Should I Get An Assistant?

Business By sweetchariot Updated 29 Jul 2014 , 12:31am by -K8memphis

sweetchariot Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 6:05am
post #1 of 17

Hi all!

I have been doing this cake thing for about two years and have recently turned it into an at-home business (going on six months now). We are doing great, but I am at that point where an intricate cake is almost more than I can handle alone. I keep staying up multiple nights until 4, 5, 6 am and am just having a hard time justifying this. I am a stay-at-home mom and I like to think that I work fast, but I am finding it hard to get some bigger orders/more detailed orders done. Also, pricing is just crazy! I am spending soooo many hours on cakes but just can't charge per hour otherwise it would be like buying a house! jk, but seriously...

When did you call in an "apprentice/partner" whatever?? I am committing to 4-5 cakes a month (almost all are largish orders) and I can't afford a partner doing only this many, so I need more cakes to hire someone, but I can't do more cakes unless I hire someone...

 

HELP! Thank you!!!

16 replies
nannycook Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 6:31am
post #2 of 17

ASweetchariot, when you say large orders, how large do you mean, personally I wont let anyone touch my cakes unless they were experienced, I make 2 cakes a weekly, have made 7 in a week only once though, and I work also.

Could you possibly afford to take on an experienced decorater?

sweetchariot Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 7:09am
post #3 of 17

I guess to me they are large. but honestly I don't know what a normal amount of time to spend on a cake is. Maybe the real question is HOW long do y'all spend working on these things??? I know I need to charge more already, I get that. 

I have a friends who is good with sweets and cupcakes and helps me on occasion. I would love to go in business with her, but she is a school teacher and is definitely not going to drop that. Also she is a perfectionist to the max and takes forever million years to get anything done, although she does a good job. 

@nannycook do you have help or is it just you? also how long does it take you to do your work? A pretty simple cake took me about 7 hours, including bake time.

nannycook Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 7:17am
post #4 of 17

ASweet, its difficult to say really though isn't it, as it takes a few days in all, bake one day, ice the next and usually decorate the day after that, I sometimes take all day if there a lot of modelling or I do it over a few days to let them dry, I don't clock myself, for me it takes as long as it takes.

Like you said if you charged by the hr, the cake would cost a small fortune.

I 've just gone partime in the last 3 months, as I found I had 4 cakes in a week, but usually can manage 3 in a week, this is yesterdays cake, which I stated Thursday.[IMG]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3268806/width/200/height/400[/IMG]

Smckinney07 Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 2:15pm
post #5 of 17

AIf you aren't charging properly then you will burn out quickly!

What's the point of spending all that time on a cake for someone if you aren't making a real profit? Think about the time away from your children, the late nights...there's a lot more to running a successful business.

I don't know what you are charging but it might be a better idea to take on fewer orders and charge appropriately for your time and your product. I would highly recommend writing out a business plan, you need to figure out your complete costs to see if your even turning a profit. I only emphasize that because so many people these days undercharge, mainly because they just don't realize. Check other Custom cake shops in your area as well. I have a minimum order requirement, I've figured out that something worth $20 isn't enough for me to turn on my oven because there isn't enough of a profit.

If you aren't charging appropriately hiring (and training) someone just to take on extra orders isn't going to change your circumstances-it will only add to your overhead (and possibly drive you crazy).

You will get faster with time. Multitasking and splitting up tasks will also help. I work alone but I only take a certain amount of orders (depending on complexity) each week. I do my baking one day, icing and covering another, things like that. I can color my fondant while my cakes are in the oven or work on decorations. I make sugar flowers in advance, even if I don't have an order, I'll store them then color when I get an order (this is rare lol but I often end up with extras that I can store).

810whitechoc Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 2:18pm
post #6 of 17

I'm not sure what you mean by small and simple or large and complicated cakes, this can mean different things to different people.

 

There is a simple issue here, if you are not pricing your cakes to make a profit and that means covering the cost of the labour adequately, taking on an employee is not going to help.

