To Start Selling Cakes Or Not?

Business By bri0205 Updated 31 Aug 2012 , 8:54am by bri0205

bri0205 Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 8:20am
post #1 of 15

I am trying to decide whether or not to go forward with selling cakes and am hoping for some helpful advice. I enjoy cake decorating and I made wedding cakes for my siblings and have also made birthday cakes for family. I love the artistic side of cake decorating and seeing the finished product. I could also use the extra money.

On the other side, I don't enjoy the baking process or making the fondant. I don't have much time. I homeschool my children and have a variety of other commitments. I live a 2 hour drive from the nearest city (which is where my requests are coming from) and I'm not sure if it would be fair to include the cost of delivery when there are other (actual businesses) that sell cakes in the city. I'm not sure that I want the hassle of trying to create a kitchen that would pass a health/safety inspection, but without the tools and space a professional business would have the work takes a lot longer in my small area with limited tools. I'm not sure I can charge enough to cover the time and make it worth it.

I have different people asking me to make cakes for them over the next few months. They want the same type of 3D sculpted cakes they've seen me do for family - give me a topic and let me design it. And everyone who has asked has also told me that they are willing to pay whatever I ask if I will do it for them. If I start doing these cakes, I know I'm going to keep getting more requests.

I'm wondering if there is anything else I'm missing that would help me make a decision on whether or not to agree to doing the cakes?

I'm posting links to my two most recent cakes. Both are entirely edible (except for the supports), using cake, rice krispies, and homemade fondant.
http:[email protected]/3YkX55
http:[email protected]/83H11c

14 replies
scp1127 Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 8:31am
post #2 of 15

I would suggest that if you don't want to bother or make the effort to comply with the law and have a legal kitchen, you should not consider a "business". And it is sad that you would blatantly ask the question.

kelleym Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 1:00pm
post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

I would suggest that if you don't want to bother or make the effort to comply with the law and have a legal kitchen, you should not consider a "business". And it is sad that you would blatantly ask the question.



That.. is not what she asked. She was weighing the cost of bringing her kitchen up to legal standards, along with all her other drawbacks, against her decision of whether or not to sell cakes.

bri0205, it sounds like there are many challenges standing in the way of you beginning a successful home cake business. The fact that you are a 2 hour drive away from your closest city is probably the dealbreaker, however. Assuming that is around 100 miles, and you charge a fair price for delivery ($1 per mile, including round trip), then every cake has a $200 surcharge on it before you even turn on your oven. Also, every cake would require 4 hours out of your time to deliver, or of a customer's time if they elect to pick it up.

If you could develop some local clientele, that would be the only way I see your possible business beginning. You didn't say where you are located, but find out the local laws governing home food businesses, and then do a market analysis and figure out your pricing structure. Once you have done those things, the numbers should tell you whether or not it is feasible. Good luck.

MsGF Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 1:38pm
post #4 of 15

I agree that it sounds like it may not be the best choice for you at this point. If you do cakes for family and friends at cost then you get to pick and choose your projects. I would just keep doing them for fun at this point until the timing was right. Then you will have lots of experience and a nice portfolio to show people.

Also the comment about people will pay whatever, makes me laugh because when you give them a real price which factors in real costs, time, delivery etc... they quickly change their mind.

Sounds like you have a lot to think about. It isn't always an easy decision. Good luck with it. Personally I enjoy it, but my 2 sons are 20 & 23 and only the 20 year old is still living with me. My situation is different. At this point I have the time and space, and decide my own schedule.

Take Care. Lots to Think About.

kelleym Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 2:02pm
post #5 of 15

Yes, people who are "willing to pay whatever I ask" are usually people think you're going to ask for $40.

bri0205 Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 4:41pm
post #6 of 15

Thank you for the responses, I think the biggest problems are the distance between me and the people asking for cakes as well as the time it takes to do the work in my home as compared to a bakery. I'm not concerned with gaining experience, I worked as a full time cake decorator with two different businesses (in two different cities) before I had children (can't believe it was 10 years ago already!) and I've been making cakes for family ever since.
I also understand the customer that doesn't want to pay. I was asked by a sibling of my sister in law if I would create their wedding cake for them. I quoted them $600 for the design they requested plus cost of gas to drive it to a small town approx. 8 hours away from where I live. Their response was that 'no one should have to pay that much for a wedding cake'. So of course I turned that down. I'm not doing that work for just the cost of materials simply because they are related to my sister in law. I have more important things to do with my time. But the recent cake requests are coming from contacts of my brother who saw the cake I made for his son and they want the same. They have money and are willing to pay me. It is more that if I do these few cakes, for people who aren't family, then more people are going to see them and are likely to start asking, and I'm not sure that I want this to turn into a business. I guess in the end no one can help me with this decision, I have to figure out for myself whether or not I want to give up something else in exchange for the time needed to start a business cake decorating.

