Tell Your Story....

Business By smr91481 Updated 29 Feb 2012 , 8:37pm by jason_kraft

smr91481 Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 12:45pm
post #1 of 30

I want to hear your story of how you got your cake business started. What I mainly want to hear is the story of people who started making cakes out of their home, legally or illegally, and eventually turned it in to a legit business. How did you do it?

I also wouldn't mind hearing about the people who started legally, from home or opening a store.

Selling illegally from home still while working on a plan to be legit? I'd love to hear it.

Selling from home and like it that way, with no plan or desire to become a business. Tell your story also.

Can we please not get the debate on whether or not it's right to sell cakes from your house without a license going? I see from a search that it's been debated over and over again.

29 replies
Piece_acake Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 1:13pm
post #2 of 30

I started off illegally.
That being said, it was 6 or 7 cakes before I did any research into owning my own business. Like many people, I thought there was nothing wrong with it. It was only when I started researching and came across this site that I realized that what I was doing was in fact illegal. It wasn't very hard to find a church kitchen in my town that would rent to me by the hour so that's what I did next. I became licensed and sold cakes for 2 years before I was able to save up enough to build a kitchen in my basement that I had health inspected. We just finished it 4 months ago and already our business has more than tripled because we are able to properly advertise.
Hope that helps icon_smile.gif

mplaidgirl2 Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 1:15pm
post #3 of 30

I started my cake journey because I wanted to make my niece her first birthday cake. I practiced at home but with only a month practice it wasn't happening... so I made cupcakes. About 6 months went by. I made cupcakes for birthdays, work events (all unpaid... basically they got my experimenting on flavors cupcakes) I took the wilton Fondant class because I was too afraid to cover a cake. After that class I saw how easy it was. Did a small pratice cake for the guys at my job. Then moved onto the Dora cake you see in my album for my nieces 2nd birthday! After that I start charging for cakes. My Aunt owns a food company business so I was baking out of her kitchen under her business name. . Its been working out great for me so far. I do have a full time job so cakes are just my weekend gig. But I love the pratice. Been at it about a year now

jennifercullen Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 4:04pm
post #4 of 30

I came across this post from seeing your other thread... I started off illegally, I'm in the UK so it might be a bit different. I started making cakes for f&f in march last year, and it was a good few months of making them before I ended up doing them all the time (I have 2 young kids, so could only work on them in the evenings and I was working on them almost every night) and thats when I though ok, I'm going to have to start charging a bit extra, so I started adding on £10 or so for every cake, then eventually I started getting requests from people who were friends of friends but people I didn't actually know. I'm in the process of becoming legal now, I did a business course locally and am due to register as a business in april this year (simply because I dont want to have to do a tax return for the sake of a month or 2). I work from home, so as yet am not inspected. I wish there was somewhere around here that I could hire a kitchen, but unfortumately there isn't! It really depends on how far afield you are going to go. I know people say if someone gets sick etc etc, but in reality if she is only making cake with buttercream/fondant its unlikely (not impossible) because they are pretty stable. Its using whipped cream etc that invites more potential for bugs. If she is making them for friends and family, then I would say go for it. It is unlikely they are going to sue you or report you, and as long as they accept her price its fine. I did find when I was charging ingredients only certain people came to me all the time, whereas now I am charging more I haven't heard a peep from them but have gotten different customers. We all have to start somewhere, and I bet a lot of people have started off illegally and then become legal. I know most of the cake decorators in my area who work from home do or previously did so illegally.

jgifford Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 4:27pm
post #5 of 30

Just an observation - - I would be leery of confessing to doing anything illegal to an OP who just joined yesterday and has already started 2 threads about starting an illegal business.

I'm just saying .. . . . . icon_confused.gif

kisamarie Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 4:49pm
post #6 of 30

ANYONE talking about operating illegally, or wanting to know how to start a business without the proper liscensing and permits, on this website should run for the hills! You are fixin' to be recieved rather harshley from a large group of CCers who are staunchley(sp) opposed to this behavior and if they knew who you were they would call the authorities and report you without a second thought!

Just warning you! Be responsible, everyone needs to start somewhere, but please dont do it by risking your businesses livelyhood and your customers health. There are many things you should know about this business before you attempt to do it.

carmijok Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 5:18pm
post #7 of 30

My former employer worked illegally out of her kitchen for 3 years before opening her business. She became so successful she eventually closed because it wasn't fun anymore for her and her cakes were just being rushed out the door. She sold all her stuff so I don't think she bakes at all anymore!

