MJ4Ever Posted 19 Feb 2014 , 9:34pm
post #1 of

AI just learned to decorate sugar cookies last summer now I am decorating cakes. My family seem to love my baked items. How do I go about getting local customers?

23 replies
ellavanilla Posted 20 Feb 2014 , 12:29am
post #2 of

I think the professionals will agree that the first step is to write a biz plan: figuring your costs, pricing, sourcing materials, licensing, and marketing plan. Then you will know how to get the right customers for your products. 

 

It's not easy and it's not that much fun, but if you want to succeed it has to be done. 

 

i found my biz plan template on the SCORE website, but there are hundreds available. 

 

To just start baking and selling without a plan is a recipe for disaster, pun intended. 

 

Spend a lot of time reading on this site. There is a wealth of knowledge to be had. 

 

 

good luck!

jen

DeliciousDesserts Posted 20 Feb 2014 , 12:44pm
post #3 of

A[@]ellavan[/@] BEST advice ever!!

It's difficult to suggest a marketing strategy without knowing who you target client is.

Who is your dream client? This is someone who not only wants your cookies but is also willing to pay your price for your cookies. Once you know this, it will be easier to brainstorm idea of reaching them.

Tip: your target client is not "anyone that likes cookies." As a matter of fact, it should NOT begin with "Anyone who."

For example, my perfect clients are brides getting married in Charleston who typically have a budget of at least $50,000 (or a cake budget of $1000). Sure, I also want clients who need birthday and celebration cakes, but that not the focus.

Knowing this, and knowing my area market, I seek out wedding planners. Even that is a bit vague. I team with planners who also target similar budgeted brides.

Of course this isn't my only strategy, but for me this is my most profitable ROI.

AnnieCahill Posted 20 Feb 2014 , 1:41pm
post #4 of

Ok, honesty time.  Your family and paying customers are two totally different audiences.  I could give my grandma a dried out piece of chocolate cake and she'd think it was the greatest thing ever just because I made it.  You need to make sure your cakes themselves and the decorating is professional.  Just because your family likes it doesn't mean everyone else will.  Lots of people take one Wilton class and decide they can have a business.  You set yourself up for failure that way.  The business end is different from the decorating end, and you need to be good at both in order for it to work. 

 

Before you start thinking about customers you need to look into whether or not it's even legal where you live.  Many states don't have cottage food laws so you'd have to rent a commercial kitchen space to do your baking.  On top of that, your local county or municipality might have restrictions.  You also need to check with your local health department.  These are all things a business owner must go through.  Oh yeah, if you own a home you might need to check with your HOA (if you have one) about having a business in your home.  Some HOAs have restrictions on that as well.  Lots of hoops and red tape. 

 

Once you figure out if you can do it legally, then move on to your target customers.  You need to do a business plan as others have mentioned, if you have a hope of making it in a saturated market (do the research to see the competition where you live).  There was a cupcake business in town that only made it a year or two, and they had a business plan.  So business plans don't guarantee success, but it's better to have one than to take a shot in the dark.

 

Illegal bakers are a hot topic on this forum.  If you don't do things legally and price your products competitively then you bring down the market for everyone.  No one can tell you what to charge for your cakes.  Your costs are different than someone who lives on the other side of the country.  There are also tons of threads on this forum about pricing.  It's a really important issue.

 

Not trying to be a Debbie Downer, just trying to give you the facts.

BeesKnees578 Posted 20 Feb 2014 , 8:36pm
post #5 of

Quote:

Originally Posted by AnnieCahill 
 

Ok, honesty time.  Your family and paying customers are two totally different audiences.  I could give my grandma a dried out piece of chocolate cake and she'd think it was the greatest thing ever just because I made it.  You need to make sure your cakes themselves and the decorating is professional.  Just because your family likes it doesn't mean everyone else will.  Lots of people take one Wilton class and decide they can have a business.  You set yourself up for failure that way.  The business end is different from the decorating end, and you need to be good at both in order for it to work. 

 

Before you start thinking about customers you need to look into whether or not it's even legal where you live.  Many states don't have cottage food laws so you'd have to rent a commercial kitchen space to do your baking.  On top of that, your local county or municipality might have restrictions.  You also need to check with your local health department.  These are all things a business owner must go through.  Oh yeah, if you own a home you might need to check with your HOA (if you have one) about having a business in your home.  Some HOAs have restrictions on that as well.  Lots of hoops and red tape. 

