I was just wondering how you handle having a home based business and cake consultations when you have a family/ normal house stuff going on at the same time. My kids are older so that is not the problem(they are really helpful and make my life easier)
I have really gotten organized with my business and keep things in certain places but it is the every day stuff that makes me crazy! I have gone to only doing consults on certain days, but it seems it is hard to keep up with the clutter and making sure things are put away for when my people arrive.
I keep up with the general cleaning but I find it difficult to keep up with the personal belongings when I have consultations scheduled. How fussy do I need to be? I mean we actually live here! LOL
What kinda sparked these thoughts lately is when I have a consultation and I feel like the customer is looking around like they are judging you by the fact that you have books piled up on the end stands and mail on the desk or just that we live in a middle class home, comfortable but not ritzy. Some customers seem to click and we can chat like old friends and others make me really uncomfortable. Like we are in different classes and they look down on me. Do you worry at all how you are perceived?
Just a little info to explain how things work here. We have an open concept where you can see all the way through the kitchen, dining and living room. I do my consultations at the dining room table and have easy access to the computer to make copies, do searches and such. There is no hiding behind walls here!
I have read where some do consults out of the house but how do you deal with samples then. It seems like it would be a lot of work to do that.
Thanks in advance for your thoughts! I have gained so much knowledge form all you fellow decorators out there!
Thanks again, Deena
I always do the consultations at the customer's home. I bring the samples on a covered platter, pack plates, forks and napkins and my paperwork and take it over in a tote bag. This has worked for me very well. I have 4 kids from 10 down to 2. There's no way I could do consults in my home either.
I think they look at the house as to its cleanliness and attention to detail. I have a separate entrance to my bakery, but I never use it. The walkway is on a decline and I just think it's easier to bring them in the front door. That impression of how you keep your house is important. The client has to walk by my "Beware of Pit Bull" sign and the dogs are going crazy in the dog run. But my house and my bakery are spotless. They can see that not only am I a pet owner, but that even with pets, cleanliness is a priority in my home and the bakery.
My kitchen is separate, but I can get to it through my house. Both entrances are approved by the HD and it conforms to FDA standards. The way my house is set up, the ground floor can be a separate residence.
So yes, they are judging you. Books and mail are so simple to put away. I would suggest that you take the time to find places for the stray stuff and make the best impression you can. Make sure the windows are clean.
My bakery smells like cake all the time, but I usually add a pot of simmering spices on the stove for the effect. I check lighting, the restroom, and all surfaces before the client arrives. Our property is wooded and I always get the leaves off the porch right before arrival.
Sometimes I'm busy and if a client needs to drop by after the first visit, I always say yes to unscheduled visits. I think the condition of the house and bakery are important to clients. The bakery stays organized and ready for the HD or clients at all times.
I, too, have 4 kids and I am a terrible house keeper! When I had consultations in here, I spent the entire day before cleaning and decluttering. I fed the kids and sent them to the basement. But there were times my husband got fed up with a long consultation and started dinner! We have a very open plan and you can see the kitchen and living room from the dining room.
Now that I have a separate area, I close the inside door! I have the front corner set up for consultations and I keep it clean. And the health department frowns on me letting people use the restroom, so I tell them sorry no!!
I should have noted that I have a teenager like the OP. It would be harder with little children.
I have a home bakery also (no kids, though). I have all of my consultations at my house. We have an open floor plan with the dining room in the back of the house. So clients walk past everything to get to the table I have set up for them. I put my display cakes out on the island in the kitchen.
I like clients to see where their wedding cake is going to be made. I personally would be hesitant dropping a lot of cash with someone that bakes from home without seeing their place. I know people that I won't eat what they make because I have see their house/kitchen. I think it puts people's mind at ease when they know the enviornment is clean and pet free.
Yep, home business here, no separate entrance, and the rest of the basement that the bakery exists in is unfinished, so consults take place at my dining room table.
And I have a 4 year old. She's well-trained, but she is still 4.
Having a home business has several realities:
1. Yes, they ARE judging you on your house. Especially since they are eating what comes OUT of your house. Can't really avoid it. My whole house design and color choices were based on what I thought would look nice both for my taste and what my customers would like to see. Scented candles, mood lighting, nice glassware, clean countertops are all part of the game. Find a hiding place for paperwork, books, dishes, whatever. I even make "scentless dinners" the nights I have tastings. They have to meet the low odor test or they don't get made.
