If you run a custom cake business out your home: Approximately, how many cake orders do you take a week? And, how long did it take you to get that busy? Where do you get the majority of your customers (referrals, advertising, etc)?
TIA, if you don't mind me prying :)
I've had a licensed residential business for a little over 3 years now. I started out thinking I would do 1-2 cakes a weekend, but in the past year it's been closer to 5-6, although I prefer 2-3. The majority of my cakes are quite detailed with either sculpted or hand cut details. I do have cake friends in neighboring towns that do closer to 10-15 a week. They often have help in the kitchen at some point in the week though, and have bigger ovens, more mixers, etc etc that lets them be more efficient with their time. I live in a family focused suburb, so the majority of my cakes are kids birthday cakes. I think by my second year I had a number of requests for just about every weekend and spent the last year turning away orders that I could not handle pretty often. I started out with business cards and put flyers at places parents hung out waiting for kids (think dance studio, gymnastics studios, places that hold kids birthday parties), but the vast majority of my business is from parents that had my cake at another party, word of mouth from other parents, or family group boards. Most of the towns in my area have a membership based group for the families in the town. They have discussion boards where people can ask for suggestions on cakes, etc etc. If you are able to get your name on to a board like that, or advertise within the group, your name will often come up every time someone asks about cakes. I'm also a sponsor for the group in my town, which means my name is often seen without someone specifically asking about cakes.
That being said, I am burned out on kids cakes! I hope someone else can suggest others ways to pull more varied business for you. :)
Wow, sounds like you've taken off! That's great! I actually LOVE doing kids cakes (I think I'm the odd one out there). I only started my biz earlier this year so I'm still a little slow but I'm gaining clients through referrals by other clients, so that's good. I'm trying to figure out if I should let it continue to build slowly or push on with some advertising in a nearby posh town.
I like the idea of posting in dance studios and party places, etc. I think I'm gonna look into that.
I really don't want to go from 0-60 buuuuuut, a little quicker would be nice. I'd be happy with 1-2 cakes a week right now. My goal has always been to have a somewhat built up clientele by this time next year so I'm not freaking out or anything, just pondering. What to do...what to do...
Maybe, I'm just a wuss and I'm scared of having too may orders too fast...oh the stress! Really, there are not a lot of cakers in this area so I could be in a goldmine if I can just seek out the right clients.
Thanks you for your feedback FrostedMoon, I appreciate it :)
You are welcome! I loved doing kids cakes when I first started, too. If I could go back I would have established early on that I would not do trademarked characters and would focus on finding other creative ways to represent the theme. I would spend so much time coming up with creative design options only to be told that they were great, but the child saw this or that cake and really wanted that exact design. It's not fun doing the same themes and cakes over and over. I had a particular Frozen themed cake that was really popular and I got so tired of spending 2-3 hours hand cutting Anna & Elsa! I finally refused to do it and started using an edible image. Not my typical style at all. I think it's important to decide if you want to do lots of more simple cakes or just a few "wow" cakes. I've found I'm more of the latter. I'm not okay churning out quick to make cakes. Go for the posh town and set yourself a good minimum order amount. I don't know what you are charging now, but don't assume you will just be able to raise prices in the future. Take your time to build your business, try to be as efficient as possible (I am awful at that part!) and plan out your work flow, and have patience. The more time you take to hone both your cake and your business skills, the more successful I bet you will be!
Thanks, FrostedMoon. You really reaffirmed what I am doing for me. I strictly adhere to copyright laws and state so on my website. I believe it's the right thing to do but, man, it is frustrating when I see the cheap cake lady in my town doing tons of them. And, I do have a minimum order of 24 servings. I start @ $4/serving.
I agree, I'd rather be doing fewer "wow" cakes than more simple. Most of my orders seem to be 3d cakes which is fine because I love doing them.
I spent a good year (before starting the biz) doing research on pricing, etc so I think I've really done my homework and set myself up pretty well. I just get frustrated once in a while because there is a cheap cake lady in my town who is so busy she's turning away orders. A good % of her cakes are one step away from cakewrecks so I. just. don't. get. it. She posted a pic of a wedding cake on her fb that was 3 tiers, leaning to one side, had a white cardboard round sticking out between the 1st and 2nd tier and was sitting on a white cardboard round. Seriously, not even a stupid Wilton cake drum! It was followed by" oohs and aahs, so beautiful, you're amazing, it was a big hit at the wedding" yada yada. Her cakes basically look like they are just slapped together in a few minutes.
