Business Owners - Formal Training Or Not?

Business By FairyCakeLuv Updated 5 May 2011 , 9:56pm by FairyCakeLuv

FairyCakeLuv Posted 18 Apr 2011 , 3:54pm
post #1 of 29

I have only been baking for about a year or so. I really started doing alot of baking from scratch over the past few months with my mom. We have had several comments from friends, family and co-workers that we should start a business. Neither one of us has gone to school for baking.
With all the raves we are getting, we have definitely thought about it.
I am just wondering how many bakers out there with a business have had professional training or if its just something they are good at. We are taking some Wilton decorating classes next month.
I have been doing alot of research on opening a business, so you may also see some more questions from me icon_biggrin.gif

28 replies
indydebi Posted 18 Apr 2011 , 4:05pm
post #2 of 29

on the decorating side, I am totally self taught. Not one cake class in my life. while it is possible to do it on your own, there are lots of things I haven't done that I'd like to take a class to know how to do them. Add'l training or education is never a bad thing.

On the business side, I ran my own wedding biz some years ago (20+). In addition, I had decades of corporate background and experience under my belt that gave me business skills in HR, purchasing, logistics, planning, office management, customer service and cust svc management, accounting, bookkeeping, etc.

But again .... add'l training or education is never a bad thing! When you have the opportunity, either for formal classroom training, seminars, or just listening to someone who has been in biz for years .... take the opportunity and absorb it all! thumbs_up.gif

bakencake Posted 18 Apr 2011 , 4:32pm
post #3 of 29

I also have had this question before. I almost started a cupcake biz with a friend and no matter what i read and researched i feel that i still didnt know enough to take the risk. but then again i dont have the training and background as indydebi. the thing about me is that i knew that i didnt know, unlike my partner who had even less clue but thought she was ready icon_confused.gif

indydebi Posted 18 Apr 2011 , 4:40pm
post #4 of 29
Originally Posted by bakencake

the thing about me is that i knew that i didnt know,

and THAT can be the greatest asset of all! I've told a number of friends, "As much as I knew, as much background as I had, there was still a lot of on-the-job learning that I went thru! icon_wink.gif

That's why I advocate all of the training and educ one can get ahold of. Its a constant learning process! thumbs_up.gif

jason_kraft Posted 18 Apr 2011 , 6:20pm
post #5 of 29

It really depends on how you learn and what you want to offer. If you're just going to focus on decorated cakes you are probably fine with Wilton decorating classes. If you want to expand your repertoire to include more premium pastries or you are focusing on a specialty market some formal training might be useful. For example, my wife (who does all the baking for our business) completed a formal baking and pastry program at a local culinary school, and it has helped quite a bit in terms of the specialty baking required for our business (we focus on allergy-friendly cakes: vegan/gluten-free/soy-free/etc.).

Don't forget business training. I handle the business side for our bakery, and my day job for the past 8 years has been related to finance so I have some background there. I completed my MBA last year and the classes have been very helpful in running the business, especially the entrepreneurship, tax, marketing, and operations management courses. You don't need an MBA though, many community colleges offer basic versions of these types of business classes.

leah_s Posted 18 Apr 2011 , 9:52pm
post #6 of 29

Formal training for me. MBA + Pastry chef.(culinary school)

cheatize Posted 19 Apr 2011 , 4:30am
post #7 of 29

I didn't know you hold an MBA, too, Leah! I'm about to graduate with a Bachelors in Business Management and a Bachelors in Business Administration. Honestly, I have learned nothing that I didn't already know from earning my Associates in Business Management and if these last two classes go well, I'll graduate Summa Cum Laude.

