Sadly Closing Doors... At Least I Tried!

Business By kimbordeaux Updated 1 Jul 2011 , 7:59am by littlecake

kimbordeaux Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 12:39pm
post #1 of 61

I opened my cake shop in February this year. I was so excited. Now, Im sad. At first it was slow. Then business picked up. With the cakes I do, sculpted (carved, 3D), I can only produce 2 cakes a week. And this is only after being at shop 12 or more hours everyday. I cant afford to hire help because Im barely paying the shop bills. I cant up the prices of cakes because people in my area almost laugh at me (some have) when I tell them $100 for a sculpted cake that will feed 50. I have to keep dropping my prices to get sales. I was doing cakes out of my home but, I knew that was not legal so I opened the shop and started advertising.

Since opening my shop every other person in my small town has become a cake decorator. Except they are doing it from their home and advertising all over! Everyones going to the home bakers. Im basically doing my cakes for nothing and will not cut my prices anymore because I would not even be covering cake materials.

Oh, Im doing all this with my 7 year old at shop daily until her Daddy gets off work and picks her up. My heart broke when she started to cry every morning about going to shop. She said she hates it and wished it would close. When she said she didnt want to spend her summer vacation in the shop I realized that I shouldnt be making her do this everyday. The only area she can be in is in the front part of store. I have spent a lot of money on this shop but it cannot make it with only me working while Im babysitting a child that is bored to death for hours.

60 replies
btrsktch Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 12:52pm
post #2 of 61

Wow. I wish there was something more that I can say, but I know your decision was hard enough as it is. It's very tough to get in business, and I've been open 3 years, and its not getting any easier. I totally feel your sadness, frustration and pain.

Hugs.

asiancakes10 Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 1:05pm
post #3 of 61

we all think we have found a gap in the market for our cakes but is there a market in this gap is what we have to find out. Pride does not pay the bills maybe look at doing easier cakes for a cheaper price to aid cash flow and work from there, sorry if this comes out at being harsh but better than closing.

GarciaGM Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 1:12pm
post #4 of 61

It breaks my heart to hear that from you Kim. Especially the part about your daughter. You do some beautiful work. Please don't give up on caking entirely, it may just be that this particular approach doesn't work in your area, but perhaps there is another way you can continue to make cakes. Wishing you the best of luck.

coloradoflower Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 1:22pm
post #5 of 61

I am sorry to hear that I have to agree with Asiancake if you can only produce 2 cakes a week then made you should do simpler cakes, or made even cupcakes not sure if you don't already. That way if someone really really wants a 3d cake then you can ask for a little bit more because it would not be an everyday thing.

As to your 7 year i can understand how you feel, but how about setting up something where she can watch a movie on a laptop or even a psp, what about summer day camps. I don't how big your kitchen is but.....if she can be trusted why not have give her a little table out of the way where she can watch you do your cakes or if you can afford it give her own cupcake to decorate.

jason_kraft Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 1:24pm
post #6 of 61

Sorry to hear that you are closing down...as you've seen it is very difficult to be profitable with the added overhead of a retail shop. Have you considered looking at a commercial kitchen rental instead, where you would only pay for the hours you use?

Another option if you have a lot of sunk costs in your shop is offering it to rent on an hourly basis to other people looking to start cake businesses. This could potentially turn into a very lucrative business, especially if there are no other rental kitchens in the area. The swarm of illegal home bakers in your area can be dealt with by talking to the local health dept (assuming they are willing to do their job), you will then have a built-in market of former home bakers looking for a path to legality.

Pieceofcakebyrita Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 1:24pm
post #7 of 61

If you already have the shop and kitchen and all...have you thought about making more than 3d cakes? Like your typical baking? or offer more styles of cakes like slabs or general dessert cakes?
I do that and it pays the bills over and over and I still get to play with the 3d's??? Just a thought, that's all. icon_smile.gif

kakeladi Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 1:29pm
post #8 of 61

Oh Kim - been there, done that icon_sad.gif
I sooooooooooo know where you are coming from. The main difference is I didn't have any kids to worry about. I wholeheartedly agree w/you in the fact that your DD is so unhappy - she should, no make that *must* be put 1st.
Any chance you could rent the shop out to one of those 'cake decorators' swarming your town so when your DD is older, wiser and willing to be with you you might be able to take it back? That way you might not lose so much money over this.
May God lead you in whatever you decide.

