Mentor Requests - Does This Happen To You?

Business By Motta Updated 22 Jun 2011 , 9:29pm by belle76

Motta Posted 24 May 2011 , 3:09am
post #1 of 36

Lately, I've been getting emails from people asking me to be their "mentor"! What?!

Just wondering if this is a common occurrence with those of you who have cake businesses?

35 replies
Loucinda Posted 24 May 2011 , 3:27am
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Yes, I get that a lot. I kindly turn them down and refer them to *storefront* businesses.

Motta Posted 24 May 2011 , 5:54pm
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Loucinda - did you ever think that maybe you could offer classes based on the interest shown in the email?

costumeczar Posted 24 May 2011 , 7:23pm
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I sometimes get those requests and I also turn them down. To see if teaching classes would be worthwhile you could offer to teach the potential mentorees for $30 an hour. The rate of hang-ups will give you your answer about teaching or not icon_wink.gif

Lovin_Cakes30 Posted 24 May 2011 , 7:52pm
post #5 of 36

What about kids who want to do their Sr project about cake decorating? I think they just need to meet with a professional in the industry once or twice and ask questions about the industry/business side...and sort of job shadow. I know I do this for srs at my dance studio who are interested in becoming dance instructors or choreographers icon_smile.gif but that is much different than people just wanting free lessons! Plus I personally know the students who I "mentor." Here our seniors have to do a huge project to graduate! Idk if it like that all over the country?

costumeczar Posted 24 May 2011 , 7:56pm
post #6 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lovin_Cakes30

What about kids who want to do their Sr project about cake decorating? I think they just need to meet with a professional in the industry once or twice and ask questions about the industry/business side...and sort of job shadow. I know I do this for srs at my dance studio who are interested in becoming dance instructors or choreographers icon_smile.gif but that is much different than people just wanting free lessons! Plus I personally know the students who I "mentor." Here our seniors have to do a huge project to graduate! Idk if it like that all over the country?




That's differnt...I'm talking about the people who call and say that they just took a cake decorating class and want to learn more by coming to watch everything that you do. Creeeeepy.

Lovin_Cakes30 Posted 24 May 2011 , 7:59pm
post #7 of 36

Agreed! That is weird (especially if it is adults!) and sounds like they just want free lessons!

Chonte Posted 24 May 2011 , 8:25pm
post #8 of 36

i agree it sounds like they are looking for free lessons. tell them to google, alot of places offer classes. my local culinary school offers cake deco classes to non students

hrnewbie Posted 25 May 2011 , 2:02am
post #9 of 36

I actually don't think that's creepy at all. Think of it more like an unpaid internship. Mentoring is widely used throughout the business world to develop skills, supplement the workforce (especially for work that's more low level and easy to delegate to a lower skilled person), and develop long-term business relationships. Why not in caking too?

Personally, I think it's a great idea. I'm banging my head against the wall daily as I try to make the jump from hobbyist to FT baker. I don't have real on-the-job experience (hobby baking doesn't count if I wanted to go work at a bakery) and I'm not ready to open my own place. I love baking and would love to help someone else in their business while learning more and enjoying what I do if only for a few hours each week. Working unpaid in a mentoring relationship both enhances my skillset, provides you with additional free labor, and sets me up for growth later on.

I would consider mentoring very different from classes.

costumeczar Posted 25 May 2011 , 2:09am
post #10 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by hrnewbie

I actually don't think that's creepy at all. Think of it more like an unpaid internship. Mentoring is widely used throughout the business world to develop skills, supplement the workforce (especially for work that's more low level and easy to delegate to a lower skilled person), and develop long-term business relationships. Why not in caking too?

Personally, I think it's a great idea. I'm banging my head against the wall daily as I try to make the jump from hobbyist to FT baker. I don't have real on-the-job experience (hobby baking doesn't count if I wanted to go work at a bakery) and I'm not ready to open my own place. I love baking and would love to help someone else in their business while learning more and enjoying what I do if only for a few hours each week. Working unpaid in a mentoring relationship both enhances my skillset, provides you with additional free labor, and sets me up for growth later on.

I would consider mentoring very different from classes.




I'd consider it an intrusion on my time and a definite pain in my butt. I work from home, and I don't have time to babysit and teach someone stuff for free. I understand the feeling that it would be nice to shadow someone and work alongside learnign, but why should I do that when it will slow me down, and the person will eventually end up being my competition when I've taught them everything they need to learn for free? For me personally it makes no sense from a business standpoint to have someone in my ktichen getting in my way.

