Word Of Caution To Those Thinking Of Starting Up From Home.

Business By cara1982 Updated 8 Dec 2014 , 8:49pm by Pastrybaglady

cara1982 Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 8:43am
post #1 of 47

AI just wanted to give my story about starting a business from home. After years of family and friends telling me I should open a business I decided to give it ago. Right from the first week I was overwhelmed with orders and really proud to see my order book filling up for the rest of the year. But I soon realised everyone wanted cheap cake. Whilst I do work full time, my son is now a teenager so was looking for a hobby to fill my evenings and weekends. Perfect. Soon, every evening and weekend I would be up til midnight baking and decorating cakes for very little money. At first this didn't bother me. I was building my collection of baking tools and at least I was creating cakes I wouldn't normally have done, so it didn't really matter that I wasn't getting an hourly rate as I don't rely on the income. As the weeks went by, I started dreading weekends, I hated the commitment of baking and was neglecting my family. I had managed to turn something I loved into something I hated.

Bottom line is just because our family and friend tell us we make the best cake they've ever seen and tasted does not mean it's good enough to stand up with the professionals. It must be naivety and over confidence that makes us think that after a few years of making family birthday cakes we are good enough to compete with those who have been doing it for years and have trained in the art. I was kidding myself by saying that because I was just starting / just doing it as a hobby that it was ok to sell cheap cake. Thankfully the only competition round here are others on facebook competing to be the cheapest. They are welcome to it. If anyone is looking to make extra money, in my opinion making cakes is not the way to do it. It will take all your spare time, it's messy and it really won't pay that well.

Congratulations to those of you who have made a successful business out of this, I have a renewed respect for all those artists out there! This post wasn't meant to sound all negative, but for now I have packed away my apron and will enjoy my free time :smile:

46 replies
msbelle21 Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 10:40am
post #2 of 47

AWell, selling cakes for less than they're worth to people who won't appreciate your work is no fun at all. Selling your work and time for cheap isn't appreciating what you do. Their buying a cheap cake and telling you it's lovely and yummy isn't appreciating nor respecting what you do either. It kind of sounds like you shot yourself in the foot by giving up your spare time to be losing in the end. I can definitely understand why you no longer get enjoyment out of it. I'd like to think, though, that those cheap people on Facebook were not your competition. Those who sell custom cakes for $20 shouldn't be in your league, so you shouldn't be selling yourself short on their account. You can't satisfy every customer, and that includes the "I want a tiered wedding cake to serve 150 for $60" crowd. Nonetheless, all that matters is your happiness, so I hope your decision has restored that. :)

MsGF Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 1:03pm
post #3 of 47

Sorry you had a bad experience.  Boundaries need to be set prior to starting your business.  I work from home and still really enjoy it.  But I have rules I stick with as to not end up like you feel.

 

I don't sell my cakes cheap and I only commit to 1 cake a week.  And if I have a family function one weekend and I get a cake call I say sorry I'm booked that week.

 

I require at least 2 weeks notice for simple cakes more notice for large cakes.  I too am not in it for the cash, I do it for love and fun.  I don't require this money to pay the bills.  So taking less orders allows me to still have me time and enjoy my family time.  My kids are also grown.  My little business pays for it's self and I get some fun money, so I'm happy.

 

Maybe in time you may feel like selling cakes again.  But set limits and have boundaries.  And selling cakes cheap leads to resentment and bad feelings.  We can't accommodate everyone and that is fine, they have other options.

 

Glad you have found your happiness again, and I wish you all the best in your future decisions. 

Norasmom Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 1:35pm
post #4 of 47

Sometimes that is how you learn what you enjoy.  I would say continue to make cakes, but lower your customer load and raise your prices.  It's difficult to ask for money…it ends up being "bakers being in sales."  But running a business you have to justify your prices.  Bakers are creative and not necessarily good taking a hard stance on their worth.  The successful bakers on this website are good at both. 

 

I have kept my home business extremely small.  I chose not to market and do word of mouth only.   Having started I realized I did not want a messy kitchen al the time, did not want to be on my feet all day coated in powdered sugar, didn't like the stress of wondering if my customers liked my cakes,  and simply did not have the gumption to deal with cheap clients.  So I make cakes when I'm asked and I make sure I say no if I need a break.

