WestCoastGirl Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 4:39pm

I have been making cakes for almost a decade. I've invested a lot of time, money and practice into my recipes and skills. I also have recently gone into business. My problem is I have a friend - who is just learning how to make cakes - but thinks she is in business already - with no experience - only beginner skills - and no actual legal business. She keeps asking me for my recipes and keeps asking me for tips, tricks and all my trade secrets - outright asked me to go into business with "Her" even though I'm the one with the business. She gets very offended if mutual friends order from me and not her. She isn't good - with decorating or baking yet - and people are talking about her cakes negatively. How can I tell her in a nice way to back off and that I'm not going to hand her my business or acquired knowledge on a silver platter?

I feel rude not answering her questions but I can't give her recipes - I don't want to go into business with her and I don't want to give her all my secrets! She's even asked me to help her "make a cake perfectly" so she could show some lady who didn't order from her - that she should have! That's not a representation of her work - it's mine - and I wouldn't want her putting my work with her name attached to it!

Any advice on how to deal with this without destroying the friendship?

32 replies
ChristineCMC Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 5:06pm

Weill I'm not in business, but I just wanted to add that I don't think your friend is being fair to you at all. Maybe you could just tell her that she should take classes to learn all she needs to learn as you don't have the time right now to help her. As for recipes, just tell her that you don't give out recipes. Period. This is your business and as a friend she should respect you and it.

Just curios - If she is still new to baking and decorating, why is she trying to go into it as a business?

vgcea Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 5:16pm

I think there is a way to put a positive spin on this. First you must do some mind work of your own to be able to see a positive side to this. She sees success in you and is drawn to it. If you were a failure, you wouldn't have this problem. Be flattered. Realize that she is not true competition. Your skills and knowledge have elevated you to a higher level or market. I bet she doesn't charge as much as you can for your cakes and her cakes don't look as great as yours.

Then you need to find a way to educate her without straining your friendship. There are ways to educate folks without giving up your trade secrets. It's done here on cake central everyday. If she wants a yellow cake recipe, you can help her by offering some recipes you found during your research that were good but didn't suit your purposes; let her do the testing to find one she likes. Show her what books to read, introduce her to CC.

Educate her about how to run a business, and why handing out your trade secret is not an option, use coca cola as a example of how a company must protect what gives them a competitive advantage. Let her know that part of owning a business is taking full responsibility for the entity and its success. She needs to put her big girl panties on.

Explain to her that since you've been at this a while you will be willing to take a mentorship role to guide but no do everything for her.

Of course all of this depends on if you wish to save the friendship.

WestCoastGirl Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 5:18pm

She just got interested in decorating about 6 months ago. She is just lacking in the skills to even consider charging people at this stage.

She is wanting to go in as a business b/c she thinks she is really good and b/c she wants to charge the high end prices that a lot of cakes go for (from skilled bakers). Her and her husband want her to bring an income in from this. I don't know how to tell her that she may be "good" as in "you can pipe a simple border and stick plastic toys on top" but not good to charge people high end prices b/c she cannot deliver the quality needed for the prices she wants to charge.

Granted, it'll probably work itself out on its own b/c no one is going to pay her a lot of money for the cakes she can make. But I'm gearing myself up for her taking on an order that she cannot handle and having me "fix it" - and she can put her name on it - which I refuse to do.

She has a huge ego about her cakes and I'm trying to be a friend but there are going to have to be words spoken soon that are honest and probably not going to be pretty.

AZCouture Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 5:18pm

Friend? Really? Somehow it doesn't compute. I would lay down the law. "

"Look honey, it's great that you want to get going in this business. However, you're going to need to invest your own time in to developing recipes, creating cakes that match your skill level, and bring yourself up to par. Visit cake decorating websites, ask questions, and practice. That's what I did, and that's how I am where I am today. It would be UNFAIR of me to hand you everything on a platter and not allow you to experience failures, mishaps and try-agains on your own. No, I am not at all interested in partnering up with you, as I am ready for this venture on my own after investing MY blood sweat and tears, and must retain 100% control over it now, as I take the final crucial steps towards success. I wish you luck, and am always willing to provide suggestions on how to get answers to your questions."