If I was working in a commercial kitchen I'd take on interns, and they'd be doing things like the intern on Ace of Cakes. Washing dishes and sweeping the floors, then working their way up to covering boards and mixing color into fondant. Totally different from the idea of coming in and learning about cak decorating. I know how hard it is when my husband decides to come in and make himself lunch while I'm working... I can't even think about how aggravating it would be to have to explain to someone everything I was doing and maneuver around them while I was trying to work!

lyndim Posted 25 May 2011 , 2:21am
post #11 of 36

Costumeczar, I can totally relate when you said you don't like anyone hanging around when your in "your" kitchen when your decorating your cake. My family knows to stay far away from me when Im decorating a cake. I can get a little testy to say the least.

hrnewbie Posted 25 May 2011 , 2:27am
post #12 of 36

I can totally see that for someone who bakes from home. I was referring more to someone that has a storefront bakery. If it's you in your kitchen then no...mentoring's not going to work so well. icon_biggrin.gif

costumeczar Posted 25 May 2011 , 2:27am
post #13 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by lyndim

Costumeczar, I can totally relate when you said you don't like anyone hanging around when your in "your" kitchen when your decorating your cake. My family knows to stay far away from me when Im decorating a cake. I can get a little testy to say the least.




Well, seriously, you get in the "cake zone" and if anything breaks your concentration it takes much longer to get back into the rhythm of it. I realize that when I'm working I'm quiet, and it looks like I'm not doing anything, but I'm either counting, measuring, or whatever.

My husband is on a random vacation that he decided to take this week, and I was decorating a cake today. He kept coming in the kitchen trying to get water, stick his head in the fridge, etc, and it was pissing me off. GET OUT OF MY WAY! I know that he wasn't doing it to be malicious, but he's essentially walking around in my office and messing up my routine.

I can't even start to think of how annoying it would be to have someone like an intern there who you had to explain everything to as you're doing it. icon_eek.gif

cakeartbypam Posted 25 May 2011 , 2:42am
post #14 of 36

I've mentored two high school students, and that was with the permission of the bakery owner I rent space from to do my cakes. The first one was a total waste of time, and I was apalled that her teacher never contacted me with some of the comments I sent in. I would have been concerned if I heard that from a mentor. Goes to show that apparently it isn't that important to their final grade.

The second student was wonderful! I told her before I would even CONSIDER doing it again, both she and her mother would need to come in to meet with me and I told them both that she must be serious about this pursuit, or I'd drop her right in the middle of the program. I told her I needed her to put in a financial AND time investment (I wasn't going to provide her with everything she would need) and she would be given "homework" that I expected her to complete. She actually did more than I expected each time and excelled. Those are the ones you want!

The mentors are giving their time and their talent for free, and it should be respected. In both cases, I never heard from the instructor. I'm not sure that I'll do it again, though, as it takes so much time away from my trying to make my own living. It also makes the bakery seem much smaller with more people in it trying to work in the same space. It's a major time commitment, to be sure, and some weeks it's almost impossible to carve out a great deal of time to invest in someone else.

Sorelle Posted 25 May 2011 , 3:04am
post #15 of 36

I lead them to youtube. Tons of tutorials.

all4cake Posted 25 May 2011 , 3:38am
post #16 of 36

I do mentor hs students for their senior projects. It is frustrating to work with them only because they have a lot going on in their personal and academic lives to focus on doing the project. I have mixed feelings about the program mostly over its' weight on their graduating. I believe it's a great idea as far as the business community's direct involvement with the students.

Regarding the OP's situation, I had one contact me for paid position to learn. "I don't have any experience." "I've seen the cake shows and really want to get into cake decorating." "I can't afford to take classes." I offered to show her the basics of cake decorating. "I need a paying job." I told her I wasn't hiring.

I darn sure couldn't afford to hire someone who knew nothing

ilovesprinkles Posted 25 May 2011 , 1:33pm
post #17 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by all4cake

I do mentor hs students for their senior projects. It is frustrating to work with them only because they have a lot going on in their personal and academic lives to focus on doing the project. I have mixed feelings about the program mostly over its' weight on their graduating. I believe it's a great idea as far as the business community's direct involvement with the students.

Regarding the OP's situation, I had one contact me for paid position to learn. "I don't have any experience." "I've seen the cake shows and really want to get into cake decorating." "I can't afford to take classes." I offered to show her the basics of cake decorating. "I need a paying job." I told her I wasn't hiring.

I darn sure couldn't afford to hire someone who knew nothing




The same thing just happened to me, and the person who came to me is a Johnson and Wales grad. I am a SAHM and I *just* started doing this out of my licensed kitchen and she knows it. Good grief, I have no money to pay someone.