 

It's perfectly fine to start something and decide it's not for you, even if you've told everyone about your venture and how excited you are…:-) 

cara1982 Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 1:54pm
post #5 of 47

AYou're all absolutely right. I will bake again but keeping it small is right for me. I guess I just got caught up in the excitement and was afraid to say no. I think I have to understand that not everyone can afford custom cakes, and that's ok. I have some charity cakes and halloween cupcakes still in the diary but that's ok. Somehow less pressure with gifts. Thank you, I feel better for venting already!

cai0311 Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 2:02pm
post #6 of 47

AWhen I first started making cakes from my house (licensed home bakery) I took any order that came my way. I wouldn't lower my prices but I would take small orders not really worth my time because I made so little. But I needed pictures to show clients - so I took the orders.

I only did this for 1 year. At the end of the year mark I had enough pictures and experience I could just focus on higher end cakes.

I decided to market myself to brides. For my area that is where the money is and it is a seasonal business. The winters here in NE Ohio are tough so not many people get married from Nov - April, which gives me some time off during the year.

I will still take a small order here and there for a repeat customer or if it is a design I have been wanting to try but my average order I have booked so far for 2015 is $675. For me, that makes giving up my time and weekends worth it.

Maybe you need to narrow down the type of order you are will to take and place a minimum $ amount on that order.

cara1982 Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 2:25pm
post #7 of 47

AThe money would definitely make it worth while, although one of my only cake horrors was a wedding cake. My son broke his hand the day before the wedding, and the morning of the wedding we were in hospital for most of the morning. The bride did get her cake but it was lacking a few details that she wanted and also had to deliver it ready stacked which is something I never normally do because I deliver on my own. I think I have to find my corner of the market, and as Norasmom said, I may bake if I'm asked but don't think I'll go out looking for business. I'm still registered with the authority and have my hygiene certificate so can still bake for charity too.

Norasmom Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 3:37pm
post #8 of 47

I have started doing a bit of charity and I love it.  I put my cupcakes and cakes up for auction and people bid quite a bit…more than I would charge.  So in a way, I am getting what I am worth as a baker but for the benefit of our public schools.  This will get me some referrals, but as I said before, I will turn down business if I don't want a project.

FlourPots Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 4:24pm
post #9 of 47

Here's a great post written by CC member jenmat: http://www.cakecentral.com/t/714674/why-im-happier-now-a-lesson-in-reality

cara1982 Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 4:42pm
post #10 of 47

AWow. Fantastic post. That's exactly where I need to be! I need these boundaries....

BeesKnees578 Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 4:56pm
post #11 of 47

I can relate to every story in this thread...like my life written by other people!  And the novel ensues...

 

For those of us that start at home, I think we all "start cheap" to some degree to gain experience.  When I started, there were no internet tutorials or pinterest or craftsy, so I learned from Wilton books and library books and my imagination.  It works well for those of us that are home with our kids OR those that don't want to, or can't, get a 2nd job at a local bakery to build upon your skills.

 

I think it is safe to say that people who have started with a store front because their states have more stringent laws about baking...just don't get it.  And I mean no disrespect by that, it's just the way it seems to be.  I don't get, in the very least, what all it would take to open a store front.  It is two different worlds, really.

 

Our cottage industry laws will tolerate an inexperienced, cheap baker who is learning the ropes.  Whereas, if you are opening a shop, you better have your #&$@ together from the get-go.

 

My advice to you:

 

DO NOT STOP baking and decorating...your cakes are GREAT!  Yes, I peeped at your pics...

 

RAISE YOUR PRICES and DO NOT BAT AN EYE ABOUT IT!  Blow off any criticism of cheapskates and seek out a higher paying clientele.  Even if that means going outside your hometown.  Even if it means no orders for a while.  I only gain exposure on FB and my website and word of mouth so that I do not get too busy.  Now this will require a deal of research...use search button here and "how do I price my cake".  I'm sure you've heard about it.  I personally use Cake Boss to figure out my costs along with my hourly wage and profit margin.  I think it is worth the money, but others may have a better idea.  What ARE others in your area charging, how do their skills compare to your own?  Once you know how much it's costing you and what kind of profit you'd like to clear on your cakes, you will have irrefutable evidence if/when someone harasses you about your prices.  You can hit them with: "It's unfortunate that you think I should work for such a low wage.  I have done my research and my cakes are (more skillful, detailed, aesthetically pleasing, etc.) than any bakery that I know of in my area.  I appreciate being valued and it is clear that we are not a good fit.  Thank you and have a great day."  Being honest and truthful about your skills compared to those in your area should help determine the hourly wage you want to/should make.  You are making a LUXURY GOOD.  Don't go off of what YOU would pay someone to do a cake like this for you...YOU are not YOUR target customer, most likely.