 

Once you figure out if you can do it legally, then move on to your target customers.  You need to do a business plan as others have mentioned, if you have a hope of making it in a saturated market (do the research to see the competition where you live).  There was a cupcake business in town that only made it a year or two, and they had a business plan.  So business plans don't guarantee success, but it's better to have one than to take a shot in the dark.

 

Illegal bakers are a hot topic on this forum.  If you don't do things legally and price your products competitively then you bring down the market for everyone.  No one can tell you what to charge for your cakes.  Your costs are different than someone who lives on the other side of the country.  There are also tons of threads on this forum about pricing.  It's a really important issue.

 

Not trying to be a Debbie Downer, just trying to give you the facts.


Can we make this the Auto-Response for all asking these questions??  Love this!

 

Also, you can try and measure your talent by posting pictures of your cakes in the Peer Review Cake Forum.  It can be harsh, eye-opening, and surprising to you, but you can expect honest feedback as to weather or not you can do cakes successfully.  And talent is also relative....as noted above, your gramma might think you make the most beautiful cakes.  EVER.  Would a professional have the same opinion?  Maybe not.  It is a great sounding board and offers areas of improvement.  Kind of like a "you make awesome cakes and you can definitely stand on your own two feet" OR "maybe you should work in a bakery learning the ropes or get a lot more practice somehow."  Not to be mean, but one can't expect to make premium prices if their decorating isn't up to par.

 

Good Luck!

nancylee61 Posted 21 Feb 2014 , 2:58am
post #6 of

AI don't know if I agree with all of this. I have had many, many cakes, at many different events, by very successful professional bakers that tasted horrible: tasted chemical from box mixes with a mouthful of Crisco "buttercream." And no one seems to notice because our palates are so messed up by all the chemicals we eat. So I think to be successful, you really just have to be a good decorator. Taste doesn't seem to count as long as your cakes look pretty.

Nancy

AZCouture Posted 21 Feb 2014 , 3:59am
post #7 of

AThe day I adopt that attitude about my work, is the day I might as well quit. That's the saddest thing I've seen a decorator write.

AZCouture Posted 21 Feb 2014 , 4:00am
post #8 of

AOh wait....ha ha! That was sarcasm, I totally missed it. Good one!

nancylee61 Posted 21 Feb 2014 , 8:42am
post #9 of

AActually, I wasn't really being sarcastic, I was writing it in disgust. "Pretty" seems to count for everything in cakes. Even on Cake Boss, they never taste.it. And I don't consider myself a decorator. I bake everything from scratch, I use all natural ingredients, and mostly organic, including eggs from only free range chickens, but all many people, even here, talk about is "pretty," and how best to "doctor" a box mix. I guess because we can't taste it, but I have to say, I came here and was surprised at the number of specialty bakers who bake like the big box grocery stores.

So, yes, I guess it actually was sarcastic. I have far to go with my decorating, and I hope I get there, because I have tasted the cakes made around me, and they are not the way I bake! Nancy

Snowflakebunny23 Posted 21 Feb 2014 , 12:39pm

I'd say that having a cake looking pretty may get you a few orders, but if it tastes pants then the chances are that they won't come back!  (And they will probably tell their friends etcetc).  Bear in mind though that taste is a very personal thing and is hugely influenced on the area you live in, where you grew up, memories etc - I have friends who think the betty crocker chocolate fudge packet mix cake is the best thing on the planet.  I have American friends who can't stand a British Victoria Sponge.  You can't say that they are right or wrong for liking/not liking something or appreciating the 'quality'...all you can do is know your customers and what they want so that you can give them the best possible version of their 'perfect' cake.

nancylee61 Posted 21 Feb 2014 , 1:42pm

AHi, Well, I am just going by my experiene in both NJ and NY. The cake I ordered for a family member was gorgeous! But each mouthful of "buttercream" was a mouthful of Crisco. I don't know one person who liked it, almost full slices left on every plate, Yet this baker is so busy, she can't keep up. I think where I live, the cake is more of a showpiece, rather than a consumable.