I think business knowledge is a must for any business owner. Whether you attain it formally or through self-directed learning doesn't matter as long as you are thorough. I feel the same way about decorating and baking knowledge. I love to learn and would love to take culinary courses but it's not in the budget. Gotta pay for all those other college loans first. icon_smile.gif

cake_architect Posted 19 Apr 2011 , 5:10am
post #8 of 29

i wish i would've known i was going to want to spend my life caking when i started college, i'm about to graduate with my bachelor of science in engineering and its not going to help me one bit :/ people always say "well it'll help with the structure of the cake!" but i'm like no, intro to engineering course my freshman year would have helped. all my upper courses are strength of materials, steel, concrete, hvac, ect- no help at all haha! that being said, i'm hoping to take a few pastry classes once i move to austin bc i'd really like some formal training icon_biggrin.gif maybe i'll take a few business classes too.... lol

scp1127 Posted 19 Apr 2011 , 11:11am
post #9 of 29

Just remember that 80% of new businesses fail. Lack of business knowledge is probably the biggest cause. Until I came to this site, I had not come across businesses started by people who were not masters of their trade. Many business owners are experts at what they produce and go into business thinking their product knowledge will be enough. On this site, we see many people who are not master bakers or decorators, and who also have little business experience. This opens up two problems. Not only does the person suffer from lack of business experience, but they are ill-equipped when new competition opens with a better product.

Both business and product knowledge are a must. Be as good as, if not better than all of your competition. If you don't have business education, community college and adult education are a good place to start. Do everything you can to stay out of that 80%.

beck30 Posted 19 Apr 2011 , 4:36pm
post #10 of 29

My business should be open in July (fingers crossed) and Its going in the back of my home. I haven't had any formal training but I'm aware of the economy so not only am i studying for myself I'm going back to school for business and art cause I not only want to keep ahead of my comp. but there's alot more to a cake business than cake. I start school next month I hope. Plus I'm taking sculpting classes and stuff that I can find around my town. I'm nervous but I've spent 4 years trying to get my ducks in a row and I don't want to get into something over my head. I have 3 kids that depend on me so I can't fail. If this is what you want try to educate yourself any way you can icon_smile.gif

FromScratchSF Posted 19 Apr 2011 , 5:14pm
post #11 of 29

scp1127, I couldn't have said it better myself!

I have a business background in accounting, sales and marketing, and my product was not something people were hot to buy. I hated my past life, and I hated finding new and improved ways to create need for the crap my company was selling... but it paid the bills.

It sounds like I was in a similar circumstance as you - no formal pastry school, no decorating classes, never even worked in food service before, but my cakes rocked. I decided to go for it. BUT - I am a really fast learner, I already had a knack for art, I can book-learn without sitting in a classroom, and I already had an understanding of baking. Add that to having 17 years of a business background and I've managed to do OK in my 1st year. But I spent a lot of time doing my homework: committing to a vision and mission statement (organic scratch baker), studying my local market for viability, determining a need in the marketplace, identifying my potential customer base and what their median income level is to see if they'd be able to afford my vision, figuring out local laws, micro-managing my start-up costs, perfecting my recipes to be consistent weather I make 12 cupcakes or a 100 person wedding cake, etc. I am constantly trying to improve my decorating skills and practicing all the time.

It sounds all well, good and romantic to just make cake for people, but this actually really really hard and really easy to loose money and fail. But if you are smart about it and really believe in your product, you can succeed! thumbs_up.gif

Best of luck,


CakeForte Posted 19 Apr 2011 , 6:19pm
post #12 of 29

I have a Master's in Communication and am always keeping up with my sales education via books, seminars, workshops etc. I'm self-taught as a cake decorator/ designer.

FairyCakeLuv Posted 19 Apr 2011 , 7:28pm
post #13 of 29

Thanks for all the input. I really hadn't given it much thought to do some business classes, it sounds like it sure would help! I do have some background in finance/accounting/sales, but I could use some more training for sure. I think if I took some more classes and worked on my baking for a little while longer, I could be in good shape. I am definitely going to give it time and alot of thought before I just dive into it though. It is a huge step to take!