 

Make a MINIMUM order requirement...whatever will motivate you and makes it worth the time away from your family.

 

THE ABOVE will drastically lessen your work load and you can concentrate on making high-end cakes.

 

One thing I have found that works for me when quoting a highly detailed cake is giving them two options...the souped up version that they are asking for and then a toned down version, including the simplified key elements.  75% of the time, my customers have taken the more expensive one.  You could try this.

 

You, like me and some others that have replied, don't rely on cake for income.  This works in your favor.  You get to pick and choose.

 

Now I am going to go and poop rainbows and glitter because I just made that all sound SOOOOO easy!

morganchampagne Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 4:58pm
post #12 of 47

AThis business you learn rather quickly that doing something for cheap isn't worth it. I had ONE weekend like that and it was over for me! No more bargains. It's not to be mean, but this business is long long hours and I demand to be compensated fairly. You know what's best for you so maybe caking isn't it.

This thread is indeed a caution to people starting their own business. DONT UNDERCHARGE. Take your time in looking and seeing what it is you need to do to be successful. This includes working out a legitimate price structure.

costumeczar Posted 9 Oct 2014 , 11:00pm
post #13 of 47

AYep...undercharging is the fastest route to burnout. And the second fastest is thinking that having a cake business is going to be fun all the time. Oh no it's not.

johnson6ofus Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 1:58am
post #14 of 47

Quote:

Originally Posted by costumeczar 

 And the second fastest is thinking that having a cake business is going to be fun all the time. Oh no it's not.

Just like having babies, no? LOL. Good times and bad, and I mean really bad...

FioreCakes Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 3:03am
post #15 of 47

I expected to click over to your profile and see Wilton Class I cakes, but to my surprise they were so CLEAN, CREATIVE and amazing! The globe??? so great!! 

 

So my question is...have you tried to raise your prices and nobody ordered? Also, what type of an area do you live? Unless your cakes taste like cardboard you should be able to compete the with big guys. Local bakeries in my area don't have the time to make perfect custom cakes, they're icing isn't as smooth, and they definitely don't do that many carved cakes. It's just not their business plan since they also do cookies, pastries, donuts, etc., so a lot of that business goes to illegal home bakers. 

Gingerlocks Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 2:29pm
post #16 of 47

You need to raise your prices..yes, everyone wants a cheep cake; but you are being overwhelmed. Higher prices actually means you'll make a profit, and ensures you're not run off your feet. 

costumeczar Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 2:41pm
post #17 of 47

I think that something that's being overlooked in the whole "raise your prices" advice is that the OP said she was looking for a hobby. Not everyone has to have a cake business. Doing it for a hobby keeps it fun and relaxing, but doing it for a business makes it work and deadlines. If you want to enjoy yourself and do cakes for fun, do it as a hobby and don't take orders. If someone asks you to do a cake and you don't want to, say no. If someone tells their friends that you sell cakes, tell them no, you just do it for fun and for family. There's no shame in NOT selling cakes, although these days everyone seems to think there is for some reason. Hobbies are fun, selling things is work.

costumeczar Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 2:43pm
post #18 of 47

Oh, and no matter what you do, if you do it well, people will say "you should start a business." It's easy for people to say, but not necessarily what should really happen. It's like the people in the audience at game shows screaming at the contestant to choose curtain #1...They can yell all the advice they want to, they have nothing to lose.

cara1982 Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 3:56pm
post #19 of 47

AOne of the reasons I decided to sell cake was because my family were sick of eating them, my work colleagues were all on diets and it seemed I couldn't give them away! (a silly reason looking back!) I was just really surprised at how quickly I burned out. I didn't think I was in it for the money, but feeling undervalued (by myself charging low prices) was the quickest way to kill the love I had for baking.