Something like that, maybe not so dramatic, but ya know...

WestCoastGirl Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 5:20pm

Thanks Ladies - this has been a huge help. I've been so stressed out lately over it that I find myself avoiding her and I really don't want to be that way. I want to be her friend - but I don't want to be her business partner.

Lemmers Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 5:21pm

Oh my goodness- what a situation to be in!!!

I agree with the previous poster regarding suggesting classes etc due to your 'lack of time' to coach her.

Not quite sure how I'd tell her she isn't quite good enough to start selling yet- that's a tough one icon_sad.gif

With her asking to go into business with you, maybe just say you've done all your legal work and have built up a client base etc etc so basically things are working perfectly for you, and it would really rock your business boat to change something as drastic as that? Thats the only idea I can come up with I'm afraid!

Good luck whatever you do!

WestCoastGirl Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 5:26pm

I forgot to mention her husband has also confronted me about going into business with her. They bring it up every single time I see them and I am at such a loss everytime, I usually just say something like "well who knows, but right now is not the time". I wish I had more of a mouth icon_sad.gif

vgcea Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 5:32pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by WestCoastGirl

I forgot to mention her husband has also confronted me about going into business with her. They bring it up every single time I see them and I am at such a loss everytime, I usually just say something like "well who knows, but right now is not the time". I wish I had more of a mouth icon_sad.gif




Well, they will keep asking if that is your response. You need to shut that down immediately.
"I appreciate you for aking me, but my business is still very young, and my focus at this time is growth and stability. A merger or partnership is not an option I plan to consider." Or something to that effect.

It's not your place to tell her her work sucks or that she charges too much. Believe me, the market will take care of all of that. Just be patient.

rosech Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 5:43pm

You have to want to be partners with someone to be in a partnership. If you want to do things on your own, that is who you are. You are not even obliged to give a reason. If you do not have time to teach someone, be open about it. If you don't want to share recipes just give some links of whatever you tweaked along the way. Having said that I know being open is not that easy. But a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do. Sooner rather than later. You will cry and hug and move on.

All the best.

jason_kraft Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 7:04pm

Maybe you could sit down with this couple and help them write their business plan. Once they see the profit projections for the first year or two they may well decide to give up the "business" on their own.

Another option is to hire her as an intern, if you have the time to train her on the job that is.

ReneeFLL Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 7:14pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemmers

Not quite sure how I'd tell her she isn't quite good enough to start selling yet- that's a tough one icon_sad.gif




Suggest to her that she look at the photos of the other bakers in town that are skilled and ask her what she thinks of their cakes. Ask her what she likes and dislikes about them. Make commens about how well the flowers are made and painted, how smooth the fondant/buttercream is, how level the cakes are, etc. Maybe she will realize that her work is not up to par for the prices she wants to ask. Also, does she have many cake tools? Does she know how expensive it can get before she makes a profit?
Good luck with her.

Jenise Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 7:24pm

I don't know if you would want to do this, but for myself, I would mention that I have invested thousands of dollars not to mention the hours to get to where I am and that for them to become my "partner" they would have to be able to match that. We had to do this when my husband opened his business and someone wanted to be his partner and since he was unable to bring either the experience or the money to the table, we were just not interested.

And I agree with the suggestions about sharing recipies, I would steer her to the internet and advised her that what works for you may not work for her since you probably have very different baking styles, choice of ingredients, etc.

shanter Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 7:35pm

How's this:
"I have been thinking about your idea of a partnership, but I have decided that I don't want a partner at all. I need to work alone. I have spent a lot of time and money on setting up my business and developing my recipes, and I operate on the basis that anything coming out of my bakery/kitchen is my responsibility and representative of my knowledge and skill level. If you want to have a cake business, please be aware that there are regulations, licenses, etc. . . ."