At least I got to learn a LOT from watching the decorators. Now I do it for fun as a hobby baker. I'd like to get into some competitions but haven't as of yet.

jason_kraft Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 6:45pm
post #8 of 30

We started off making cakes at home in California, but only for R&D as we were developing scratch recipes, we donated everything we made during that period (except the failures of course). During this time I researched the legal requirements for selling food, finished up our business plan, found a commercial kitchen to rent, procured the necessary supplies, set up QuickBooks to handle our accounting, designed our web site (on a private server), worked out pricing, got liability insurance, lined up an inspection with the dept of health, filed for an LLC, set up an advertising strategy, filed for a business license with the city, filed for a d/b/a with the county, and met with the state board of equalization to confirm sales tax requirements.

This process took about 3 months and cost less than $5K, but almost all of that was recurring costs. When we finally got our inspection certificate I went live with our web site and sent out a marketing blitz aimed at our target audience. Things were slow for a few months but we got busy quickly and had to turn away orders as word of mouth spread.

All of the stuff I mentioned is still needed when starting up this kind of business in a CFL state, except for finding a commercial kitchen (and possibly the inspection).

Norasmom Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 6:54pm
post #9 of 30

I make cakes for my family. It was a hobby, but now that I have all the stuff and really enjoy making cakes, I have filed to become legal. I intend to stay small, out of my home, and only do 1-2 cakes a week, if that.

jenmat Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 7:28pm
post #10 of 30

I started in Iowa (was working also at a large bakery), where there isn't much enforcement, so the HD said as long as the cakes I made weren't filled with perishables, then I was fine.
When I moved to WI, I was quick to find out I was in trouble if I did it out of my home. I needed a separate kitchen.
Just so happened that we needed a house anyway, so we bought some land, built a house, and put the licensed kitchen into the basement, all on the home loan. Since then I've paid it all back (the extra on the loan) and have been as successful as I want to be.
The number of weddings I did before my license:3
I wanted to do more, but my conscience just wouldn't let me. The 3 weddings I did do helped pay for a few supplies, but I just couldn't get past the "under-the-radar" thing.
I wanted to specialize in weddings, so to operate illegally just wouldn't work for very long. I suppose if it was just birthday cakes it would have been fine for quite a while.
However, that said, now that I am legal, I really don't like the thought of those who don't have my costs undercutting pricing. I have worked really, really, really hard to make a profit at this and I can understand why others get upset by those who are under the radar.

Debbye27 Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 7:31pm
post #11 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by jgifford

Just an observation - - I would be leery of confessing to doing anything illegal to an OP who just joined yesterday and has already started 2 threads about starting an illegal business.

I'm just saying .. . . . . icon_confused.gif




My thoughts exactly! icon_rolleyes.gif

smr91481 Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 9:18pm
post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by jgifford

Just an observation - - I would be leery of confessing to doing anything illegal to an OP who just joined yesterday and has already started 2 threads about starting an illegal business.

I'm just saying .. . . . . icon_confused.gif




I can understand if this is the case for some people. If so, then they shouldn't post it. I've been reading the forum for a few weeks from my wife's acct but created this because I didn't want to post as her.

jason_kraft Posted 28 Feb 2012 , 10:18pm
post #13 of 30

It's probably a good idea to refrain from admitting to anything illegal in a public forum period, especially if your online identity can be traced back to your real identity (this is often easier than you think, often just a screen name is enough).

smr91481 Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 12:09am
post #14 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

It's probably a good idea to refrain from admitting to anything illegal in a public forum period, especially if your online identity can be traced back to your real identity (this is often easier than you think, often just a screen name is enough).




I hear what you're saying Jason, but it's commonly talked about on these boards. I don't think illegal cake selling is being taken action against. I certainly wouldn't expect people to go online and admit to assault, but people talk about selling cakes without licensing from home so much on this board that it doesn't seem like they are very worried about it.

It's probably for another thread, but I'd also be curious to know if anyone has ever actually been caught... and what exactly happened if they were.

jason_kraft Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 12:55am
post #15 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by smr91481

I hear what you're saying Jason, but it's commonly talked about on these boards. I don't think illegal cake selling is being taken action against.



Not sure what you're basing this opinion on.

Quote:
Quote:

I certainly wouldn't expect people to go online and admit to assault, but people talk about selling cakes without licensing from home so much on this board that it doesn't seem like they are very worried about it.



The fact that many people are not worried about it does not necessarily mean there is nothing to worry about.

Quote:
Quote:

It's probably for another thread, but I'd also be curious to know if anyone has ever actually been caught... and what exactly happened if they were.



I can't speak to people getting caught here, but I used to participate in a discussion forum related to Finance, and the SEC did get involved on more than one occasion and busted people who posted about their illegal money-making schemes. The terms of service of just about every message board say that they will cooperate with any government agency trying to find your identity.

