which I'm known to give on here. But one of the symptons of "college graduate-itis" is the person with the affliction thinks they are the exception, and at the ripe old age of 22 think they have the life experience ncessary to offset any advice they are given.

It's ok. It makes you normal. I start a lot of my conversations with "Back when *I* was 20 and knew everything .......!" thumbs_up.gif But there is a cure ...... we all grow out of it. icon_biggrin.gif

cakeythings1961 Posted 23 Aug 2010 , 1:40am
post #17 of 20

Stephy,
I am a retired therapist (I owned my own practice, so I do have small business experience.) Therapists know that when clients defensively reject advice after seeking it, this often means that they didn't really want advice to begin with. They were really looking for some one to agree with them, to justify some decision they had made, or to receive approval or even compliments. I'm just making a general statement here...not necessarily saying this applies to you, but you have responded with a great deal of defensiveness.

What were you expecting CCers to say to you? Were you hoping for more encouragement? That would be normal. But you've had people with just the sort of business you're trying to start tell you that they see difficulty ahead for you unless you clarify your goals and plans and improve your skills. You seem to be comfortable with a high level of risk....great! Go for it! But don't get upset with those who responded to what you told us in your original post.

I sincerely wish you the best in whatever path you choose! icon_smile.gif[/i]

adventuregal Posted 23 Aug 2010 , 2:58am
post #18 of 20

I've learned that on CC alot of people that could really use help with their cake skills OR business don't think they need any help. There was a case a few weeks ago of someone that was delivering wedding cakes that would piss off anybody to recieve. The thing is, the OP doesn't really think she needs the advice so it seems pointless to keep trying to offer it. I'm just thinking its the same case as the other baker because based on the one cake I've seen of the OP she is NOT ready to start a business based on her skills alone. We all have bad days and maybe it was a problem with the 'cake being too moist' as she stated, but there was a world of problems that were caused by inexperience and not a moist cake. IMHO. I had to learn, other CC has to learn...and we didn't think we were pros after a few months even if we thought we were the bees knees. Never be too proud to take the advice you need. It's not a bad thing that you don't know everything-you're a newbie.

scp1127 Posted 23 Aug 2010 , 8:02am
post #19 of 20

When I was 22, I went into sales. I did study my product and knew my market before I cold called and I did not get laid off! Learn as you go is an entry level attitude, usually accompanied by entry level pay. My husband is giving me the money to start my baking business. I could have started it eight months ago, but I respect his time it took to make that money, and I will not waste it. I know my market and and I know where my place is in it. College does not teach you how to run a business your first day out. I have a double major in accounting and economics, so I know. You need skill, experience, a business plan, and the realization that you don't yet have the answers. Listen to these seasoned pros. They are sharing knowledge that is invaluable, and they are sharing it for free! I'm sure listening and a big THANK YOU TO ALL!

sullymel13 Posted 23 Aug 2010 , 2:08pm
post #20 of 20

Stephy,
I am sure some of the opinions here weren't exactly what you were looking for, but even though these people don't know you, they have a lot of experience, and are really looking out for you. Just based on your original post, it sounds like it will not be worth it for you right now. Starting a business is risky and extremely costly and time draining. Since you just graduated, why don't you consider taking a regular day job with one of your family businesses, and once you have settled in, saved up some investment money, then you can venture out on your own.

While it sounds like the perfect time to take a risk, it could have some real consequences that you don't want to have to deal with later. What are your priorities right now? Do you want to start a business more than anything, or take a little time to relax after school? Is caking something you want to be doing for 18 hours a day? If it already sounds like a pain, then it might not be something you want to dedicate your life to, or invest your valuable time and effort and money.

Like I said, I would get a regular job, keep doing cakes on the side, and once you have figured out the business plan, expenses, customer base, etc., then you can venture out! You have the time to figure things out, so relax and enjoy, instead of stressing over it. The better your plan, the better the execution!

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