2.Family needs to be made to respect your business. My hubby works long days, so my daughter is well trained to leave me alone during tastings. She has lots of snacks, books, and a DVD in our bedroom that has its own bathroom, so that she doesn't have to interrupt. Every once in a while, something will happen to the dvd, and people do understand, but it is very seldom. We have a tasting calendar, and my husband knows to check it each morning before work and clean up after himself a little better than he usually would.
3. If you don't want to have the hassle of cleaning the house every night, doing tastings and consults in clusters is a better way to go. For instance, 2 Sundays a month do back to back tastings, or whatever works best. You get to make the rules, so make rules that work best for you and will give the best impression of your business.
Otherwise, the other option is to meet at a coffee shop, book store, hotel lobby, whatever is most convenient.
Any way you slice it, tastings and consults are going to need to happen, so I've just accepted that my home will always be a part of my business, whether I like it or not, and that clients will take an impression away from it, whether I like it or not.
I too have an in home bakery built into my basement. I do my consults usually at Tim Horton's. I bring my cake, plates, napkins and forks. I have never had a problem doing this. I know what you mean about making sure the house is spic and span when someone comes for a pick up. I have a 2 and 4 year old and there are ALWAYS toys all over. But I just make sure that I try to get everything as neat as possible. Even with toys all over people can see if you are clean.
When I did consults at home I did them all in one shot back to back on weekends before deliveries. You absolutely need to clean up, even if it's only in the area where the clients can see!
My commercial kitchen doesn't have a suitable lobby (plus very little curb appeal being in an industrial plaza with a rug cleaner, body shop, window tinter, and screen print shop as my neighbors ), so i'm kinda in the same boat.
I do consultations at a Starbucks and bring along a sample box with cake circles and a palette of fillings and frostings. They can build their own cakes and flavor combinations from that. I find that Starbucks really doesn't care if I bring in a box of cake, we are usually buying coffee anyways.
I don't think I could do consultations in my house. I doubt that i could feel as though it was tidy/stylish/clean enough (i have two boys, 5 and 4), and I don't like having strangers in my home space.
I have a "bonus room" upstairs and it's separate from the bedrooms and it's above the garage. I use that as my meeting room. It's set up as a living room and is always clean because I don't let the kids play in there at all. They have the rest of the house so that's good enough. I whisk people upstairs when they arrive and they don't see much of my home, although I do tidy up but not majorly.
Thank you all for your replies!
I am grateful for your input. I agree first impressions are huge and there a a lot of challenges to having a home based business.
I guess the original reason this came to mind is to be able to make money, you need to take orders and the more orders, the busier you are and then it just makes it harder to keep up with all the cake and stuff and housework too! I do keep things clean and I am always washing counters and tables, sweeping and mopping floors but I just feel like I am in a mad rush when I have consults and need to take care of my family.
I had read on here about doing consults on certain days and had put that into practice awhile ago! It was huge, and I just tell people "sorry I can't meet with you on Friday afternoon" ( what are they thinking? LOL
Also I love doing them back to back, it is so much less work!
Once again thanks to those who took the time to give advice, it is appreciated. What a great community this is!
Rug or carpet cleaning is not the difficult task it can be solve very easily, use vacuum to do so after a interval of 2-3 days. Don't use any detergent powder or vinegar.
I meet in a public place for the safety of both sides: me and the prospective customer. I make a to-go tasting box and tell them I want them to be able to relax and enjoy choosing their cake. I want them to feel free to talk to each other about what they are tasting and it's difficult for people to do that in front of other people. I encourage them to take it home and share it with whomever they like. There is no tasting at my tastings. We go over all my policies, my pricing, what they are looking for, ideas, etc... Usually by the time we meet, they have some ideas about what they like. The day after we meet, I email them some ideas for their cake as ask them if they have any questions for me.
I try to make it all as stress-free as possible for the couple and I tell them, "It's cake! It's supposed to be fun!" I make sure to arrive a few minutes early to arrange my things and get in a friendly, calm, selling, business state of mind. I make sure to be the one who pays for the beverages. I've never had anyone object to meeting in public and they often say how nice it is to be able to relax with a beverage and to meet somewhere convenient for both of us. I suppose if they asked to see my kitchen, I would let them; but no one has ever asked.