Spuddysmom Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 1:49pm
post #9 of 61

Kim,
I'm sorry you're so discouraged. If your decision has not yet been finalized, Jason's suggestions are sort of brilliant- there is such a need for rental kitchens!You could certainly charge more than you probably realize to rent, while scheduling your own time for the 3D cakes you could continue. Adding cupcakes, etc. is a good idea also.
Working 12 hours a day is not unusual for a business owner, my BF worked 16 for the first two years - necessary for her business success, but it came at great cost to her family; you know what works for your family. If your DD has to spend all day, every weekday, at the shop you need to hear from others on creative options.
Whatever you decide - wishing you the best.

Nin55 Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 2:08pm
post #10 of 61

I can understand how you feel when people are surprised at your prices. Nondecorators just don't know how much time and effort goes into each and every cake.

what_a_cake Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 2:16pm
post #11 of 61

Kim, your frustration and sadness, specially for your daughter's feelings about your business are absolutely understandable... and I think right now you may feel like trying any new idea is unworthy. Believe me, many small business entrepreneurs have at least once had feelings like yours.

I would suggest you the same as other CC'ers before: diversify! Start making simpler cakes, even those without decoration, make this to pay the bills, look for a partner between the home bakers to share expenses. Also, take only orders for more complex cakes from customers that are willing to pay the price you think is fair.

On the other hand, open your heart to your daughter, share your dream and make her a little helper: assign tasks she can accomplice, put a small TV set or game station, bring books... anything. Long time ago I was in a situation very like yours... starting an Engineering carreer and caring for my 4 yrs old daughter on my own; every day I take her with me before 6:00 am and were back home close to 3:00 pm, the begining was rough but someone gave me the same advise, and I share my dreams with her she carried a bag of toys and play silent under my school table... everybody in the University get to know her and I learned to trust her and people around. She's 33 now and very proud to have helped mom to et a degree. My job is computer related and my passion is baking.

I say this with love and hope, so you take the best steps for you and your family. You're on my prayers thumbs_up.gif

ufo9978 Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 2:22pm
post #12 of 61

I am so sorry to gear about your DD. I know exactly what you are talking about I have been thinking about going store front too but my kids and long hours are keeping me away. I like rental kitchen idea and doing easy cakes. Don't worry about home bakers when your work is good it stands out. Hope everything works out for you and your family

kelleym Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 2:41pm
post #13 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by kimbordeaux

I opened my cake shop in February this year. I was so excited. Now, Im sad. At first it was slow. Then business picked up. With the cakes I do, sculpted (carved, 3D), I can only produce 2 cakes a week. And this is only after being at shop 12 or more hours everyday. I cant afford to hire help because Im barely paying the shop bills. I cant up the prices of cakes because people in my area almost laugh at me (some have) when I tell them $100 for a sculpted cake that will feed 50. I have to keep dropping my prices to get sales. I was doing cakes out of my home but, I knew that was not legal so I opened the shop and started advertising.

Since opening my shop every other person in my small town has become a cake decorator. Except they are doing it from their home and advertising all over! Everyones going to the home bakers. Im basically doing my cakes for nothing and will not cut my prices anymore because I would not even be covering cake materials.

Oh, Im doing all this with my 7 year old at shop daily until her Daddy gets off work and picks her up. My heart broke when she started to cry every morning about going to shop. She said she hates it and wished it would close. When she said she didnt want to spend her summer vacation in the shop I realized that I shouldnt be making her do this everyday. The only area she can be in is in the front part of store. I have spent a lot of money on this shop but it cannot make it with only me working while Im babysitting a child that is bored to death for hours.




