Moniquea Posted 18 Dec 2013 , 3:47pm
post #1 of

All the kid parties have dried up since my kids have grown older...  now, my customers are too few and my cake decorating job at a bakery has dried up (I'm too slow and their orders are going down).

 

After years of trying and giving up - I finally have my Licenses & Insurance!!!  By renting a kitchen and have a caterers permit so I have no Storefront.

I've handed out over 750 business cards in 5 years and my clients rave about me to their friends and families 

 

Where do I go from here?  Advertisers want $350 monthly, as low as $100 - I don't have it.  Website Designers & SEO experts $2,000+  again - I don't have it.  Bridal show gives me a discounted price of $600 for a booth and I have to donate something to the raffle - not happening.

 

I tried calling vendors (venues and caterers) the other day and was shocked they didn't understand my genuine sincerity in trying to raise up their business to their clients with my cake... LOL!  I now realize I was cold-calling and totally get it  ;)  ~Lesson Learned~

 

I've been networking, got a simple website up, a Google+ page and a Facebook page.  I've also done 2 craft shows.  Also finished my audition tape for Season 4 of the Next Great baker...(it gets better 2 minutes in) ;)


I'm doing everything myself and this is what I have bouncing around in my head like a $ .25 rubber ball:

 

Make a photo book/albums and leave with bridal stores (cold calling/selling)

Finish brochure and send out to venues with follow up in person (cold selling)
Attend a bridal show, meet vendors and follow-up (warm selling)
Making another video (just for fun)
Making some bridal dummies for craft shows (not selling)

 

I have plenty of competition in my area and my work meets theirs and so does my pricing (starting at $4 per slice).

 

but that has only resulted in like 2 orders.  It's like I'm new to the area and I know that happens all the time, new businesses.
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32 replies
-K8memphis Posted 18 Dec 2013 , 4:39pm
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i hope you make it on the show! y'all are adorable

jason_kraft Posted 18 Dec 2013 , 5:00pm
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AWhat are your competitive advantages? Who is your target market? What is your specific paid marketing strategy (for example, what would that $350/month buy in terms of advertising)?

How much is in your business startup fund? If you can't afford $100/month on advertising you will have a lot of trouble building a customer base without relying on luck.

Moniquea Posted 18 Dec 2013 , 5:08pm
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Aww, Thanks!

Moniquea Posted 18 Dec 2013 , 5:24pm
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I pay $160 a month for rent and insurance.  I put all my monies back into supplies, expenses and fees for fairs.

An added commitment of $100 monthly for 3-12 months without additional revenue is a waste.  Besides I spoken to many business owner via networking that said they never saw an ROI.  $350 buys me a pic of my cake, brand and contact info to my exact clientele in a free parenting magazine 1/8th page and listing on their website.

 

I don't have any competitive advantages over any other custom decorator (I deliver, fresh bake and simliar price point as them) except maybe that I haven't found anyone in the area with work as 'clean' as mine.  I deliver and offer custom cookies, cupcakes and cakepops - that is also something most in my area don't do.  Also, for additional charge will make custom cake stands - they are one-time use for the event.  **I use SMBC, nobody else does - but that becomes a sell for the same reason.

Target market.  hmmm, I'd love to continue with children and adult cakes bc I can do more fun techniques but affordability for clients becomes a problem for them and I undersell.  I'm looking at some wedding venues bc they have the budget, still they are a dime a dozen.  I found catering companies need a 'desert person' so I am working with 1 (outsourcing cookies and pies from a local bakery) but they are new so nothing yet on that front.  I know I should be more specific but that I found my anxiety and lack of experience may scare off potential clients by looking 'desperate'... which is only partially true ;)

 

I guess I will have to create some luck - abracadara! Poof!  and keep 'getting myself out there'.  Whada think?

 

jason_kraft Posted 18 Dec 2013 , 5:35pm
post #6 of

A

Original message sent by Moniquea

An added commitment of $100 monthly for 3-12 months without additional revenue is a waste.  Besides I spoken to many business owner via networking that said they never saw an ROI.  $350 buys me a pic of my cake, brand and contact info to my exact clientele in a free parenting magazine 1/8th page and listing on their website.

There are many other options for advertising, if you are targeting brides or upscale parents who throw big birthday parties a free parenting magazine would be near the bottom of the list. Have you looked into targeted online advertising like Google AdWords?