lorieleann Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 4:58pm
post #7 of 15

once a hobby (or a passion or a talent) becomes a business, it is always a business first. I constantly have to keep self in check as to what orders I will take and the time it will take from my family. Right now, I am not interested in growing a huge business--but just do enough for a part time outlet. I rented a commercial kitchen space, but I found that it was too much of a pressure to make that rent--not to mention the time involved. We now have a CFL here and I am considering doing that plus having a back up commercial space if needed (but at a lower rent). When the kids are older and I have more time, then I will reconsider how much I want to put into this.

It sounds like you too have commitments (homeschooling! rock on!) and obstacles (distance, legalities) that would make a cake business more of a burden than a joy. My advice would be to make your cakes for friends and family as a fabulous creative outlet, and re-evaluate when your priorities shift.

jason_kraft Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 5:02pm
post #8 of 15

Is there a cottage food law in your state that allows you to legally sell homemade food? If not, your decision is very easy.

If there is a CFL in your state, a good rule of thumb is to look at the amount of time you spent making cakes, and double it to include the overhead of running a business.

bri0205 Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 6:08pm
post #9 of 15

I have no idea what a cottage food law is. I live in Canada though. I think I'll just continue doing them for family only and turn down the paid requests for now. There are other cake decorators in the city that I can send them to.

heartsnsync Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 6:32pm
post #10 of 15

Bri0205,

I was in your same boat for many years. I did cake decorating as a hobby for free for my family and friends for over twenty years. A few years ago we relocated and I no longer had to work a full time job so I had more time on my hands and therefore devoted more time to my cake hobby. I began getting a lot of requests that I had to turn down because I knew I could not sell unless I had made myself a legal business. Finally, a year and a half ago I took the plunge and did everything I needed to do to have a legal home based bakery including: business license, adhering to all local and state ordinance, inspection, and insurance.

So, now looking back the way I decorate and what I choose to decorate are dictated as a business instead of as a hobby. I don't always get to do things I enjoy and often I feel cupcakes are the bane of my existence because I get a lot of orders for them (can you tell I don't care for making those?) I have to short change my family when orders are due and often miss some of my sons' baseball and football games. Sometimes I even miss out on family outings and dinners because I have orders due and cake waits for no one. It makes a difference in how tired I am on Sunday mornings for church and even makes it hard for me to be a bible class teacher. You have to bake and decorate even when you get tired of the smell of cake. But of course, you worked as a cake decorator as a job in the past so I know you understand what I mean.

Bottom line, it takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice to yourself and your family. For now, the desire to continue to do this and the amount of sacrifice is acceptable for me to continue to do this. You will have to weigh what the cost would be for you and then decide.

jason_kraft Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 6:56pm
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by heartsnsync

often I feel cupcakes are the bane of my existence because I get a lot of orders for them (can you tell I don't care for making those?)



This is somewhat off-topic, but if you don't like making a certain product, increase the price of that product to lower demand. If you increased the starting price of your cupcakes from $1.75 each to $2.50 each (with gourmet flavors $2.25 -> $3 and custom decorated $2.50 -> $3.50), not only would you get fewer cupcakes orders, but the cupcake orders you did get would be far more profitable.

heartsnsync Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 11:12pm
post #12 of 15

Jason, I already increased my prices and the orders keep coming. I currently sell my cupcakes from between $2.75 - $4.00 each....sigh....thus the reason why I keep making them.

costumeczar Posted 30 Aug 2012 , 11:24pm
post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by MsGF

Also the comment about people will pay whatever, makes me laugh because when you give them a real price which factors in real costs, time, delivery etc... they quickly change their mind.

.




That's exactly what I was thinking. Friends and family are THE WORST when it comes to paying you enough to make more than $3 an hour.

I'd also look into what requirements there are in your area to bring your kitchen up to code. where I am the requirements are very minimal. Some locations are more strict than others, so you might be surprised by how easy it is.

traci_doodle Posted 31 Aug 2012 , 6:59am
post #14 of 15

bri0205--I just wanted to say how much I looooove your octopus cake! It looks incredible!

bri0205 Posted 31 Aug 2012 , 8:54am
post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by traci_doodle

bri0205--I just wanted to say how much I looooove your octopus cake! It looks incredible!




Thank you

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