Something like this, written by Leah_S in another thread (responding to someone possibly in a different state):
". . . the first thing you need to do is check your zoning/deed restrictions/HOA covenants, etc. to make sure that you can have a biz in your home.

Second you need to contact your Dept of Health/Dept of Ag to get certified/licensed if you are in a state that permits home kitchens. You might have a Cottage Foods Law in your state - I just don't know.

Then you should get liability insurance.

Then you might want to think about setting up banking accounts, booking procedures and of course, look into incorporating. You might be able to put that off, but it's frequently fairly easy to DIY. The Secretary of State in my state actually provides forms and templates.

Next, you'll likely need to register with the state sales tax/revenue commission and ditto any local taxing authorities.

Oh, and check into getting a federal EIN. You won't need it right away,. but it's easy to do online, and you'll need it at some point.

Then of course there is the baking."

I agree that she should take classes, or get a job icing cakes in a bakery or grocery store baking department. And I agree with Jenise that because of the high cost of her wanting to buy a partnership in your business, she wouldn't be making money right away, she'd be spending it.

shanter Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 7:48pm

Or, you could just say that you don't have time to teach and that any partner of yours would have to have taken classroom instruction (like the Wilton courses) and prove that their skill level would be the same as yours. Also, you don't want to hire employees because of all of the payroll, benefits, etc. folderol

jgifford Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 7:58pm

Sounds to me like she wants to skip the hard part and go straight to the "oohs" and "aahs" and the being paid part. These are the rewards for paying dues, and she hasn't paid hers yet.

This is strictly my opinion and obviously not many here agree with me: cut your losses and steer clear of her. She sounds to me like the type that would drain you dry without giving you anything in exchange. If she were the type to work for anything, you wouldn't have this problem with her. I understand your wanting to continue a friendship, but would a real friend act this way? I don't think so. I would be inclined to keep her as far away from my business as possible.

I agree with Jenise - - if she and hubby continue to press the partnership issue, just give her an amount you would need to allow her to buy in to your business. I think you'll find that she also expects to just jump in for free and let you finance her . JMHO

lorieleann Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 8:53pm

i think you could also shut it down with an admission that you'd never mix friends and money/business because of all that could go wrong. Not like this is a new concept that they haven't heard before. It really seems like they want to hook their wagon onto your proven business. I feel bad for them a little that they think this could be a profitable new business for them. They just don't know what is behind it all. I think educating them on the start up costs of it is a place to start 'helping' them. And hopefully the decorating skills part will become apparent to them. While you could steer them away from the 'partnership' by burying her with details and regulations and have the friendship survive, I doubt that she would get past you telling her that she isn't as good as she thinks she is.

jeartist Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 9:16pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by WestCoastGirl

Thanks Ladies - this has been a huge help. I've been so stressed out lately over it that I find myself avoiding her and I really don't want to be that way. I want to be her friend - but I don't want to be her business partner.




You said it right there. Tell her your friendship is too important to jeopardize it by trying to go into business together. That truly is a quick way to end a friendship. It can work, but has to be two pretty special people to maintain a friendship thru the ups and downs of business.

GosiasKitchen Posted 17 Apr 2012 , 10:22pm

I agree with lorieleann, a simple business and friends don't mix would suffice. And the simple I don't share my recipes. Simple to the point.

QTCakes1 Posted 18 Apr 2012 , 1:12am
Quote:
Originally Posted by jgifford

Sounds to me like she wants to skip the hard part and go straight to the "oohs" and "aahs" and the being paid part. These are the rewards for paying dues, and she hasn't paid hers yet.

This is strictly my opinion and obviously not many here agree with me: cut your losses and steer clear of her. She sounds to me like the type that would drain you dry without giving you anything in exchange. If she were the type to work for anything, you wouldn't have this problem with her. I understand your wanting to continue a friendship, but would a real friend act this way? I don't think so. I would be inclined to keep her as far away from my business as possible.