Another way to look at it is that you're paying $160/month for rent and insurance regardless of the number of orders you get. If you have no orders that money is already being wasted, so advertising is more of an investment than an expense.

I don't have any competitive advantages over any other custom decorator (I deliver, fresh bake and simliar price point as them) except maybe that I haven't found anyone in the area with work as 'clean' as mine.  I deliver and offer custom cookies, cupcakes and cakepops - that is also something most in my area don't do.  Also, for additional charge will make custom cake stands - they are one-time use for the event.  **I use SMBC, nobody else does - but that becomes a sell for the same reason.

This sounds like it could be the root of the problem. If you do the same stuff your competitors do at the same price points and they advertise, why would a customer choose you instead of them? If you can answer this question you will know what to push in your ads. If you can't answer this question for your current target market, it's time to switch to a different market or develop a new advantage.

Moniquea Posted 18 Dec 2013 , 5:43pm
post #7 of

Thanks!  

My cakes vs the competitors are different in scope of work and detail but few are willing to pay for that.  Finding those few is the key to my business.  Best wishes!

cakefat Posted 19 Dec 2013 , 5:29am
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I think you need to advertise somehow, whether it be on google or get a website (try Wix.com or one of those- you do not need to spend 2K on it), or in some sort of local magazine. I would see that as an investment rather than an expense right now. 

Smckinney07 Posted 19 Dec 2013 , 8:23am
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AThe video is cute but I wouldn't consider this advertising or use it that way. It's more fun (which is for your audition tape) then I am a professional (and would be the best person for the job)-obviously being on a tv show would lead to exposure, but it isn't going to lead to orders.

Definitely take Jason's advice, step back and really think about your competitive edge.

As stated above, there are many other ways to advertise. If you want to do wedding cakes look into bridal shows (part of that expense includes advertising) and it's the best way to meet other vendors, your donation can be a few small gift cards. Some people don't like doing shows, others say it's not worth it. That's up to you, probably a better idea to try some other strategies first (like expanding your online presence). The shows in my area are $150-300, if I book x amount of cakes it's worth it.

We have small business owner functions, cross promotions, etc. You can even list your business on certain websites online, for free.

Giving discounts or underpricing your cakes will not help you gain repeat business, those customers that aren't willing to pay what your cake is worth are not the customers you want!

Is your friend from the video your business partner? Employee? Does she split costs with you? Just curious.

Moniquea Posted 19 Dec 2013 , 1:03pm

Thank you for your reply

 

I have thought about Jason's advice and am advertising myself as more of dessert full service making custom cake/cupcake stands and full dessert tables.  This allows me to work with caterers who don't offer desserts and should separate me, we'll see.

 

I don't have the $150-300 to spend.  It's not a matter of expense/investment.  I'm very good with my money there's just no more to spend without begging - I won't borrow.

 

I've heard enough cakers talk about avoiding discounts so I'm trying but I'll admit when nothing is coming in - it's getting tempting.

 

I regret not doing more small business functions but making that video, order and life got in the way.  Keeping balance owning a business is key... vital.  I will keep striving for it even if I dedicate more time to business, which I must.

 

I checked with the bridal vendor and hoping booth sharing can bring down my fee.  

 

My friend in the video is not my partner or employee.  We are basically competitors in different towns that became friends.  When she had a bakery I worked for free.  Now she helps me if she can.

 

*We know someone who was on the show, second season.  This person couldn't eat at a restaurant without being bugged by a fan for over a year and his business exploded.  So I have to disagree with you just a little on that, sorry :( 

 

I have a website that I did not to list for fear the producers would think I was self promoting and eliminate me.  www.cakethat.biz

I really appreciate your insights and will work on any ideas I can - Thank you so much!!!

Moniquea Posted 19 Dec 2013 , 1:06pm

Thank you!  This is my site www.cakethat.biz  now getting my SEO expert is next.  Google has a harder time 'seeing' .biz or anything .com  Many experts are recommend starting a blog... 

embersmom Posted 19 Dec 2013 , 4:32pm

It could be that your general market area is already saturated between your direct competition as well as retail bakeries.  If I started my own business I know that the latter would be my #1 issue...there aren't many one-person cakeries in my area to begin with because of the latter.

 

A former coworker of mine  has her own business in an area without much retail competition.  She had to expand her offerings in order to stay afloat financially -- cupcakes, cake pops, you name it.  She's done pies for Thanksgiving as well as quick breads and muffins (I think she once offered a "breakfast basket" in conjunction with a caterer, IIRC).   Most of her advertising is word-of-mouth.  I think she's also done a few custom orders too -- not necessarily cake, but if somebody wanted a dessert tray with particular pastries, something like that.

