Looking for same advice from small cake decorating company owners on how to hire assistants

Business By pastrymaniac Updated 8 Jan 2014 , 5:25pm by pastrymaniac

pastrymaniac Posted 7 Jan 2014 , 4:05pm
post #1 of 14

Hi fellow cake decorators,


I have started my own cake decorating company (in Portugal, Europe) one year and a half ago and I specialise mostly in wedding cakes though I also do birthday cakes and almost whatever my clients order.


For the past year I have been working by myself making everything from baking to torting cakes, covering  and making sugar flowers and decorating. I usually had no more than two wedding cakes per week and I could cope with that. But now my business is growing considerably and I have a lot more requests for next Spring/Summer season. I have some weeks with 4 wedding cakes, somes weekend days with more than one wedding cake per day and there is no way I can do all that work by myself so I really need to hire an assistant. However like lots of businesses some weeks I either have no orders or have just one that I can perfectly do myself without extra help.


What kind of employment agreement should I make with a cake decorating assistant that I don´t need to work everyday and how should I calculate his/her wage?


I intend to hire an apprentice with a pastry background education but no knowledge of wedding cakes that is eager and willing to learn the job so that I have someone motivated working with me. All the knowledge I have took me quite a while to learn and I paid lots of money for cake decorating classes with renowned cake decorators. That being said is it right of me to think that I will be passing knowledge on to my future apprentice that is also worth a lot of money? Shouldn´t that be taken into consideration when calculating his /her wage?


Also should I pay my future assistant by the hour (that does not seem reasonable to me since an apprentice will take twice as much to do most tasks in the beginning) or for instance should I pay him/her a commission on each wedding cake that we do? There is no way I can afford a monthly salary for an assistant.


Also should I celebrate a non disclosure agreement of same kind to protect my company? What if I pass my knowledge on to someone that after six months starts a cake decorating business to compete with mine in the same area? Should I teach just a limited number of techniques/tasks?


Suggestions about this matter would be greatly appreciated, thanks in advance everyone ;)


Best wishes  

13 replies
liz at sugar Posted 7 Jan 2014 , 6:30pm
post #2 of 14

Sara - My first and best advice to you is to hire for the most menial tasks first.  Do you have a dishwasher/cleaner whose sole job is to clean up after you?  Maybe that would free up enough time for you to handle your workload better.


After that, I would hire a baker.  You fill out workorders of what flavors and sizes need to be made, they bake them up, torte them and freeze or store them for you.


If after those jobs have been filled, you still don't have enough time, then worry about hiring someone for the more artistic/creative decorating part.


Best of luck!



kikiandkyle Posted 7 Jan 2014 , 6:56pm
post #3 of 14

AYou should also consult with an employment attorney in Portugal to see what kind of laws you need to abide by when trying to hire someone. The rules vary greatly between countries, advice from someone in the US may be unusable in Portugal.

pastrymaniac Posted 7 Jan 2014 , 7:50pm
post #5 of 14

Hi Liz, 


thanks for your opinion that makes a lot of sense.


It´s hard for me to think of hiring a baker because I am a bit fussy with cakes being moist instead of overcooked and I also like my cakes perfectly buttercreamed with a nice sharp edge every time but I guess I will have to let my future baker understand how I like cakes and fillings and supervise all things. 


How do you suggest that I pay him/her? For each day of work?


Many thanks.

pastrymaniac Posted 7 Jan 2014 , 7:53pm
post #6 of 14

Thanks kikiandkyle,


I will certainly get some legal advice on that here in Portugal.


Best wishes

jason_kraft Posted 7 Jan 2014 , 7:53pm
post #7 of 14

AIt may help to map out your production process in detail if you haven't done so already. Break out what you do into multiple roles with varying skillsets and see which components of your process are handled by which roles, what can be done in parallel, what can be done in advance, identifying slack time in your process, etc. Creating a process flow with "swim lanes" may help you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swim_lane

Your process flow will help you identify where you can benefit from having another pair of hands, and what skillset you will need. You may also find that you don't need additional help if you can offload production activity to slow periods (e.g. making sugar flowers in advance).

crushed Posted 7 Jan 2014 , 10:39pm
post #8 of 14

Jason, that is some awesome advice. 

kikiandkyle Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 2:03am
post #9 of 14

AMy point about employment law also covers wages. Many countries now have a minimum hourly wage which must be adhered to, and then in others there are benefits that kick in at a certain number of hours or months worked. It is worth finding out about these things before making decisions about wages or hours.

pastrymaniac Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 2:57am
post #10 of 14

Do you people think it´s reasonable to pay my apprentice assistant a commission on each cake instead of paying by the hour or day? I think that might be more reasonale. Opinions on this would be appreciated.


Thanks everyone. 

pastrymaniac Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 3:06am
post #11 of 14

Thanks so much Stitches,


I definitely agree with you and understand what you mean regarding respectable wages. And re training staff can be quite exhausting so I should try and  keep my future assistant motivated and happy with his/her wages and conditions. And thanks so much for your congratulations :D


Best wishes

jason_kraft Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 3:08am
post #12 of 14


Original message sent by pastrymaniac

Do you people think it´s reasonable to [B]pay[/B] my apprentice assistant [B]a commission on each cake instead of paying by the hour or day[/B]? I think that might be more reasonale. Opinions on this would be appreciated.

As mentioned above, this may not be legal depending on labor laws in your area if the commission falls below a minimum wage. In the US an hourly wage for part-time work is the norm.

pastrymaniac Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 3:12am
post #13 of 14

Hi Jason,


thanks that is really a fabulous piece of advice. I still haven´t done that (and I had never thought of it) but I will do it really soon as I think it can be really helpful.


Regarding offloading production activity to slow periods I am already doing a bit of that exactly by making sugar flowers in advance. Many thanks.


Best wishes 

pastrymaniac Posted 8 Jan 2014 , 5:25pm
post #14 of 14

Thanks Jason, I will get some legal counselling on that.


Best regards

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