Oh sweetie, I'm sorry. Was this your original business plan, to only do 2 cakes a week at $2 per serving?

I don't think home bakers are the problem, I think you don't have enough volume to keep your shop going. Like the others have said, cuppies, some basic 1/4 sheets or 8" rounds, those might keep people coming through the doors and bolster your cash flow and bottom line.

kimbordeaux Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 3:00pm
post #14 of 61

Thank you everyone! Im not trying to sound cynical but I have thought about or tried most of what is being said. I do offer more than just the 3D cakes but when customers hear $30 they still say, Wow, I can get a cake from Walmart for less than that!. Then I say, But, theirs isnt homemade. Still doesnt matter to them. I was offering cupcakes in my display case but, again people thought $1.50-$2 was too much so I did away with that. I have tried all the above with DD also. I have TV and DVD player, stereo, handheld game and when no one is in shop I let her decorate cakes with the scraps and leftovers (DHEC will not allow anyone under 14 in prep area and then they have to be an employee).

Im also frustrated because my sister has 2 children my DDs age and until a couple of weeks ago she lived within walking distance of shop and never once offered to help with her niece. My MIL is my neighbor (husband gave her the lot next to us that we bought) and works at the same school my DD goes to and she will not offer any help. Worse she circles the block daily looking in shop windows as she drives by does not stop unless my DD is outside and then she refuses to take DD home when DD asks her.

Im not sure if I can rent out shop as commercial kitchen since I rent building. The building use to be a barber shop years ago and has since sat vacant for years. Husband and I did all the work to building to bring it up to DHEC (health dept) standards, our money and labor. Which meant gutting the place and starting over. In exchange landlord didnt charge us for the months it took us to renovate and is charging me a low rent (compared to other rentals) and there was no contract.

I also forgot to mention another reason for thinking about closing. I was in a car accident a few years and should have died. Brain injuries and broken back were the major injuries. My brain injuries have healed, they thought I would die from those and it was a waiting game about that, and Im told Im lucky to be walking but, Im left with severe back pain. Standing up and hunched over a cake 12+hrs a day for 6-7 days a week is horrible. I take medicine but that is not working.

Bottom line, if I could do the simple cakes and make money, after paying bills, I would stick with it. But, I think its where I live. I live in South Carolina and everyone would rather go to Walmart than to me even though my cakes taste and look better. Im physically and mentally tired of trying but, I dont want to look like a failure, I dont want to throw in the towel so quick. Ill ask landlord about rental kitchen. Thanks yall, Ill tell you what landlord says!

jason_kraft Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 3:01pm
post #15 of 61

The real problem here is low margin...low volume is another issue, but without raising profit margins even a high volume business is doomed to failure. If $2/serving for a sculpted cake is still too high, it doesn't sound like OP can be profitable at all until the illegal home bakers are put out of business -- at that price the illegal home bakers are essentially running charities, giving their time away to customers for free. Legit businesses can't compete with that.

jason_kraft Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 3:06pm
post #16 of 61

Good to hear you are recovering from your accident, hope your back pain improves, I can see why you wouldn't want to continue baking until the pain is resolved.

Regarding renting out of kitchen, IMO this has to go hand in hand with getting the health dept to enforce the laws in your area. If illegal home bakers can operate with impunity there's no reason for them to rent a licensed facility.

The fact that you rent shouldn't be a problem, the owner of the rental kitchen we currently use rents the space from the building landlord. She spent $100K+ bringing the space up to code with multiple shared workspaces and is now pretty much filled to capacity with tenants, partly because the health dept here takes enforcement seriously.

kimbordeaux Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 3:09pm
post #17 of 61

Thank you JASON! That is so true. I was trying to do things the right way by opening a legit cake shop. I do live in a small town and the local police hang at the shop. They don't want to see me close and did offer some advice on the home bakers. They told me if I had proof of any home bakers in the city limits they would look to see if they had a business permit for me and they woud get fined if they didn't.

jason_kraft Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 3:12pm
post #18 of 61

Business permits are usually separate from the food safety inspection, so you could pursue both avenues. Another route would be looking at zoning ordinances, which in some cases prohibit commercial activity in residential areas.

