I am an amateur cake baker/decorator, and I really enjoy it. I started about three years ago when I became a stay at home mom. All of my cakes, with one exception, have been done for free. They have either been for my son's birthday, parties for friends or their children, or donated for local events or parties for my husband's staff. The exception was a 3 tier wedding cake I did this summer, for which I made $50 after costs. I live in a small town, where it seems that custom cakes are not the norm, and I would like to do cakes a little more often (I have produced about 20 cakes in the past 3 years, roughly one every couple months.). I thought that donating my cakes for parties might generate word of mouth buzz, but this has not been the case. My goal is to create a cake every few weeks, to get paid reasonably for my time, and to improve my skills while providing beautiful custom creations.
So here are my questions:
1. How would you recommend transitioning from doing cakes as favors to actually getting paid for them?
2. Is Facebook an effective option for advertising?
First, you have to find out if it is legal to sell cakes from your home. If it is, then you need to contact your local Dept. of Food and Agriculture to obtain the proper procedures for getting legal, becoming licensed, etc. That's the first step. Advertising and how to get your name out there are pointless if you are not in a state that licenses home bakeries. Once you have the proper legalities in place, then the next step would be to write a business plan. As for Facebook for advertising, some have had great success with it and some have had zero success.
First, check your state and local laws about business licensing and baking from a home kitchen. Every state has different regulations about what you need to do.
I'll bet that people are more open to the idea of custom cakes than you think, though. With the number of cake decorating shows that are on tv these days, people are more open to the idea of different types of decorated cakes.
Facebook can be a good way to advertise if you use a business page, not your personal one. If someone is trying to order a cake from you they probably don't really care to hear about your kids' last report card, if you know what I mean. Keep the personal and the professional separate. A lot of people who do a small number of cakes just use a business facebook page instead of paying to set up a proper website, and it works fine for them.
Make sure that you're charging enough for the work that you do. Don't use the local grocery store to compare your prices to, because chances are the type of cakes that you're going to be doing aren't the same as grocery store cakes. Make sure that you're charging enough to make it worth the time it takes. I doubt that the $50 you made on the wedding cake really paid for your time very effectively, so just make sure you're not underpricing yourself.
First I would get business cards and put them next to the donated cakes. Also, advertise yourself when you attend the event that you made the cake for. There are just so many free cakes that you can make until enough becomes enough. You will have to begin charging a little, if its even 40 dollars just so you can compensate for a few things. We make a lot of cakes and what we do for cakes for friends (close family gets them for free) is that we charge enough so we can buy a bucket of fondant. With a few exceptions, my minimal price is 200 dollars per cake order, but never would we charge that to friends. I use massa for fondant, so what we do, is just charge our friends like 50 dollars so we can buy a bucket of fondant... Cute huh??
Facebook for advertising... Thats tricky. I have a facebook fan page (RL Cakes), but what I find is that mostof my fans are cake decorators (nothing wrong with that) and I find myself answer cake questions and tip requests (once again, nothing wroing with that). So I would be hesitant on where to advertise your fan page on facebook.
Hope that helps!
There are just so many free cakes that you can make until enough becomes enough.
Agreed, but if commercial home baking is illegal in OP's state then she needs to have a plan on how to get legal before she starts accepting money, whether that's building a separate kitchen on OP's property (if possible) or renting a commercial kitchen.
Thanks for your input, I really appreciate th quick responses and good advice! If I did do a FB page, I would definitely keep it separate from my personal one. I recognize the need for strangers to see my work, but not my kids. As far as the demand for custom cakes, I meant that there aren't that many people locally that do it, not that there's no demand for it. The comment that I did not make enough for the wedding cake was dead on. It ended up being $4/hour. My husband suggested charging for supplies and ingredients plus minimum wage for hours worked...any thoughts on that? Thanks also for the advice about legality issues, that has crossed my mind, but I better start there, especially if I plan to advertise. Do you really think it's okay to advertise at charity events? Thanks again!
Where do you live? The local laws regarding home businesses will make a big difference as to how you proceed.
If she is making them for family and charging for supplies and a little labor I think it's ok. Most of us started from home, and illegally I might add, so that's just a risk that the person should know of.
If you do want to go fully legal, it can get vary difficult with the zoning laws and the zoning board. I know that a lot of people do this, but have you ever considered checking out some commercial kitchens you can rent out? Some churches have commercial kitchens. I have a friend who does her baking in a commercial kitchen in a church's basement...
If she is making them for family and charging for supplies and a little labor I think it's ok.
Agreed...it's still illegal (in most states), but the risk is low when dealing only with family and close friends. However, once you start advertising your business and filling orders for strangers (which it sounds like OP is doing) it becomes increasingly risky as your business has a much higher profile.
So I've done some research, and apparently here in the great state of Kentucky, it is not legal to sell from out of a home kitchen. I've thought about renting a church kitchen, however I have two small children (2yo and 7mo) which pretty much negates that option for the near future. I appreciate the supportive comments, and the thoughtful expressions of caution. At this point, I have not made any cakes for strangers, and I've only accepted money once. Perhaps I need to stay patient with the word of mouth approach for now, and see where that takes me. We all start somewhere, right? Thanks again everyone!
Jenajkay - have you thought about maybe doing some part-time hours at a local bakery to keep in practice and earn some money? Several bakeries where I am hire cake decorators to come in for a couple hours a day just to do their fancy cakes. That might work better for you with the littlies, but also satisfy the itch!
This document might help, it covers a lot of what you'll need to do to break into the food service business in KY, including rules for creating a separate kitchen on your property (assuming city zoning rules allow).
Unfortunately in states without cottage food laws you can't really get into this business casually, if you aren't ready to put a lot of time and effort into making your business successful, I would follow Evoir's advice above and work for someone else, or stick to doing cakes for free. Without liability insurance it's just not worth the risk accepting any compensation for cakes made in an unlicensed kitchen (outside close friends and family).
I am in Northern Ky, and I am starting a home-based commercial kitchen in my garage. It has to be in a space with solid walls and lockable door that cannot be walked through to get to any other part of the house, like the garage. It must also have an out door entrance, so a lot of basements won't work, but some will. I have been doing cakes off and on when I can for 20 years. I have sold quite a few privately, but like most people, it never occurred to me it was illegal until I joined this site 3 years ago. I post all my cakes on my personal facebook page and i have friends and family ask about cakes all the time. I do some business, but I only do it for friends and family and people at my church.
I once had a cake inquiry from someone I didn't know, who had no friends in common with me. I looked at their page and it was brand new. I told them I was not legal and couldn't accept money or charge for a cake but I would be happy to do it for a donation to my church. They never contacted me back and when I looked a few weeks later their page was gone. I am fully confident that it was someone trying to bust me! So, if you decide to pursue cake decorating illegally, you better watch your butt. And I don't recommend it at all.
I have really cut cakes out as much as I can, until I am legal and will occasionally accept an order from a friend of a friend, but it makes me a nervous wreck, so I only do it if we are REALLY tight on funds.