Erdica Posted 19 Apr 2011 , 7:33pm
post #14 of 29

There are a lot of great bakers who have no formal training. And there are a lot who have been to school. I think personally for me, baking is something I've been doing since I was little. It comes naturally. I love all things food related. I took a couple local classes and hit the ground running. I want to go and get my pastry certificate just to have a more refined look as well as learn some classes about management and payroll and all that. I think it would just give me a better idea. I don't think there is ANYTHING wrong with getting in the kitchen and just letting the frosting fly! A lot of learning is trial and error and some of that you can't learn at school. And I also think that there is ALWAYS room for more learning.

scp1127 Posted 20 Apr 2011 , 12:14am
post #15 of 29

FromScratch, I actually did not answer the OP's question. I have a double major in accounting (concentration in cost) and economics (again, concentration in business production). When I was younger, I owned my own marketing company, concentrating on small business. When print media started its decline, I followed my first love, rehabbing houses. I got my contractor's license, and through a weird turn of events, it became an interior framing company for five major subdivisions outside DC. Then I fell off of a ladder and broke a vertebrae. My husband (also my doctor) told me he didn't want to keep putting me back together, and encouraged me to become a SAHM about three years ago. Dream job, right? I hated it. So this idea of an artisan bakery was born.

I have education and three susscessful businesses behind me. I come from an entire family of incredible southern cooks. The baking came naturally. The decorating, I have had to learn in the last two years.

From studying the internet, I am finding a huge growing market of incredible bakers, raising the bar in this industry daily. Anyone who cannot keep up may find themselves out of business in a few years. This industry will become saturated, and those who offer the best product at the best price will survive.

My best advice is to be a master at your profession, keep a close eye on this changing market, and never stop learning.

costumeczar Posted 20 Apr 2011 , 12:20am
post #16 of 29

I had some business training in that I had worked as a manager at a large department store in Boston, but I don't have formal business training otherwise.

Remember that baking and running a business are two entirely different skill sets. I wrote a book about starting a home business, and one person wrote to thank me after reading it because she said that she realized that she wasn't ready to start a business! That wasn't the result that I had anticipated, but I think it makes the point that a lot of people go into starting a business thinking that they're going to ahave fun doing what they like to do, and then they notice that there's paperwork involved! icon_rolleyes.gif

costumeczar Posted 20 Apr 2011 , 12:26pm
post #17 of 29
Originally Posted by scp1127

costumeczar, I purchased your book even though you said it may not be what I needed. There is one thing you stressed that is relevant to all of us. Be mindful of time management, especially on the things we like to put off... like the books. I may have been an accounting major, but it doesn't mean I like it. I just knew its importance.

It really would be a good idea for those in the planning stage to get costumeczar's book on She will have to chime in here because I forgot her real name. If she doesn't see this, I will get my book out and post the name and author. It is only about $12.00 if I remember correctly.

Well thank you very much! I'm glad that you got something out of it. I also hate paperwork day, it's tedious but it has to be done. You can go to my blog to get info about the book. I have one page dedicated to it. They also might be printing an excerpt in American Cake Decorating in an upcoming issue.

paulina69 Posted 21 Apr 2011 , 10:19am
post #18 of 29
Originally Posted by FairyCakeLuv

Thanks for all the input. I really hadn't given it much thought to do some business classes, it sounds like it sure would help! I do have some background in finance/accounting/sales, but I could use some more training for sure. I think if I took some more classes and worked on my baking for a little while longer, I could be in good shape. I am definitely going to give it time and alot of thought before I just dive into it though. It is a huge step to take!

Starting up on any type of business should always be given much thought because it not only requires deep interest but it also involves a lot of your time and money, not to mention the patience that you have to offer. You definitely have that passion to always innovate since you have a lot of competitors to think about. You can always join classes that could help you with opening up a business until you're ready. I took my time to really educate myself because I really find it important to be able to strive in the restaurant business. Hope all goes well with your plans. Goodluck!

buttercuppie Posted 21 Apr 2011 , 2:09pm
post #19 of 29

I have a Bachelor's Degree in Advertising and worked in the field for six years (most local restaurants) so that has helped me tremendously. But when I quit I didn't feel ready to just jump out there so I went to my city college's Hospitality Management program where I learned so much (food service, accounting, cooking, formal baking, etc) and actually got an Associate's Degree. The great part was that since they transferred in all my credits from my undergrad, I only had to take the culinary and baking related was the best time I ever had in school (besides a Bachelor's I also have a Master's in Corporate Communication).