 

It's something to consider, IMO.  If it were me, I'd probably go that route.  I think one has a better chance at making a profit the more goods they have to offer.  Profit is not from just cake alone nowadays.

brenda549 Posted 19 Dec 2013 , 7:04pm

AJust my 2cents - I only pay about $45 per month for Google Adwords. It has boosted my business and I keep busy! Also, if you are trying to get into the wedding scene, you may want to think about your branding, logo, and website. You have a great website (clean, easy to navigate, easy to read, great pictures) and you do very nice, clean work, but your website gives off an informal vibe that would appeal to people looking for a custom party or birthday cake. I would also increase the number of wedding cakes in your gallery. This is something I am working on as well using cake dummies.

Good luck!

Moniquea Posted 20 Dec 2013 , 3:05pm

Thank you for the feedback @brenda549 I love your specifics.  I just found a vendor I can purchase dummies from and am very excited to begin making some wedding cakes.  

You are right about the informal feel.  That's me and while I'd rather stick to the fun stuff and grooms cakes - I need to pay my rent ;)  Besides I really do admire gorgeous wedding cakes.  I just picked up a photo book I made and after holding it and going thru it found that while it was more 'selling' than I typically do, It was also almost all fun 'kid' stuff and won't get me anywhere with brides.  I've only done a couple of weddings and wasn't confident enough back then so that's why its so limited.

 

Kid marketing can be equally hard to market bc most people just pick something up at the grocery store.  I will add this to my marketing ideas overall.  I hope my wedding dummies come out good.  Easier to go to a wedding hall than 'chuck'e'cheese' :razz:  Not bad mouthing I love that rat ;)  

@embersmom You are right my are is full of bakeries.  Most do not offer fondant - at all.  And the baker down the street said he would partner with me if someone wanted one but I think he decided against sending customers my way after all, no hard feelings.  But he gives me advice all the time and one was to stay just outside of the city.  It's what I'm trying to do, I just need to do more.

Doing everything by yourself is scary and stressful but on the upside you make all the decisions.  Thank you very very much.  I will continue to check this post and reply.

Moniquea Posted 20 Dec 2013 , 3:06pm

@embersmom  Almost forgot, I noted in my photobook that I do cake, cupcakes, cakepops, cookies, custom cakestands and desert tables - Is that what you meant?  Thx

FrostedMoon Posted 20 Dec 2013 , 3:37pm

Advertising doesn't have to be expensive.  If you enjoy doing kids birthday cakes, contact local town parent associations and ask them to get the word out to their members.  Visit children's birthday party locations and leave them cards to give to customers when they book birthday parties.  Are you on Facebook?  If not, create a page and get your name out there in your community.  Connect with other businesses who will share your page/pictures.  Networking is a big part of the process.  Put yourself on yelp, make sure some of those customers do their raving there.  Leave business cards/fliers at places parents frequently have to sit and wait for their kids (dance schools, sport facilities).

Moniquea Posted 21 Dec 2013 , 3:31pm

So I am trying to take everyones advice.  

  • @FrostedMoon I should have a brochure proof around Monday and  yesterday I picked up my photo book to two dress venues.  One had the 'nerve' to have a baby! LOL Jk jk so I will contact her via e-mail.  

 

Then I went to another location and the owner was very excited and helpful.  But my photo book is $20 so I will contact a printer to see if I can bring down the cost and leave them at other locations.  So brochure is key.  I would just prefer word of mouth cheaper and avoids copy cats in my area :sssh:

 

:detective: What do you think of photo albums?  

 

  • I have been contacting Mom's organizations but decided to stop until I become a part of their group.  The reason: Sales reputation.  Let's face it, the second you get an e-mail or phone call from some who wants to introduce their product or service... you get a hang-up or delete. :-? 


I am a mom and am interested in meeting others so I'm not doing it just for business.  I like to help to so am offering to do some decorating parties.