Sassy74 Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 3:40pm
post #19 of 61

Oh so sorry, dear. I don't have any advice for you, just wanted to say I hope the best for you. My husband recently closed the doors on his own small business after 5 years, and it was both very hard and a relief. Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best.

carmijok Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 4:00pm
post #20 of 61

First of all, I feel your frustration!
Next I have to ask how are you marketing yourself? If you aren't actively seeking business from those who can afford and want nice cakes...and they are out there...then you're missing opportunities. Are you on Facebook? Just posting your photos and getting people to 'like' you help. Have you run ads? Posted a website? Joined in any community activities? If you are in a small town, becoming a member of your Chamber helps immensely. When it becomes a status thing for people to have bought a cake from you, that's when you'll see a demand develop.
If your cakes are truly delicious and beautiful and you do one-of-a-kind cakes, then people will start bypassing Walmart...or rather you'll be reaching the people who don't use Walmart and can afford your creations. Have you done wedding cakes? Try networking with wedding planners and venues who can recommend you...and attend shows as a vendor!
Hey, why not offer classes in how to sculpt 3-D cakes? Or have children's parties where they can make their own cupcakes.

Maybe start carrying sugar art products to sell! We have a store here in town that actually started as a cake decorating supply shop and she has added a kitchen and now sells cakes as well! It's wonderful not to have to order stuff online or go 100 miles out of town to buy things.

I'm just throwing stuff out there...hoping you at least consider all the things you can do to bring people in your doors...the RIGHT people...those who want the best and don't mind paying for it.

As for your daughter, you said no one has offered to help you...but have you ASKED? People can't read minds. the worst they can say is no and you're no worse off. Also, what if she had a friend with her sometimes?

I wish you well and hope you don't have to give up on your dream. Good luck! thumbs_up.gif

Win Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 4:06pm
post #21 of 61

I have nothing to add, but simply want to say your work is beautiful and clean. I admire your talent, and if people are not wise enough to see the difference between your cakes and Walmart's they are the ones losing out. I too suffer from back pain which is one of the main reasons I did not try to do this on any other level than as a hobby. I consider it a sort of ministry and give my cakes as gifts. God has been good and allows me the ability to do so, along with a supportive husband and family. That being said, I hate that your family has not stepped up to support you in this effort which truly could have been such a help to you. However it turns out, I wish you the best of all worlds, God's richest blessings, and a bit of His divine wisdom as to how to proceed.

tripleD Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 4:32pm
post #22 of 61

I know where you are coming from. I opened my shop in Oct 2010. It has been rough. I have not advertised. I live in a very rural area. When I inquired about renting a building the owner though I was nuts. The word of mouth has spread like wild fire. I am so busy now I can't see straight. I never though my buis. Would take off this fast. The first year is the roughest.

I only live a mile from my shop and my three boys are older. 10,13,16. They are best of buds they keep each other company.The oldest is my helper when I need him.He does dishes,sweeps and can even wait on customers. I am up to about a wedding cake a week and about 5-8 cakes.I also picked up a restaurant for 10 pies every Sunday. And another restaurant for 2 texas sheet cakes every week standing orders. The restaurants alone pay the rent and utilities.

Pieceofcakebyrita Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 6:15pm
post #23 of 61

I don't think that turning the table on the home bakers is such a good idea. Seeing as you live in a small town people will get wind of that and maybe make things worse for you. You know oh, she got my cousins friends in trouble I'm never going back, and that person has lots of family in the area, bad stuff like that can travel very fast and ruin a once wholesome reputation. icon_sad.gif
Try selling other baking as well as cakes like butter tarts, cookies, bread, everyday stuff that people buy all the time? People buy that stuff way more than they buy a birthday cake a couple of times a year, but some people will buy a pie, or tarts every week or so. Maybe focus more on Bakery products and just have the specialty cakes as a "Specialty Item"??

jason_kraft Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 6:19pm
post #24 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pieceofcakebyrita

I don't think that turning the table on the home bakers is such a good idea. Seeing as you live in a small town people will get wind of that and maybe make things worse for you.