Blue0877 Posted 25 May 2011 , 7:40pm
post #18 of 36

I had a "friend" who asked me to teach her some cake decoarting tips. She said she wanted to work for me and said she could get me a ton of business. So I let her watch me make a couple of cakes and explained everything I was doing step by step...I answered tons of emails, texts, etc when she had questions practicing at home. Referred her to Cake Central and even (gasp) shared a couple of my favorite and most requested recipes with her. And wouldn't you know it...all of a sudden I stopped hearing from her and she opened up her own little "business". I would have still helped her had she been honest from the beginning but to be used like that has given me a great distaste for sharing my craft with anyone in the future icon_sad.gif

all4cake Posted 25 May 2011 , 7:49pm
post #19 of 36

I can understand why Blue0877.

howsweet Posted 31 May 2011 , 10:24pm
post #20 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue0877

I had a "friend" who asked me to teach her some cake decoarting tips. She said she wanted to work for me and said she could get me a ton of business. So I let her watch me make a couple of cakes and explained everything I was doing step by step...I answered tons of emails, texts, etc when she had questions practicing at home. Referred her to Cake Central and even (gasp) shared a couple of my favorite and most requested recipes with her. And wouldn't you know it...all of a sudden I stopped hearing from her and she opened up her own little "business". I would have still helped her had she been honest from the beginning but to be used like that has given me a great distaste for sharing my craft with anyone in the future icon_sad.gif


Wow - that's just awful.

asanchez Posted 31 May 2011 , 10:34pm
post #21 of 36

I think some are being cruel. I don't see a problem in mentoring, you get free help, and competition?? that's what keeps you alert and ready to go. My best friend took some Wilton classes and then she "mentored" with a professional baker who is very well known, she did everything, including washing dishes and everything else and she is so gratefull!!! she considers her "mentor" a godmother and would never compete against her. Her mentor told her that if she competes against her and wins, that shows that she was trained right.

so, be a little more welcoming, noboby is going to steal your business and it will feel good to help someone else.

Happy caking!!! icon_smile.gif

jules5000 Posted 31 May 2011 , 10:51pm
post #22 of 36

blue0877, I am sorry that someone would do that to you. That was totally wrong of her to do that.

I just recently helped a young friend of mine who didn't have enough money to hire me so I helped her with tips and so forth one Sunday afternoon and I made her mints for her wedding. She paid me to do that. She is a very sweet young woman who I have known about 10 years. I am so happy that she found a wonderful man and they had a beautiful wedding. I felt honored that her cake turned out so well.... It showed me that she really listened to what I told her and did research on it and I also loaned her my pans. Her family has been wonderful to me and I was happy to do it. I am 99.9% sure that she would not be interested in doing it full time, but even if she was she would be honest with me about it. She has two young daughters and she might be able to make them fun cakes, but more than likely when she can afford it she will ask me to do the cakes. That is just the type of person she is. I imagine that More the 80% of the young people that would ask would not turn out to be dishonest that way.

Someone mentioned someone asking to be a paid staff while they learned. They knew nothing. Here is a suggestion for what it is worth. Tell this young person that right now you could not pay them to learn. If they want to learn the business that you would be glad to talk to them abut a schedule that could work for both of you and you would be willing to teach them what you know, but in return they must be willing to give something of themselves. Say for example that they would come in and clean for you once a week or twice. This would be their way of paying you for your knowledge and expertise. If you did have the money to hire someone, you could also tell them that when they had worked for you up front for about 6-9 months that you would consider letting them come in and learn from you on a time that was not on the clock. this way they could prove themselves. If they are really interested in learning cake decorating and want to do it for a career then they will find a way to jump at the opportunity. Also they will find ways to help you out that are over and above their job duties when they are on the clock. Don't give up on the idea of mentoring just be clever in the way you go about it.

ConnieJ Posted 31 May 2011 , 11:00pm
post #23 of 36

lyndim/costumczar - about being in the "cake zone"...those are the times my husband decides to come over and give me a great big hug and kiss. now, those are wonderful...but it is always while i've just gotten into the momentum of my task and it is so hard to appreciate and feel lovey when your concentration has been broken! icon_smile.gif

costumeczar Posted 31 May 2011 , 11:08pm
post #24 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by ConnieJ

lyndim/costumczar - about being in the "cake zone"...those are the times my husband decides to come over and give me a great big hug and kiss. now, those are wonderful...but it is always while i've just gotten into the momentum of my task and it is so hard to appreciate and feel lovey when your concentration has been broken! icon_smile.gif




Oh, you're so right...My husband has the knack of calling me from work whenever I'm working and my hands are covered in crisco. I always answer because I think that if he's calling it must be something important, but it never is. Today he called to ask how long an eye doctor appt lasts. I told him I don't know, we go to different eye doctors. icon_confused.gif He said "but you take my mother to the one I'm going to." So I said that it could take anywhere from 1/2 and hour to three hours, because that office is really slow. So after quizzing me some more, hs says "I'm not going to that location, I'm going to their other office anyway." So he had basically called to interrupt me to ask me a question that I can't answer. I just don't get it.