Just wanted to share some word's of wisdom I got yesterday while networking::top hat:

While chatting with a shop owner, I said something painfully stupid (wish I had a sales person to do this for me), I felt awful.  In sharing my 'foot in mouth' syndrome with someone they told me, "Experience is the name we give our mistakes"  Here! Here! LOL  Hope your experiences aren't as 20/20 as mine :oops: 

-K8memphis Posted 21 Dec 2013 , 3:40pm
Quote:

Originally Posted by Moniquea 

Just wanted to share some word's of wisdom I got yesterday while networking::top hat:

While chatting with a shop owner, I said something painfully stupid (wish I had a sales person to do this for me), I felt awful.  In sharing my 'foot in mouth' syndrome with someone they told me, "Experience is the name we give our mistakes"  Here! Here! LOL  Hope your experiences aren't as 20/20 as mine :oops: 

 

 "An expert is a person who has made every possible mistake in a small field of study"

 

you're one step closer :)

 

this is an annonymous quote i got from my brilliant sister

embersmom Posted 21 Dec 2013 , 3:42pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by Moniquea 
 

You are right my are is full of bakeries.  Most do not offer fondant - at all.  And the baker down the street said he would partner with me if someone wanted one but I think he decided against sending customers my way after all, no hard feelings.  But he gives me advice all the time and one was to stay just outside of the city.  It's what I'm trying to do, I just need to do more.

 

Whereas the bakeries around my area offer both fondant and buttercream, but I'm pretty sure the buttercream is the more popular. :nodding:   I love the "fun" feeling of your website, btw and the cakes you have on your home page :)  But yeah, as somebody else said, you're going to have to revise it if you're planning to go the wedding route. 

embersmom Posted 21 Dec 2013 , 3:48pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by Moniquea 
 

@embersmom  Almost forgot, I noted in my photobook that I do cake, cupcakes, cakepops, cookies, custom cakestands and desert tables - Is that what you meant?  Thx.

 

My former coworker doesn't do cake stands nor decorates the table.  She just supplies the sweets :)

 

Oh, I probably should have put this in my other reply...she doesn't do wedding cakes because people will travel to Retail Bakeries Which Have Been Around Since Time Immemorial for their cakes, so she figured early on there was no way she could compete with them.  The cake/cake pop/other sweets, I believe, has been slow but steady.  I don't think she makes her entire living from it, but it's become a viable PT business, and she's happy with that.

Moniquea Posted 21 Dec 2013 , 8:22pm

@-K8memphis :grin:  Thanks!

@embersmom  I don't want to compete with the other bakeries for wedding cakes either.  And not having a store front makes it harder.  Not to mention I could never match their cost structure.  However If I can help a bride or a brides family by bringing a different taste palette or style than a bakery is willing to give then I will would be happy to.

 

Thanks for commenting on the fun nature of my website - I really wanted it to reflect me and my work :madhatter:  I will add a bride's page.  Not sure if that is the 'right' way to do it though.  Guess I'll have to make that mistake to find out - yumm I'm mean get 'experienced' at it - lol

 

AZCouture Posted 23 Dec 2013 , 3:46am

A"Not to mention I could never match their cost structure."

I don't understand this statement. Do you mean you can't purchase supplies, ingredients, etc. at wholesale prices like a bakery can? Sorry, trying to understand what you're saying.

Moniquea Posted 23 Dec 2013 , 3:15pm

@AZCouture Yes, I can't purchase in volume, I don't have the physical equipment to produce as much as they do. On-top of that, they have speed.  They have systems in place that can put out lots of product, whereas I do one cake at a time sometimes two. Also I don't have enough customers to break-even or profitable.  I work at a bakery and we got all of the pies they didn't sell... which was most of them.  They could barely afford it and I certainly can not.

 

Hope that helps :)

therealmrsriley Posted 23 Dec 2013 , 7:44pm

Hi Monique, I've been reading this thread and I don't have any advice that is different from any other posters, but I just wanted to encourage you. The pictures of your cakes are awesome, and as you said your work is very polished and clean! I do hope you see the increase in business soon. Best wishes to you!

howsweet Posted 24 Dec 2013 , 4:01am
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moniquea 
 

@AZCouture Yes, I can't purchase in volume, I don't have the physical equipment to produce as much as they do. On-top of that, they have speed.  They have systems in place that can put out lots of product, whereas I do one cake at a time sometimes two. Also I don't have enough customers to break-even or profitable.  I work at a bakery and we got all of the pies they didn't sell... which was most of them.  They could barely afford it and I certainly can not.

 

Hope that helps :)


That one of the most brilliant things I've read on here in a while. Many people starting out think they should charge less than brick and mortar bakeries because think they have lower costs. Best of luck to you.