-K8memphis Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 4:09pm
post #20 of 47

Quote:

Originally Posted by cara1982 

...I didn't think I was in it for the money, but feeling undervalued (by myself charging low prices) was the quickest way to kill the love I had for baking.

 

 

i think you killed your desire to do it that way where it's a business/hobby/mess -- deep down under the cinders and scar tissue you probably still like to bake you just need to find how to do it pleasantly -- probably after a good long break -- 

 

i think you'll be back to baking one way or the other -- sorry you fell so hard so fast but that means you'll be up and healing sooner -- best of the best to you --

MimiFix Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 4:11pm
post #21 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeesKnees578 

 

I think it is safe to say that people who have started with a store front because their states have more stringent laws about baking...just don't get it.    

 

I don't understand this. Please explain. 

BeesKnees578 Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 5:59pm
post #22 of 47

Quote:

Originally Posted by BeesKnees578 
 

 

For those of us that start at home, I think we all "start cheap" to some degree to gain experience.  When I started, there were no internet tutorials or pinterest or craftsy, so I learned from Wilton books and library books and my imagination.  It works well for those of us that are home with our kids OR those that don't want to, or can't, get a 2nd job at a local bakery to build upon your skills.

 

I think it is safe to say that people who have started with a store front because their states have more stringent laws about baking...just don't get it.  And I mean no disrespect by that, it's just the way it seems to be.  I don't get, in the very least, what all it would take to open a store front.  It is two different worlds, really.

 

Our cottage industry laws will tolerate an inexperienced, cheap baker who is learning the ropes.  Whereas, if you are opening a shop, you better have your #&$@ together from the get-go.

 

MimiFix,

 

I just mean that those that go thru the ropes in a shop vs those that do it at home probably have different business sense.  I didn't mean that shops don't "get" the business as a whole.  Out of necessity, they get the business end of it much better.

 

Many home bakers just start off as a hobby that pays the wages of a waitress that doesn't get tips.   No proper business sense because we don't HAVE to have it, we can just make cake and sell it.  We should have it, but don't.  I don't know ANY of my cake friends here in OH that took a class with the intention of starting a business.  Just for fun...

 

Passionate about the art, but maybe lacking the business sense.  I lacked it for some time.  So you eventually get it and change. Or you get it and don't care...to you it's just cake and you enjoy working for practically free.   Or you don't get it and burn out.  Many reasons and scenarios.

 

I don't want to overgeneralize so I apologize if I did.  I am sure there are plenty of CFL bakers who knew from the start how to run a business.  And good for them, I say!  I sure wish I was one of them many years ago.

 

Does that make sense?

 

I'm not great at keeping things to the point. My mind wanders.

 

Squirrel.

costumeczar Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 6:47pm
post #23 of 47

Quote:

Originally Posted by BeesKnees578 
 

 

MimiFix,

 

I just mean that those that go thru the ropes in a shop vs those that do it at home probably have different business sense.  I didn't mean that shops don't "get" the business as a whole.  Out of necessity, they get the business end of it much better.

 

Many home bakers just start off as a hobby that pays the wages of a waitress that doesn't get tips.   No proper business sense because we don't HAVE to have it, we can just make cake and sell it.  We should have it, but don't.  I don't know ANY of my cake friends here in OH that took a class with the intention of starting a business.  Just for fun...

 

Passionate about the art, but maybe lacking the business sense.  I lacked it for some time.  So you eventually get it and change. Or you get it and don't care...to you it's just cake and you enjoy working for practically free.   Or you don't get it and burn out.  Many reasons and scenarios.

 

I don't want to overgeneralize so I apologize if I did.  I am sure there are plenty of CFL bakers who knew from the start how to run a business.  And good for them, I say!  I sure wish I was one of them many years ago.

 

Does that make sense?

 

I'm not great at keeping things to the point. My mind wanders.

 

Squirrel.


