I've had a licensed kitchen for 3 years and sell "to order" and at the farmer's market--mostly cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, brownies, lots of cookies and then orders for cakes and all the other stuff listed above. Here's my situation/problem:
I have 3 little girls at home--18 months, 4, and almost 9 and I also teach private piano lessons two-three days a week after school til about 6 pm. (I've been doing this for 9 years and it is very consistent and decent income).
I feel like I'm at a crossroads and need to decide if it is worth it being in business any longer--at least for now. My baking business is taking time away from my family and I'm not making much. I know that some people will say charge more but my small community already needs convincing about custom cakes, let alone a higher price tag. I can't afford much, if any, advertising and although people who have had my cakes and other stuff rave about them, word of mouth advertising has only resulted in a few orders here and there. There really hasn't been a bakery in our area for a long time, so people are used to going to Walmart and the grocery store for baked goods. It seems like people want to just be able to pick things up at a store, rather than order from a custom bakery. I typically sell out at farmer's market within a couple of hours, but baking all day the day before and getting up at 5 am with all three girls on Saturday and heading to market is stressful to say the least.
Are there others in similar positions--and you've made it work? I just keep trying to think of what else I can do to be successful--I don't like the idea of letting others down and failing at something I've worked so hard at. I feel like I am ready to be done for a while and then maybe start again once my kids are a little older or in school, but I'm not sure that would work. I love to bake and when I'm in my kitchen, I'm happy to be there, but I'm not getting much support from my husband and am feeling the stress of trying to be Mom, business owner, wife, etc, on top of not making much income.
I'm asking here because you guys know the hard work that goes into baking, but also the love of it. Other family members have told me to "just quit" because they don't get it. Any thoughts, ideas, etc. are appreciated.
I read your whole post and saw you answering your own question. You're stretching yourself too thin. You have to give up something for now...and the baking is not generating enough money to justify taking the time away from your other activities.
Your girls are only little for such a short time, and your piano lessons are a guaranteed income--the cakes are not. Just take a hiatus from trying to make it a business and do it for fun when needed...like birthdays, family gatherings and the occasional request from a customer. Then, when your girls are bigger and you've got the time to devote more to baking, try it again! Maybe get your girls to help you! Chances are if you keep your hand in it here and there you will have developed a small, but loyal following and can start out with an established reputation. Put your cakes on Facebook to show them off to your FB friends as a reminder that you can do custom cakes and to show off your work.
For now, enjoy your family time. That's my opinion!
carmijok said it perfectly. You are not a failure, you are being realistic about life. All the best to you.
Ditto carmijok. Take a leave of absence from baking until your little ones are older. I can't even imagine how you have been doing all that...amazing!!
I feel you pain, and I am not even selling my cakes. I make cakes solely for friends and family, and they are free, since it is not yet legal to bake from home in CA. Well, after this last weekend, when I had two cakes to do, and a ton of mommy duties, which my husband had to do for me, I have decided it just isn't worth it right now. I love my hobby, but I love my family more. When my husband has to have the kids out of the house all weekend, on his only two days off, and I am stuck in the kitchen, it just isn't worth it. So I told my family I was done for the summer. I need to enjoy this time with my family before they are too big to want to hang with their mom on the weekends!
So I say, if you are too stressed out, and it isn't providing enough income for you to make it worth while, take a break. Good luck to you in whatever you choose!
My wife and I were also running a custom cake shop out of a rented commercial kitchen (in CA). We decided to sell the business when our first child was born, since we quickly realized that we couldn't devote an adequate amount of time to both running the business and raising our daughter.
Don't take a total leave of absence. You say that you don't get many custom cake orders--if you do just those, you won't be overworked or stressed. And you can turn down any order that is too large.
If you do a nice cake for the end of the piano lesson year for all your students together, you will get as much word of mouth advertising as you want.
I think you've gotten some spot on advice here. They are only little for such a short time, and you can always come back to the commercial baking. Right now, i have a 4 and 6 year old, and while i think up great ways to perhaps grow my business, I have to rein in my ideas and remember that i left my 'corporate' gig to be home for my boys and that the cakery is a part time hobby-turned-business (mostly to support the hobby). I have to keep it small so that it doesn't take over, so that i don't resent the time it takes from the family. The money part of it is nice, but it isn't an income that i count on or that we need to survive.
You can always bake for friends, for school, and just for fun. Maybe check out the recipe contests out there and see if you can make some bank doing that? Just because you take away the commercial side doesn't mean you have to take away the love of baking.
I feel your dilema. I too have a cake biz and two young boys. About pricing.... I just do specialty cakes now b/c the other things didn't bring in much profit, but I will say.... I got some great advice from another baker in town. "Don't let the customer dictate your prices!" Yes, you have to be sensitive to your cost of living in that region. But with all the shows about cakes etc. etc., everyone wants a "special" cake. I quote them high or what I am willing to do it for. Some folks don't make the order, but most do! Then I am not mad the whole time I am making a cake for $150. When I am charging $375 for a grad. cake I am happy to make the money, and it's worth my time. People need to be "taught" what these cakes should cost. I always tell my clients that Duff gets a minimum of $1000/cake. I heard that straight from his mouth when I met him in my town two years ago. It could be more now. Best wishes! Take only the orders that are worth your time!