And in NY, same thing. Our local baker makes gorgeous cakes from box mixes and Crisco. Does 10 weddings a weekend all summer. So I know what you are saying is true about taste being personal, which is why I kind of snarkily advised the OP to just make pretty cakes. Don't worry what they taste like. Most people agree on pretty, but not taste. Of course, I was being sarcastic, as to me, taste is more important than fancy. But I was raised by a family of Italian cooks and bakers, my granparents owned restaurants, my mother was a chef, so I am very critical about taste. And of course, i do understand that presentation is important, which is why I'm taking classes I can't afford. :)

Nancy

MJ4Ever Posted 22 Feb 2014 , 1:52pm

AThis response is for AnnieCahill is it the same as baking for family when total strangers rave about my cake? I was asked to make my niece's birthday cake for her 20th birthday over 20 people I didn't know loved my cake. That right there says customers would be happy with my cakes. You should be more positive and not negative in your answers. Those twenty people make me think I CAN do this!

Godot Posted 22 Feb 2014 , 2:03pm

AWell, good luck to you then.

BeesKnees578 Posted 22 Feb 2014 , 3:05pm

Ok, it seems like this has taken an offensive turn.  I don't think anyone is out to insult you...just asking you to ask yourself some very honest questions.  I mean, how successful do you want/need to be?  You've only been doing this for a year....often it takes MANY MANY years to acquire the skills that many of us consider to be top-dog worthy.  Or you could be a COMPLETE natural and just "get it".  Do you plan on opening a store?  Then our feedback is INVALUABLE.

 

And considering the fact that we haven't seen any pictures, we have no idea how to professionally gauge your skills compared to others doing the same thing.  And depending on the level of success you wish to achieve (take over the cookie world, just provide an ordinary service, or somewhere in between), you will need some HONEST and OBJECTIVE feedback.  There are many cakes on here that people sell that many of us wouldn't even think about putting on the market.  BUT that person MAY be the BEST person in their area.  Is that a success?  I can't answer that.  I guess if you are making money, you could consider that a success?  

 

These are the things that go through our professional heads.  I still question whether or not I am a successful business person.  I am bad at the business end, but I am really, really trying and MUCH better off than I was a year or two ago...we have cottage law, so I don't have to worry about having a store, but I am very small-time (only 30 or so orders last year), I am a stay at home mom of 4 who isn't looking to grow business right now and often turn down more jobs than I take in.  Is THAT successful?  I don't know.  I am working on my taxes and it is looking like I only billed out just over $5,000 last year.  Am I a better-than-average cake decorator offering what not many people do in my area?  Absolutely.  Are my cakes really, really good?  95% of my business is repeat customers, so I can say with certainty that they are delicious as well as special.  Customer reviews give me that confidence.

 

You've seen American Idol, right?  There are a lot of people out there who have absolutely NO BUSINESS even trying out for that show.  But along the line, they were CONVINCED that they could sing, but when compared to others...not so much.

 

See where I am coming from?  We aren't trying to tear you down, we are trying to help you become a success.  We have been there and done that...and there is no sense re-inventing the wheel.  You asked for opinions/advice and we are glad to give it, but you need to realize that we are going to push your limits.  And that THAT is OK.  

 

Success to me, for now, means getting customers willing to pay my prices with little to no advertising and being able to charge a price that makes it worth my time to do.  And creating a super-awesome cake for my customers.  Otherwise, my a$$ is plopped on the couch hanging with my kiddos.

 

On another note, we all have to start somewhere.  I look at my old cakes (even ones that I sold) and think OMG....the vast improvements that I have made over the years.  Thank goodness!  I sold for much less money back then, learning things along the way and have raised my prices accordingly.

 

But PLEASE share some pictures.  I think that's where a lot of frustration from the people up thread is coming from.

 

I am not trying to argue, I am just trying to make you see where some of us may be coming from.  

BeesKnees578 Posted 22 Feb 2014 , 3:12pm

I guess I meant "defensive" turn...no one was out to offend.

MimiFix Posted 22 Feb 2014 , 3:36pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by MJ4Ever 

This response is for AnnieCahill is it the same as baking for family when total strangers rave about my cake? I was asked to make my niece's birthday cake for her 20th birthday over 20 people I didn't know loved my cake. That right there says customers would be happy with my cakes. You should be more positive and not negative in your answers. Those twenty people make me think I CAN do this!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Godot 

Well, good luck to you then.