I worked my way up at a custom cake company from just a decorator/baker to kitchen manager. That helped b/c I was able to see things from the employee side as well as owner side. I got experience in purchasing, ordering, inventory, time management, customer service...the whole thing. I was also able to see what mistakes where made and now I can try to avoid them myself.

Overall, all my experiences have helped me in my business because I now know how to run things they way I want to and really don't have to guess too much...but I still do guess on some things b/c frankly, there's always something new and you just have to learn to roll with the punches.

My advice to you in regards to the baking part would be to try to find an internship or a job in a bakery...just to get acclimated to how they function...sometimes people realize they don't want to deal with the hassle that owners have to...sometimes people just want to do the baking and decorating and then be able to go home and relax.

The business definitely have to count up the costs...both financially and personal (I currently have no life). It's a scary investment and honestly sometimes I feel extremely overwhelmed and there have been a couple of times where I've said to myself (at 3am)...I must have been out of my mind...LOL!

Not trying to dissuade you but wanted to hopefully give you a glimpse of at least my experience. of luck!

brittsaqtpie1 Posted 21 Apr 2011 , 4:30pm
post #20 of 29

This was a very informative topic! We've been debating whether or not to open ours up as a business or just as a cottage seller. I am going back to school this fall to get my Associates in Business Management (I only have 2 semesters left for my associates) Then I've thought about going back to get either my Bachelors in Business Management, or apply for the culinary school to have more formal training there. To me, I feel like having some type of degree is important, but it is also important to be 'book smart' and 'street smart' I am so far all self taught and have only been decorating for almost a year.

CakeDiva101 Posted 21 Apr 2011 , 5:59pm
post #21 of 29

My degree is in biochemistry and music. Not really baking material. For that I had the years growing up and watching my mom and aunt bake in Brazil. Then I went to the Cake Decorators Academy of YouTube lol and that has been my "formal" decorator training. I been a nail salon business owner for 25 years and that gave me a little bit of business experience but just the basics. I just finished setting up my cake business ( FINALLY LEGAL)!!!!!!! yayyyyy!!!!!! And I know I will need some help there. Between my comom sense, my lawyer and my accountant I will pull it off. ( maybe I need someone to help with my spelling too) icon_biggrin.gif

itsacake Posted 21 Apr 2011 , 6:14pm
post #22 of 29

After 30 years of cooking and baking, a couple of college degrees, and running my own travel business, I went to pastry school and started a third career. School changed virtually nothing about how I baked or decorated, but it gave me some validation in the eyes of my target market and gave me confidence that I knew what I was doing. That being said, it cost a fortune and I think it would have served me better had I taken the relevant courses at the local community college like buttercuppie said. Those include marketing, food theory, large batch baking, etc.

The school I attended did everything in small batches and taught almost no theory. Decorating was definitely not a thrust. I learned that more from Cake Camp and traveling to take courses with Earlene Moore, Ron Ben Israel, Lori Ann Belthen, etc. If you do decide on formal training, make sure you really check out the school and that the curriculum includes the business part, which takes more time than the decorating. Somewhere I read that if you start a business, you only spend 15 percent of your time doing the thing that your business is for. Every time I'm mopping the floor, doing the dishes, or writing a check to pay a bill I think about that. The amount of time all that "other stuff" takes is something they mostly don't talk about at school.

tonedna Posted 21 Apr 2011 , 8:04pm
post #23 of 29

I have a comunications College Degree and Fashion Design. I took just a few Wilton
Courses. The rest has been hands on training, trial an error. Lots of years doing it.
The success of a cake business will come not only by running well your bussiness, but
by doing clean work that will attract more customers and knowing how and where to market.