SweetDreams98 Posted 1 Jun 2011 , 6:13am
post #25 of 36

I can see both sides of this argument. Rather than being upset by this, I would have taken the request(s) as a compliment and if you couldn't see sharing your home kitchen with someone who was wanting to learn from you (understandably so unless you have an enormous kitchen) politely declined the request. This is something I have always wanted to do, I'm doing everything I can to improve my skills...this includes paying for classes, trolling youtube as well as this site for tutorials, looking at pictures of cakes, attending shows to see techniques others have used etc...
I have used the same specialty baker for all my cakes I've ordered over the past few years. She is very well respected and I have asked her for suggestions on where to start with my education, she was more than helpful and advised me of monthly meetings for cake decorators in the area. I have talked to several cake decorators in the area...I don't want to step on anyone's toes and besides, you never know when you may be fully booked. Having a good relationship with another business owner can afford you the luxury to send business their way if you're over extended and for them to do the same to you. Personally I see it this way...I get to make people happy with sugar, flour, and sparkles. The business world is tough but it never hurts to build bridges rather than burn them. Just my two cents. icon_smile.gif

indydebi Posted 1 Jun 2011 , 7:49am
post #26 of 36

There's a difference between "mentoring" and "taking them to raise". there's a difference between an intern working thru culinary school or needing to intern as part of their hospitality degree program and those who "just want to learn" because they dont' want to pay for the class at Michael's.

Even with my paid employees, sometimes it was a pain to work around them as I tried to get things done. (Had one who couldnt master dipping strawberries in chocolate. Seriously. I had to stop 4 times to show her how to NOT scrape the berry around the edge of the bowl, and point out AGAIN that she just needed to get more chocolate when she was running low! She also couldn't master scooping cookie dough. Do you know how long it took me to show her how to use a cookie scoop? Geesh!)

SweetDreams98 Posted 1 Jun 2011 , 6:54pm
post #27 of 36

Wow Indydebi...I'm guessing she was in the wrong line of business then! It's like anything...some people want a free handout and others are genuinely interested in learning something. Typically you can tell just by the way you're approached. As for not being able to dip a strawberry or drop some cookie dough? I guess some people can't be helped.

Katiebelle74 Posted 1 Jun 2011 , 7:39pm
post #28 of 36

Yes I have to say the one that irks me most is the "I want to come watch you" thing. IF I had a BIG shop with LOTS of employees and more busy work I needed help with I would take local J&W externs. Who do a lot of work in exchange for some hands on experience. But people who want to do what?!?!... bring a bowl of popcorn and "watch me" NO!!! I am NOT a reality T.V. show here for your amusement and not even get paid for this frustrating "break you out of the cake zone" and take up extra time inconvenience. Now if I got paid what those reality show people get paid per episode to be "watched" I could afford to be slowed down and thrown out of my zone!! LOL. When your working really hard, focusing intensely on something and under strict time constraints can I come watch you for free?

costumeczar Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 12:17am
post #29 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiebelle74

Yes I have to say the one that irks me most is the "I want to come watch you" thing. IF I had a BIG shop with LOTS of employees and more busy work I needed help with I would take local J&W externs. Who do a lot of work in exchange for some hands on experience. But people who want to do what?!?!... bring a bowl of popcorn and "watch me" NO!!! I am NOT a reality T.V. show here for your amusement and not even get paid for this frustrating "break you out of the cake zone" and take up extra time inconvenience. Now if I got paid what those reality show people get paid per episode to be "watched" I could afford to be slowed down and thrown out of my zone!! LOL. When your working really hard, focusing intensely on something and under strict time constraints can I come watch you for free?




Ha! This reminded me of last summer when my best friend and her kids came to visit. I had a little cake to do while they were here, and while I was working they actually pulled up chairs and sat there to watch! I told them they were weird, but my friend genuinely finds it super interesting because she is NOT a cook at all, and she never sees any kind of decorating being done. Her daughter wants to learn how to bake, so she found it interesting for a different reason, but I thought that it was funny to have a little audience.

jules5000 Posted 2 Jun 2011 , 2:47am
post #30 of 36

Sometimes no matter how good you normally are if there are people watching you all of a sudden you get to be 10 thumb suzie or other things that normally go smoothly do not go that way. It may not be that way with you,
maybe you just are not used to people watching what you are doing. It makes it a little weird in the sense that you can not completely concentrate on what you need to do because you have people watching you work and
when you are not used to it, it kind of can make you nervous.

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