Not sure how it can get worse than her current situation.

In any case, without illegal home bakers around OP would be the only option for custom cakes, unless the former home bakers want to rent space in her kitchen to operate legally. OP wins in either case.

crumbcake Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 6:49pm
post #25 of 61

I would try a cake supply store, and offer lessons to those home decorators. You could even host kids cupcake decorating parties. Try using your talent in that direction. Good luck to you.

Pieceofcakebyrita Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 6:50pm
post #26 of 61

I was just saying that if she wanted to try to resurrect her business that might not be the best course of action for someone living in a small town. I also live in a small town and believe it or not there are people that won't even go into certain stores because the owner of the building has done something or said something to a family member of theirs. I know is sounds crazy but thats small town living for you. You want to keep out of petty disputes when your a business owner in a small town, especially when you count on the residence to keep you in business, lol.

addietx Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 6:51pm
post #27 of 61

In the small town I used to live in, a local bakery donated a small birthday cake once a month to a listener of the radio station. The radio station would make the announcement several times a day until the listener was chosen for that month. The bakery shop got much needed publicity all for the cost of a small birthday cake.
Maybe you could try a donation to various businesses, functions etc, for the publicity.
If you are not working every day maybe you could trade "daughter-sitting" days with a friend.
I hope the best for you.

what_a_cake Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 6:58pm
post #28 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by carmijok

First of all, I feel your frustration!
... becoming a member of your Chamber helps immensely. When it becomes a status thing for people to have bought a cake from you, that's when you'll see a demand develop.
If your cakes are truly delicious and beautiful and you do one-of-a-kind cakes, then people will start bypassing Walmart...




WORDS OF WISDOM I should say icon_wink.gif

Really understand your feelings and working in pain sure is ex·cru·ci·at·ing, but please... please open your mind, listen and try to find what could work for you before giving up your dreams. If, after all, you have to close at least you'll feel much better regarding the sadness of closing so soon.

JessiesCreations Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 7:33pm
post #29 of 61

I just started cake decorating myself but I do own a police security business and much like the issue your having, our business had to diversify to increase business. We initially wanted to provide security to corporate contracts but the demand has actually been from apartment communities and neighborhoods requesting increased patrols.

Although we are in different industries, fundamentally- business is business and you have to role with the punches and cater to your customer...think supply and demand. There are so many great ideas on here on how you can realistically keep your business afloat but another one is to contact local schools and churches.

I love the idea someone had about teaching classes and now is a great time..contact some local summer camps or daycares and set a rate per child. I pay $8 a week for my child to go on the tumble bus and I would certainly pay $10 or more for them to have fun with cupcakes.

Since you have a storefront, I would venture to say you are also insured which is a huge plus when competing against homebakers. Participate in fundraisers where the church or school gets a percentage of profits, offer more sweets at your store that are inexpensive to make but give you a good return...cupcakes are huge right now and are very low-stress. Good luck to you!

kimbordeaux Posted 29 Jun 2011 , 7:41pm
post #30 of 61

I offer a few things at shop, the more expensive sculpted cakes, plain buttercream, pound cake, cookies. I live in small southern town... population 607. Would post the town I live in but I know of a couple home bakers from here that are on CC. As Jason stated, it can't really get worse. And honestly, I'm the kinda girl that really doesn't care what others think.

I'm also getting fed up with trying to get a head in life and barriers always appearing for me to have to climb. Truly, I hate the stupid no baking and selling from home laws and think you should be able to bake from home if the customers are aware of this. BUT, the laws exist and I abide by them so why shouldn't others have to do the same? I also hate taxes but, gotta pay them too! lol.

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