I agree with Jenise - - if she and hubby continue to press the partnership issue, just give her an amount you would need to allow her to buy in to your business. I think you'll find that she also expects to just jump in for free and let you finance her . JMHO




I agree with you 100% and I think you hit the nail on the head with the "friend" wanting the "oohs and ahhs" and money part. Frankly I don't understand the difficulty at all. If she is a friend you want, you should be able to tell her no and it not be an issue. If it is a issue, why would you want to be friends with someone like that?

johnson6ofus Posted 18 Apr 2012 , 1:59am

"Friends and business just don't mix, and I don't want to risk our friendship. I am a bit of a control freak, and really need to be able to focus alone on what I want".

"Sorry, I just don't share my recipes. I think you need to practice, experiment, and see what works for you--- just like I did."

"Gee, I wish I had the time to help you learn________, but with my business, family, and other commitments, I just can't spare the time. Maybe you can sign up somewhere for some classes?"

carmijok Posted 18 Apr 2012 , 2:45am

I'm sorry but I don't see any reason to be dancing around the issue. No means no. You could say: "While I'm flattered you want to learn from me, I'm not in a position to teach, nor am I in a position to hire or partner with anyone at this time.'

If she is interested in decorating cakes tell her to start by giving her friends and family the results of her practice cakes and worry about charging when she becomes more skilled as well as legal.

Then tell her about Youtube tutorials, CC, and Wilson cake decorating classes. If she has the audacity to charge someone now, you might remind her that she is operating illegally and could lose everything if she continues to do so.

She sounds like the kind of person that would learn everything she could from you (including your recipes) and not think twice about going out on her own once she felt she'd gotten all she could from you. Be careful with this kind of 'friend'.

denetteb Posted 18 Apr 2012 , 4:23am

She keeps asking because you haven't actually said no. Next time you see them and they bring a partnership up again, Just say.....You are happy with your business as it is and don't want a partner ship. Repeat as necessary. You don't have to explain it or justify it at all. Any other questions, give short succinct answers to just the question she is asking. Then you really don't have to deal with her lack of skill or anything. Recipe? You don't give them out. Techniques? Youtube or Wilton classes as you are not an instructor. Etc, Etc.

KarolynAndrea Posted 18 Apr 2012 , 7:11pm

My BFF and I always say how we need to start opening our mouth and expressing our real feelings instead of tip-toeing around in fear of hurting someone else's feelings. You are trying not to upset her, but in the mean time, you are getting yourself upset.
I get asked a lot by people (not close friends though) about my recipes and if I can teach them and everything. I always tell them..."I started out 11 years ago taking basics classes at a craft store. Then I wanted to get better, so I got on the computer and googled and watched YouTube, attended cake shows, took classes and ordered DVD's. It's taken a lot of time and money to get where I am now, it doesn't happen overnight."
This is a harder situation because it is a friend, but you may just have to be real with her so you can stop them from hassling you. And if she wants to be offended and mad because you say you like to work alone and aren't interested in a partner, is she really a friend?

vtcake Posted 20 Apr 2012 , 3:59pm

Instead of dragging this all out, just say no. You can say it nicely, and then it's up to her to decide how to react. Just tell her you want to work by yourself and for yourself.

If you're already avoiding her, then it's not going to continue to be a friendship anyway.

labelle24 Posted 20 Apr 2012 , 4:19pm

I am so happy I stumbled across this thread! My best friend's mother has put me in this exact same position, right down to the pushy husband! First she asked me to help her with some sugar flowers, which I ended up doing completely on my own, and she later passed off as her own work. And then the final straw was when she took a wedding cake order for 260 people and wanted me to come up with a a price for it and tell her what size pans to use.

I wanted to convey to her that she had no business taking an order of that caliber, or since she isn't operating legally, an order of any kind! But I knew I had to step lightly because I didn't want anything to affect my relationship with my best friend (nor did I want to put her in the middle). I basically just told her that if she is going to be selling cakes to people she is liable for anything that might happen since she has no legal contract in place. I explained that if any guest at that wedding got sick they could sue her and come after her personal property since she wasn't operating as a legal business.

I think I scared her enough that she hasn't asked me for anymore advice or help....

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