But when you're talking about the health department, if someone was running an illegal business they should probably be more worried about their competitors (or even someone they have a disagreement with in the forums) reporting them than the relevant agencies finding out on their own.

smr91481 Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 2:25am
post #16 of 30

By the way... thanks for those of you who have shared your stories so far. I love hearing that there are people out there who started from home and worked it into a real business.

mplaidgirl2 Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 2:57am
post #17 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by smr91481

By the way... thanks for those of you who have shared your stories so far. I love hearing that there are people out there who started from home and worked it into a real business.



Your welcome! The legal thing is always going to be a huge debate on here. Honestly you need to start somewhere. Making cakes and not charging sucks because of the time and $ that goes into it.

I can't see a time ever on here where people asks about being legal or about pricing that doesn't start some giant debate. I'm pretty new to this all but I try to help if I can

tavyheather Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 3:03am
post #18 of 30

I did cakes for only friends and family for 3 years. Only accepted tips or what would cover my material fees (yes I know this is still not legal), but morally I felt less convicted b/c I wasn't charging full price and I got to practice. Eventually saved up enough birthday/selling crap on CL $ to get the permit, and got the food managers permit for my mothers day/birthday gift from the year before. After much searching I found a sweet lady who rents her bakery for a STEAL to me which really helps when you're just starting out. I am now fully legit! Really slow going in the beginning but it's picking up. I know many start illegally but I am a rule-follower and it just wasn't for me!

smr91481 Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 3:24am
post #19 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by mplaidgirl2


Your welcome! The legal thing is always going to be a huge debate on here.

I can't see a time ever on here where people asks about being legal or about pricing that doesn't start some giant debate. I'm pretty new to this all but I try to help if I can




That's true, and I really don't want to get that debate going here. This is just the way we're going to do things because it's the only option until some food cottage law passes. We're not looking for approval or justification... just like to hear from other people about their journey.

jason_kraft Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 3:38am
post #20 of 30

If you do want to continue down the path of illegal baking you can limit your exposure by accepting cash only so there's no paper trail and refraining from advertising (no business web site, no business cards, no flyers, rely on word of mouth only). Try to limit your business to friends and family, but if you start reaching outside that audience you should have enough in the bank to hire a good lawyer in case there is a liability issue (depending on the area a few thousand to $10K would be needed).

Have the contact info of a few reputable bakers on hand so if and when you are shut down you can make sure your customers are taken care of. Make sure you are carefully tracking your income and expenses and you declare your net income on your tax return, the slap on the wrist you'll get from the health dept pales in comparison to penalties from the IRS.

Even though you will have a much lower cost base than real bakeries you should try to keep your prices in line with market prices. Severe underpricing puts a target on your back and will get you shut down more quickly.

mplaidgirl2 Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 5:10am
post #21 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by smr91481

Quote:
Originally Posted by mplaidgirl2


Your welcome! The legal thing is always going to be a huge debate on here.

I can't see a time ever on here where people asks about being legal or about pricing that doesn't start some giant debate. I'm pretty new to this all but I try to help if I can



That's true, and I really don't want to get that debate going here. This is just the way we're going to do things because it's the only option until some food cottage law passes. We're not looking for approval or justification... just like to hear from other people about their journey.




Exactly. Honestly I got lucky with an Aunt having a catering business. If that wasn't the case I don't know if I would be one of those illegal bakers. You need practice somewhere. And it really is an expensive hobby.

scp1127 Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 6:06am
post #22 of 30

This thread is rediculous. If you do practice illegally, at least have some common decency and keep it to yourselves. And please don't give any more pointers to aid in staying under the radar.

kelleym Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 6:33am
post #23 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

This thread is rediculous. If you do practice illegally, at least have some common decency and keep it to yourselves. And please don't give any more pointers to aid in staying under the radar.



icon_lol.gif

mplaidgirl2 Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 4:43pm
post #24 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by kelleym

Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

This thread is rediculous. If you do practice illegally, at least have some common decency and keep it to yourselves. And please don't give any more pointers to aid in staying under the radar.


icon_lol.gif




I don't think thats the point of this thread. I think the point is that it IS an expensive hobby and how people made it in the industry. My story may actually help someone. My Aunt did catering. But didn't offer desserts. She has a legal kitchen, licensed, inspected, insured and the cakes are contracted through her business I just make them. I took a food safety course on my own. She doesn't pay me an hourly wage. She gives me 100% of the money if Its a cake I contract or 80% if its a cake she contracts. This helped her build her business. I only make 2-5 cakes a month for her. She now has another baker as well. This might give other ideas to create partnerships like this. You need to understand everyone needs to start somewhere. I don't understand why we cant help other people with ideas of how they can make this thier career in the correct way. Honestly I make more at my day job thats the reason I haven't jumped in to open my own business. But this is my passion and I love doing it part time. My situation could be a great option for someone starting out or someone who wants to just do it as a side career.