 

The purpose of a business in it's simplest form is to make money for the business owner.  If your cakes are not priced to cover the labour involved, by taking on an employee all you are doing by taking on extra orders is covering the cost of the employee, not making extra profit for the employer.  Expanding your business is not just a matter of having an extra person and taking more orders.  There are additional costs of gearing up your kitchen and equipment for 2 people, there are additional costs and paperwork involved in employing someone beyond just paying their wage.  Also don't underestimate the stress on you on an emotional level that managing another human being brings, you may get lucky and get a great employee first off, or you may not.  In my experience of 20 years of hiring and firing - you have to kiss a lot of frogs till you find the right one.

 

Why is your pricing such an issue? Is it because your area cannot support the cost of custom cakes?

 

If you do not work out your pricing to cover all your costs plus labour, plus profit, long term your business will not make it and in a year or so you will realise you have just spent a year working for nothing, but your employee will have made a wage.  In other words all you have done is create a job for someone and your business will not have made a profit, which, if I understand your post, is where you are now.

Smckinney07 Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 2:32pm
post #7 of 17

ABeautifully stated ^^^

-K8memphis Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 3:15pm
post #8 of 17
time management is as important as correct pricing in order to turn profit -- it's not about making the finest cake possible -- it's about making the nicest cake the client and i can afford to make -- it's not about doing the ultimate each time -- it's about money -- time is money right -- it sounds like you are burning out because you haven't made time management as much a goal as making a pretty cake -- every time you make a cake more efficiently than last time you've made more money --
 
pretty cakes are created in the right hemisphere of the brain where time does not exist -- so you are wallowing/drowning over there -- you need to come back over to the left hemisphere of your brain and figure out how to do this efficiently -- set small/large goals -- 'i finished icing the last tier in 10 minutes, this tier is smaller i'll finish it in 8 minutes for a par and 7 minutes for a birdie and 6 minutes for an eagle' -- pardon the golf parlance -- plus the overall goal that 'i will have all tiers iced by 9:30 (or whatever) that gives me 30 minutes' -- set times -- 'if this cake is not resting comfortably in the box by 11 i didn't make the cut' (my self talk is perhaps a little more strident than this ;)
 
if you want to survive you have to tighten up -- best to you
costumeczar Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 5:21pm
post #9 of 17

I think that you need to raise your prices, based on your yelp review page. I don't know what the average in your area is, but I know that northern CA is more expensive to live in than where I am, and I'm 50% higher than you for my cake starting prices. If you do that you can weed out some of the cheaper cakes and concentrate on things that will make more profit in less time.

MimiFix Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 7:19pm
post #10 of 17
Sarah, sometimes we "can't see the forest for the trees." Being a stay at home mom is time consuming. But you should be able to handle 4-5 cakes a month, which averages one cake per week. I suggest you look at your business plan. It can help in figuring out problems (pricing, target market competition, time management, etc) and move you ahead.
 
Before you hire an assistant or take on a partner, rethink how you feel about being in business. It may not be the right path; the cake decorating hobby might give you tremendous joy, but it's not the same as running a cake business. 
Cevamal Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 8:28pm
post #11 of 17

ADisclaimer: I'm not a cake decorator but I am a SAHM.

How many kids do you have? How old? How much of the day are they in school, if any?

Rather than hire an assistant for caking it might be better to hire a babysitter.

For example if I need to paint a room it's much cheaper to hire a babysitter and paint it myself than to hire a painter.

enga Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 8:40pm
post #12 of 17

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cevamal 

Disclaimer: I'm not a cake decorator but I am a SAHM.

How many kids do you have? How old? How much of the day are they in school, if any?

Rather than hire an assistant for caking it might be better to hire a babysitter.

For example if I need to paint a room it's much cheaper to hire a babysitter and paint it myself than to hire a painter.

;-D

cakebaby2 Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 10:34pm
post #13 of 17

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cevamal 

Disclaimer: I'm not a cake decorator but I am a SAHM.

How many kids do you have? How old? How much of the day are they in school, if any?

Rather than hire an assistant for caking it might be better to hire a babysitter.

For example if I need to paint a room it's much cheaper to hire a babysitter and paint it myself than to hire a painter.

Such wisdom in those few sentences, you cannot get anything done with kids around without a sitter, restraints or even a large slavering dog. Start with the sitter and trade up as the need arises good luck !