I'm sure she's a nice lady and her cakes probably (I hope) taste great but, omg, are these people blind? I don't live in a low wage town either. Anyway, all of my orders have been from other towns and were either by people seeking out custom cakes and found my website or referrals from other clients. I got nothing from my advertising in the papers (and it was expensive to place ads). I've been thinking of doing postcards in the "posh" town, so I think I'm gonna go for that and be patient like you said. It's only been a few months and I can see it's slowly building, I just get antsy.
Thanks for your help, only another caker can understand the frustration :)
I've had my licensed home bakery for 2 years now. I had a store front a few years ago but got burned out working around the clock. So we built a separate kitchen in my basement so I could work from home and still be legal. Its been much better for the work life balance.
Some weekends I have no cake, other weekends I have up to 4 - 5. The only time that gets stressful is the level of detail that is requested. I am mostly doing birthday cakes, smaller cakes with alot more detail. I am trying to get back into the wedding circuit. I've started advertising (which is expensive) and also attending local fairs and fundraisers. The fundraisers have netted me enough business to cover the cost of the donations. I would like to have more of a steady cake order schedule so I'm working on ways to get my name out there.
Good luck on your new venture!
I work from home and do pretty much only wedding cakes, so I'm busier April-November. I've cut down a lot on how many cakes I'm doing because my back has really been bothering me the last few years, but at my peak I was doing something like 120 wedding cakes + random groom's cakes a year. At the end of the weekend I'd pretty much be crippled and in a really bitchy mood. Now I try to do only 1 a week and give myself a lot of unscheduled weeks when I can.
The best way to advertise is word of mouth, hands down. Referrals from people are more trusted than a print or online ad. But you definitely need to have a website, don't rely on just a facebook page.
Thanks ladies! Yes, I've only gotten one order through fb. I actually hate fb and I'm really bad at posting on it. But, I do have a web page and most of my clients are people that found my web page and referrals. I like the referrals best because they are people who know your pricing and have usually already tasted your cake, etc. so they are a sure order.
I guess patience is not my best quality, haha! Well, actually, I don't have any at all....
Wow, 120 wedding cakes....by yourself??? Awesome! You'd deserve to be bitchy :)
Jinkies wrote: Wow, 120 wedding cakes....by yourself??? Awesome! You'd deserve to be bitchy :)
Would you come to my house and inform my husband of that? ;)
Not to hijack the thread, but interesting to hear about the difference between doing wedding cakes as opposed to smaller cakes for other parties. I've avoided weddings and do mostly those smaller more detailed cakes, too. They do take forever! Always assumed it would just be that much more detail for wedding cakes, but I do prefer clean and more simple designs so maybe I am wrong? Definitely something to take in to consideration as you build your business Jinkies!
I work full time and started registered a residential business last year. Within a few months, my diary was fully booked for 9 months ahead and I was up to 3/4 cakes a week.
I burnt out and realised I'd rushed into things way too quickly. I took a few months off and now I have about 1 cake each weekend now, which is far more manageable.
All of these have come through word of mouth, I don't advertise at all.
@FrostedMoon So true, the detailed cakes take a lot of time. This was my husbands worry when I started this whole venture. He thinks I'm too much of a perfectionist and take too much time on the little details. If I charged by the hour, no one would be able to afford my cakes :) But, I love working on those little details, it's relaxing for me. On the flip side, if I want to be profitable, I'd better get over it!
@cara1982 I peaked at your pics and Pastrybaglady is right, your work is beautiful, very clean. I can see where you'd burn out doing 3-4 of those a week.
Thank you, It started as a hobby, and I do love a challenge!
I also find it impossible to say no for some reason...??! I think that was more the problem that's anything else. I was alway trying to find time to squeeze in one more cake.
I started 3 years ago full time with my home business and it took me almost 2 years to be "fully booked" in advance 90% of the time. My business comes primarily from word of mouth and online search (I invest in my website and some SEO apps) but other than that I really don't spend anything on advertising. I do, however, make it a point to build relationships with my customers (i.e. personal thank you notes mailed for every order). I don't really have a number of cakes per week that I go for, but a dollar amount. I.e. a wedding and another order or two will hit my dollar amount as will 5 or 6 various custom cakes with various levels of detail/art charges. This is an interesting thread to see where everybody is with their business!
During the summer since I don't have school, I take about 4-5 orders per week, and during school I take around 2-3 orders per week. It also depends on what the orders are since I do cakes, cupcakes, cookies and cake pops.
Most of my orders come from word of mouth, they either email us or message us on our Facebook page. It's great!