If I had to choose between culinary and business degrees, I probably woul rather do the business
Edna icon_smile.gif

scp1127 Posted 21 Apr 2011 , 11:09pm
post #24 of 29

There is one point we haven't mentioned. The level of education becomes more important as the level of investment increases. Anyone considering a storefront should not only have the education, but also experience. Not necessarily ownership, but at least upper management with a concentration in accounting and employee law.

If you plan to borrow money, you should have the same education as above.

If you are using savings to open from your house, there is little risk. The education will be a factor in how much money you will make.

If you are one of those people who ask how much to charge for a cake, how to find the health department requirements for your area, or how much it costs to get started, you are definitely not ready to be a business owner. The baking industry is no different than any other business. After you complete your mission statement, you gather information for your business plan. You must scout your competition, get contractor bids after you find your location, get icensed, check into taxes, insurance, cost for marketing, etc.. Someone with business experience does not ask these questions, they already know how to find the answers.

The last area is competition. You want to be able to keep up with, and hopefully surpass your competition. Education and experience are a must here. And I have said this before... this market will get saturated. This is evident by how many new businesses are on the internet with sites, blogs, etc.. Some baking businesses will fail in this saturation. Those with good business sense will survive.

MimiFix Posted 21 Apr 2011 , 11:52pm
post #25 of 29

FairyCakeLuv, as many posters have said, creating great baked goods or turning out incredible cakes is only part of owning a business. I began a home-based baking business more than thirty years ago. I had no business experience and the learning curve was steep. Make sure you understand the daily reality of running a business AND the reality of working with food. It's not the same as enjoying a hobby.

Good luck, Mimi

SpecialtyCakesbyKelli Posted 22 Apr 2011 , 4:45pm
post #26 of 29

No formal business training for me....or decorating classes... totally self taught. My business is going good so far. I suggest starting out small, doing just enough to be legal. That way you're not trying to keep your head above water with tons of overhead. I was lucky enough to have a house that belonged to my grandparents that I was able to remodel for my bakery. I had saved about half the money for the remodeling.
I wish I had more experience when it comes to taxes though icon_biggrin.gif

ConfectionsCC Posted 22 Apr 2011 , 8:28pm
post #27 of 29

I think I will answer to this one icon_biggrin.gif I am 100% self taught on culinary and business. I WANT so bad to take decorating and culinary classes, and I am begging my husband to finish his MBA to run the business side for me icon_razz.gif Did you know that the majority of self-made millionaires never had formal training? Yep! They found something they loved, researched it on their own, and worked VERY hard to make their dream make money! With that being said, if you have the opportunity to have formal training take it! Think of it as an alternate to learning the hard way LOL! (not that any of its easy, but I hope you get my point thumbs_up.gif )

tonedna Posted 22 Apr 2011 , 9:22pm
post #28 of 29
Originally Posted by ConfectionsCC

I think I will answer to this one icon_biggrin.gif I am 100% self taught on culinary and business. I WANT so bad to take decorating and culinary classes, and I am begging my husband to finish his MBA to run the business side for me icon_razz.gif Did you know that the majority of self-made millionaires never had formal training? Yep! They found something they loved, researched it on their own, and worked VERY hard to make their dream make money! With that being said, if you have the opportunity to have formal training take it! Think of it as an alternate to learning the hard way LOL! (not that any of its easy, but I hope you get my point thumbs_up.gif )

Keywords..working hard for something that you love!
Edna thumbs_up.gif

FairyCakeLuv Posted 5 May 2011 , 9:56pm
post #29 of 29

I have alot of great replies here - thanks so much!
I definitely have alot to think about. I'm just starting my decorating classes this week. Once I get the hang of that, I think I am going to look into the business side. I also have my mom very interested in this with me, too. We are just taking our time, doing lots of research and making sure we know what we are doing before we dive into anything!
I think it would be great for me to get a job in a bakery first as well. I have been at my office job for 14 years icon_sad.gif So I think that is something I will look into as well. Congrats to all of you who have succeeded!

Quote by @%username% on %date%