jgifford Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 4:48pm
post #25 of 30

No, the whole point of this thread is to find out how to do it illegally. The OP is trying to find out how his wife can "have her cake and eat it too". IOW, how to make money and not be out all the expense - and time - to do it the right way.

jason_kraft Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 4:58pm
post #26 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by jgifford

No, the whole point of this thread is to find out how to do it illegally. The OP is trying to find out how his wife can "have her cake and eat it too". IOW, how to make money and not be out all the expense - and time - to do it the right way.



Based on the OP saying "This is just the way we're going to do things because it's the only option until some food cottage law passes. We're not looking for approval or justification", I would tend to agree. Any stories that involve doing things the right way will probably be discounted.

carmijok Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 5:26pm
post #27 of 30

As long as you have states that refuse to have Cottage Food Laws, you're going to have this problem! I live in a state that apparently listens to the lobbyists from large established bakeries who don't want people working from their home. They feel threatened by Susie homemaker who may want to sell a few cakes to friends. She may actually succeed and want to grow her business, God forbid! Competition! That is the situation here. One bakery in particular is making enough noise to have it killed in committee.

And here, there are no commercial kitchens around to rent . Besides, the numbers of cakes produced from small home operations probably wouldn't justify the rental cost anyway.

I worked at a legitimate bakery...storefront and all...and that's why I don't ever want to go into the business. Too much hassle. The business side and the growing demand killed the joy that the owner once had for baking and decorating cakes...something she did illegally for three years before opening!

Perhaps if there had been a CFL, she would have happily stayed at home and produced just enough for what she wanted to make. Now you have to invest thousands (which you may not have or be able to get), and go through all the BS of opening a shop when all you may want to do is sell a cake here and there to cover costs and make a little pocket change. Then if it's something you can prove to a bank that you can do successfully, then one would have the option of getting a loan to open that shop if they so choose. Now it's one way only. It makes no difference to me now because I'm happy as a hobbyist. But one day I might want to actually charge someone and I don't have that option. It's frustrating.

smr91481 Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 6:25pm
post #28 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Quote:
Originally Posted by jgifford

No, the whole point of this thread is to find out how to do it illegally. The OP is trying to find out how his wife can "have her cake and eat it too". IOW, how to make money and not be out all the expense - and time - to do it the right way.


Based on the OP saying "This is just the way we're going to do things because it's the only option until some food cottage law passes. We're not looking for approval or justification", I would tend to agree. Any stories that involve doing things the right way will probably be discounted.




No... Based on what the OP said this is not one of those "do you think it's ok for someone to sell cakes from home with no license" posts. That's not what I'm asking... I'm asking for stories on how other people got started, whether on or off the grid.

This is the last time I'll respond to anyof the negativity. Those people can just keep being miserable and I'll be just fine. And, again, thanks for those who have posted helpful posts. It's inspiring to hear your stories.

mplaidgirl2 Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 7:13pm
post #29 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by smr91481

Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Quote:
Originally Posted by jgifford

No, the whole point of this thread is to find out how to do it illegally. The OP is trying to find out how his wife can "have her cake and eat it too". IOW, how to make money and not be out all the expense - and time - to do it the right way.


Based on the OP saying "This is just the way we're going to do things because it's the only option until some food cottage law passes. We're not looking for approval or justification", I would tend to agree. Any stories that involve doing things the right way will probably be discounted.



No... Based on what the OP said this is not one of those "do you think it's ok for someone to sell cakes from home with no license" posts. That's not what I'm asking... I'm asking for stories on how other people got started, whether on or off the grid.

This is the last time I'll respond to anyof the negativity. Those people can just keep being miserable and I'll be just fine. And, again, thanks for those who have posted helpful posts. It's inspiring to hear your stories.




Miserable is right! Someone on here didn't like my opinion once on here and tried to report me like we were in kindergarden. Again. I'm kinda new to this world.. But if you ever have any questions feel free to PM me! And if you have any advice or tips for me its always welcome!

jason_kraft Posted 29 Feb 2012 , 8:37pm
post #30 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by carmijok

As long as you have states that refuse to have Cottage Food Laws, you're going to have this problem! I live in a state that apparently listens to the lobbyists from large established bakeries who don't want people working from their home.



I hear what you're saying, but that is a problem in all states. The difference in states that have passed CFLs is that they had enough support from pro-CFL residents to overcome the opposition, usually with a compromise like a gross income limit built into the law.

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