810whitechoc Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 11:05pm
post #14 of 17

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smckinney07 

If you aren't charging properly then you will burn out quickly!

What's the point of spending all that time on a cake for someone if you aren't making a real profit? Think about the time away from your children, the late nights...there's a lot more to running a successful business.

I don't know what you are charging but it might be a better idea to take on fewer orders and charge appropriately for your time and your product. I would highly recommend writing out a business plan, you need to figure out your complete costs to see if your even turning a profit. I only emphasize that because so many people these days undercharge, mainly because they just don't realize. Check other Custom cake shops in your area as well. I have a minimum order requirement, I've figured out that something worth $20 isn't enough for me to turn on my oven because there isn't enough of a profit.

If you aren't charging appropriately hiring (and training) someone just to take on extra orders isn't going to change your circumstances-it will only add to your overhead (and possibly drive you crazy).

You will get faster with time. Multitasking and splitting up tasks will also help. I work alone but I only take a certain amount of orders (depending on complexity) each week. I do my baking one day, icing and covering another, things like that. I can color my fondant while my cakes are in the oven or work on decorations. I make sugar flowers in advance, even if I don't have an order, I'll store them then color when I get an order (this is rare lol but I often end up with extras that I can store).


Looking at the time we both posted we must have been typing at the same and were going down the same thought path!

ellavanilla Posted 28 Jul 2014 , 9:06pm
post #15 of 17
"pretty cakes are created in the right hemisphere of the brain where time does not exist -- so you are wallowing/drowning over there -- you need to come back over to the left hemisphere of your brain and figure out how to do this efficiently -- set small/large goals -- 'i finished icing the last tier in 10 minutes, this tier is smaller i'll finish it in 8 minutes for a par and 7 minutes for a birdie and 6 minutes for an eagle' -- pardon the golf parlance -- plus the overall goal that 'i will have all tiers iced by 9:30 (or whatever) that gives me 30 minutes' -- set times -- 'if this cake is not resting comfortably in the box by 11 i didn't make the cut' (my self talk is perhaps a little more strident than this ;)
 
if you want to survive you have to tighten up -- best to you"

 

This is important, IMO. You've got to figure out what your real costs are. If they are too high to pass onto your customer, then it may be time to rethink your processes.

 

For me, I NEED to have multiple cakes ordered each week in order to make my time work most efficiently. It takes me just slightly longer to bake 8 dozen cupcakes than it does 4 dozen, so I make more money per hour the more cupcakes I have to make, does that make sense?

 

I mostly make birthday/celebrations cakes. They can be frosted and decorated very quickly, so again, it's a matter of organization and volume. I don't bake on Mondays, so if I have flowers or figures to make, they are on the schedule for Monday and Tuesday. Bake Tuesday and Wednesday (depending on the day the cake is due). Crumb coat, ice and decorate on Thursday and Friday. Deliveries on Saturday.

 

I am going full time in September. My weekly goal is 10 cakes per week and 15 cakes per week by the end of the second year. My plan in year 3 is to hire an assistant and expand. All these plans are based on a weekly dollar amount that I need to earn in order to keep body and soul together. You have to write it down and crunch the numbers. Otherwise, you won't have any idea what you're really doing. 

 

Good luck, 

Jen

sweetchariot Posted 28 Jul 2014 , 11:53pm
post #16 of 17

Thank you everyone! I appreciate your time in answering my question. It is quite a bit of work to do but well worth it. 

-K8memphis Posted 29 Jul 2014 , 12:31am
post #17 of 17
Quote:

Originally Posted by MimiFix 

 
...Before you hire an assistant or take on a partner, rethink how you feel about being in business. It may not be the right path; the cake decorating hobby might give you tremendous joy, but it's not the same as running a cake business. 

 

 

yes especially if you want to do muy perfecto cakes with kerry gold irish butter, all vanilla bean all day long with grand marnier splash, and the best chocolate money can buy and the closest attention to every detail decorating no matter how long it takes -- those all out endeavors go to family and close friends --

 

but if you are staying up all night to get this done--back it all up a day and start earlier

 

sarah, do you think you are getting burnt out?

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