Moniquea Posted 24 Dec 2013 , 11:14pm

@therealmrsriley & @howsweet  Thank you - Thank you - Thank you!  I really appreciate you noticing the hard work & your encouragement!  Working alone means there isn't anyone else to blame :-? or pat me on the back :-D  So I love it!  Thank you - everyone

IsaSW Posted 28 Dec 2013 , 2:53am

Hi Monique,

I visited your website, and as a graphic designer, my first impression was: this is too informal, where are the wedding cakes?

Weddings are expensive parties, you need to show your potential clients, you can create that elegant cake for them.

You will have to create fondant dummies, and take pictures, this is a product you have to show, and the funny thing is fondant is expensive, and only one out of 3 would pay me for fondant, but all the brides would go crazy for the fondant display designs at the bridal show, show your creativity, my husband will make fun of my too artistic cakes at the show, but guess what?, that weird cake with orange tulips, made the brides stop at the booth, so yes you need to show your talent, so people believe in you.

 

I believe you have talent, but don't have the funds to start a business, like they said here in the thread, there will always be a start up cost, and I feel advertising is part of it, if you want brides, you have to go to them, they are at the bridal shows,(at least for me they were) they are expensive, but if you want brides/orders, you have to pay for it, in Virginia a bridal show can cost you $1400, but you get brides calling you, yes you don't book every bride that comes to the tasting, but you can get a lot of orders from it, now...making profit, it something I didn't see for the first 3 years, but that is a different story, then... the day I decided not to attend the bridal show anymore, because I was closing the business because of relocation, guess what?, the phone stopped ringing, so I do believe bridal shows do bring business,its not just networking.

 

Good luck with the redesign of your website! 

craftybanana Posted 28 Dec 2013 , 9:09pm

AI'm not sure if anyone has suggested this yet, but you could offer free desserts to a local chamber of commerce (or similar) event in exchange for free advertising on their website, business card placement, etc. I have a friend who used to do website design (not the same field, I know) and that's how she got her free advertising. She would offer to consult and design websites in exchange for free advertising. Her business was word of mouth and this approach worked very well for her.

Another way to get the word out there is to hold taste testings. a local bakery near me has hours similar to yours (appointment only) and they do a monthly taste testing for a small fee ( about $5 per person) and they require people to sign up. The owner told me he is almost always booked and it helps bring in customers who prefer to taste the cake before buying. My personal preference is to taste before buying, but having to make an appointment makes me feel like I'm locked in (stressful).

Just my two cents.

Moniquea Posted 30 Dec 2013 , 3:24pm

@IsaSW  You are correct.  It is the start-up capital that prevents a perfected design.  On the other hand, if I could continue to do more fun cakes instead of wedding that would be a dream ;-)  Unfortunately, it won't pay my bills. :) I looked at yours and it is very nice.:-)



I've just renewed my lease and don't have a single order (except for 'donations') in sight.  Also, I don't have any wedding cake pics.  The few I did were disasters :???:(my own personal opinion, the brides were fine with them), so I shook off that mojo by doing a large baby shower cake.  And I work on them at the bakery all the time so I'm very confident I can do them well. ;-D I just need to make some dummies.

 

You are right with the show's.  I will be searching for affordable show's and if I get the capitol to do a big one then I will make sure I do the one with the most promise.

 

My question is based on my current web-design - how do I add fancier cakes?:detective:  Aside from putting them in a separate gallery - how do I keep the personality? - the fun nature on the website.  Or is it more important to deliver the 'fancy' refined image when trying to market to brides? :top hat:

 


@craftybanana Thank you!  After I read this I went to a CoC and saw I could not afford the membership but will approach them at their next open event.  There are many of them.  I found the people there are looking for business contacts for themselves but are always trying to help each other :)  As far as 'tastings' on a monthly basis I will have to find some event locations that will allow me to do so for a small fee or in exchange for 'treats'.  I may have met one over the holidays I can start at but finding brides/customers to attend is a different marketing strategy I will have to work out.

loriemoms Posted 2 Jan 2014 , 11:02pm

When I first got started, I put my name on every free website I could find.  (you just need to put a return link on your site for most of them)   I put flyers all over the neighbhorhood, drop cards off at restaurants and beleive it or not, adult clubs.  Our local Belk and Macy's did 'free bridal shows" in their registry area and we gave out cake there.  I had wedding planners come in for tastings.  There are LOTS of things you can do for free!   Good luck!!

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