 

Ditto. Best of luck to you.

AZCouture Posted 22 Feb 2014 , 3:43pm

AAnd that is where the good advice should stop. Don't bother ladies, save it for someone who wants and is willing to accept good advice. Don't waste your energy, this is where the threads go bad and the helpful ones are vilified. Sad.

AnnieCahill Posted 22 Feb 2014 , 6:28pm

ANegative or honest? I was working with what you wrote in your original post, and others agreed with me as well so are you whining to them in PMs too? Note that I've been a member of CC for ten years and I've seen people like you come in and out by the dozens with failed businesses. My post was meant to help you understand the REALITIES of having a business, not to hurt your feelings. I'm sorry you perceived my post as a personal attack.

I suggest you grow a thicker skin if you're considering starting a business. That is just truthful. Do you want things sugar-coated or straight?

MimiFix Posted 22 Feb 2014 , 6:55pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by AZCouture 

And that is where the good advice should stop. Don't bother ladies, save it for someone who wants and is willing to accept good advice. Don't waste your energy, this is where the threads go bad and the helpful ones are vilified. Sad.

Ditto, again.

BeesKnees578 Posted 22 Feb 2014 , 8:31pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by AnnieCahill 

Negative or honest? I was working with what you wrote in your original post, and others agreed with me as well so are you whining to them in PMs too? Note that I've been a member of CC for ten years and I've seen people like you come in and out by the dozens with failed businesses. My post was meant to help you understand the REALITIES of having a business, not to hurt your feelings. I'm sorry you perceived my post as a personal attack.

I suggest you grow a thicker skin if you're considering starting a business. That is just truthful. Do you want things sugar-coated or straight?

Hopefully she takes the time to read my post up thread...elaborate version of what you simply stated.  I tend to get windy!

nancylee61 Posted 22 Feb 2014 , 9:40pm

Even though it stings, I appreciate when one of you takes my cake and "rips" it to shreds. We really can't see our own work objectively. I know my cakes taste good, because I have been baking for years and still turned to your recipes to get professional scratch cakes. But my decorating - groan!!! I am new, I have a ton to learn!!! And I won't get better and succeed until I learn to accept constructive criticism. Some of you have been kind enough to be honest with me - thick fondant, sloppy edges, etc., and I really, really appreciate it, as I am sure many others here do. So as sensitive as I am, I want to succeed, so I will NEVER whine about a good strong critique!!!

 

And thank you for that,

Nancy

MBalaska Posted 22 Feb 2014 , 11:39pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by nancylee61 
 

"..... We really can't see our own work objectively.........."

 

 

Professional bakers and pastry chefs can and do, at least the successful ones do.

nancylee61 Posted 23 Feb 2014 , 3:55am

Well, that's not me. Yet.

Nancy

cakebaby2 Posted 27 Feb 2014 , 6:15am

A

Original message sent by nancylee61

Actually, I wasn't really being sarcastic, I was writing it in disgust. "Pretty" seems to count for everything in cakes. Even on Cake Boss, they never taste.it. And I don't consider myself a decorator. I bake everything from scratch, I use all natural ingredients, and mostly organic, including eggs from only free range chickens, but all many people, even here, talk about is "pretty," and how best to "doctor" a box mix. I guess because we can't taste it, but I have to say, I came here and was surprised at the number of specialty bakers who bake like the big box grocery stores.

So, yes, I guess it actually was sarcastic. I have far to go with my decorating, and I hope I get there, because I have tasted the cakes made around me, and they are not the way I bake! Nancy

So well put. I was surprised to see a thread devoted to box mixes on here and which box of chemicals performed better than that one. Not being snippy, just surprised. I am a scratch baker using the best ingredients I can afford. I understand a busy mum with limited skill and time opening a box to entertain kids on a school holiday but as a customer who forked out 100.00gbp ten years ago for an awesome birthday cake(brilliantly decorated) which tasted of sawdust I wasn't best pleased. I know tastes differ across the board and the vegetable fat lovers will never appreciate real butter icing but if that's the client base you gotta do what you have to do.

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