That didn't make sense to me when you first wrote it either, but I see your point. It's sad that the people who don't get it, or the ones who get it and don't care, are the problem as far as driving down expectation of prices for the general public. People start asking why they should pay X amount for a custom cake when there are so many people who don't have a clue selling cakes at no profit or very little profit. And it's not good for people who think they're working at a real job that earns money  when they'd do better financially to go work as a cashier somewhere.

johnson6ofus Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 7:06pm
post #24 of 47

Quote:

Originally Posted by costumeczar 
 

And it's not good for people who think they're working at a real job that earns money  when they'd do better financially to go work as a cashier somewhere.

Yup.. and that'w why I don't teach Wilton anymore. Can you believe JoAnn's+Wilton expected me to teach 4 nights, 2 hours each night (+ set up and clean up extra, so 2.5-3 hours) and supply my own tools and materials, and pay me $60 (and I pay all taxes, including 15% self employment tax). Yup--- that's $15/ night!!!

 

No, I don't work for the $$$.... I wanted the fun. We are fine financially. BUT, I am not contributing to the "charity" of Wilton corporation and JoAnn's corporation at less that minimum wage! That is really unfair to the other instructors that needed that extra part time income. Yes, so other Wilton instructors who "sell" class everywhere they go (again, free marketing for JoAnn's and Wilton, at instructor expense!) may make more (and even lots more) as they pay per head.

 

Think about needlepoint. A fun hobby that produces a product with skill. You "gift" it to a friend who you know, that understands 300 man hours went into it... maybe understands and appreciates it. Would a "customer" buy a custom needlepoint that took 300 hours and pay a fair wage for it? Not really (that is why there are child laborers weaving rugs for 7 cents a day).

 

You cake artist who make amazing cakes are NOT bakers, you are artists and should be paid accordingly. To the "jobbyists" who hobby and bake, for a few dollars, or nothing at all....you suffer the burn out as others expect a 300 hour masterpiece and "do you a favor" by paying you less than Walmart sheet cakes. The few dollars is just an insult, and disrespectful to the time and art of caking. 

 

CHOOSE. 

1. A cake business. For sale, by the rules of  your state, for a fair price and reflecting a fair wage to you and covering all expenses.

2. A cake fairy. Shows up with great cake, free.....

 

Anything else will leave hurt feelings, misunderstandings, unmet expectations, under-appreciation, etc., etc., etc.

ellavanilla Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 7:59pm
post #25 of 47

Quote:

Originally Posted by johnson6ofus 
 

 To the "jobbyists" who hobby and bake, for a few dollars, or nothing at all....you suffer the burn out as others expect a 300 hour masterpiece and "do you a favor" by paying you less than Walmart sheet cakes. The few dollars is just an insult, and disrespectful to the time and art of caking. 

 

 

 

Aw shoot! Johnson6 made up an awesome new word!

johnson6ofus Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 8:14pm
post #26 of 47

Nope...stole it from someone here on CC!:-D Wish I remembered who to give credit...AZ/ K8?   Don't remember....sorry.

-K8memphis Posted 10 Oct 2014 , 8:33pm
post #27 of 47

ASnarky said it the first I ever heard of it

costumeczar Posted 11 Oct 2014 , 12:13pm
post #28 of 47

A

Original message sent by johnson6ofus

Nope...stole it from someone here on CC!:D  Wish I remembered who to give credit...AZ/ K8?   Don't remember....sorry.

That's Katrina's awesome word... http://www.sugarlandchapelhill.com/blog/wedding-tip-week-6/

oftheeicing Posted 12 Oct 2014 , 6:48am
post #30 of 47

AI too am fairly new, having been in business for a year and half, and don't rely on this as income. I found myself in the red after the first year and completely burnt out! I found I was donating too much to charity, and giving too many customers breaks because I felt sorry for their financial situations, or really wanted to do the design they were requesting. After the one year mark, I made a pact to charge the prices that I have listed. Though I don't NEED the money, I did not take on this acquisition to lose money. Business slowed down to almost non-existence for a couple of months, and I was nearly ready to throw in the towel. Things are picking up steadily now, and though I may still get that frequent request for a $19.99 cake that feeds 50, I am not afraid to turn them away and send them to WalMart. I am now gaining new customers by the day who value what I do and don't bat an eyelash paying what I ask. I am once again busier than ever and once again loving what I do. It's just a matter of valuing your own work, and finding the right clientele to appreciate it.

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