We are in our 9 month of running a licensed and inspected commercial kitchen and I must say there has been a lot of lessons learned and some things that really shocked me into reality. We've been as busy as we want to be and I even schedule time off periodically to still have a life outside of our business. Our business has stood on its own two feet from day one we've not put one dime into our business since we opened.
The biggest thing I've learned is that the cake business here is cut throat and other bakers are not nice. We've managed to stay out of the garbage but just being an outsider looking in I can't believe how mean people can be. I never realized the politics that were involved with being a local business either. You never know who knows who and what there motives are which is really scary lol. I naively thought we'd just bake cakes and everyone would be great bc after all cakes make people happy WRONG lol. Being open to the general public is full of a lot of unexpected curve balls. Every few months we get a wave of cheap skates who don't have a clue how much cakes really cost and then we will have times where every quote we send out is accepted it's so funny like that.
Some of the requests we get and some of the people that we deal with really leave me scratching my head in amazement. i could probably write a book called "the bizarre tales of a baker and cake decorator" lol.
i think the most important thing I've learned is that for us we need to only offer a few things to be successful cakes, cupcakes and sugar cookies (limited basis). The more options we offered (pies, breads cookies etc) the more work I was making for myself and the less profit I was making. We have a few more months before we reach the year milestone and I'm excited to see what new things come in our second year!! The first year is all about paying our dues and learning lots and lots of learning :)
I would love to hear from all the other bakers about their first year in business and what their second third fourth and so on was like. Any tips, funny stories and advice welcome!!
We just closed our restaurant after 3 years. The stories I could tell you! I honestly can't say whether the customers or the employees were the worst.
Customers wanted to be made to feel so special and employees couldn't understand why they had to be on time and actually do something.
It didn't take long for my cakes to be put on hold when I realized these people thought Wal-Mart was overpriced.
The rumors that were started about us by other restaurant owners were hilarious and just left us shaking our heads.
I've been telling my husband we need to write a book, but it would probably go in the fiction section cause no one would believe it!
All in all, a steep learning curve and I'm not sure I want to jump right back into the business world.
Sorry to hear about your restaurant closing!! It's sad when a business closes :(
the rumor mill is always churning something about somebody here too "let's cut em down and shut em down" is the business motto here but let's make sure we put on a different face to look like we support one another and they really don't I'll pass on that lol. At first I was all about getting involved having good business relationships with other shops but not now once the veil was pulled back a little I seen the real picture I'm done and I'm better for it. We will just keep to ourselves we don't need to be "friends" in the industry to have a successful business.
It is just my husband and I and I hope the only employees we ever have are our 2 boys bc I would never hire anyone here lol. Employees can make or break a business seen it happen to another business owner. They usually don't get it bc they have nothing invested in it. I've probably "quit" once a month lol bc it's a big deal to actually run a legitimate business and to do it with a spouse adds another interesting layer to it. Sometimes I think we were crazy to do this bc the work involved is beyond what anyone realizes but I can't seem to help myself by continuing to take orders.
Maybe we could all compile a book full of stories and publish it ;)
We've always been considered odd since we could work together so well. Glad to know we're not the only ones.
We had one waitress who thought she was too cute. I got on to her one day so she texted my husband that he needed to talk to me and straighten me out. What she didn't realize was that 2 minutes later, I had that text. Yeah, that was her last day. You don't try to play us off against each other.
Oh, yeah. Best Seller List, here we come!
SHE TEXTED YOUR HUSBAND? Hahahaha! Now that's stupid.
I'd totally be willing to put a book together, it would be part horror story, one part "world's strangest" and one part "that can't be true."
One of the forum members, leah_s wrote a long column once about all the stuff required to start a profitable bakery: quotes, licensing, insurance, inspections, county/city/code requirements, equipment, double drains, start-up funds, etc. (the list went on and on and on). At the very bottom she wrote:
"Oh. And then there's the baking and decorating".
It was hilarious and SO true.
My brother started a little souvenir shop in a quaint, local, mountain community that lives on tourist dollars. Both he and my sister-in-law said they had never encountered such vicious, spiteful behavior in their lives. That bucolic little mountain town was a seething hotbed of in-fighting and lies to capture every tourist dollar that came through the 2 block main road.
Sounds an awful lot like starting up a "happy little bakery".
She texted your husband?!?!? She would have been the one getting straightened out on her way out the door lol. People don't want to work for me I'm particular and want things done the right way and I don't want to have to repeat myself. I have an understanding that things need to be learned but once you know what your supposed to be doing my understanding no longer exist.
My husband and I generally work really well together there was some learning that had to happened in order for us to work well together but for the most part it's all good. Once I accepted he does his work and I do mine and I don't need worry about his stuff getting done it's been really good. I used to freak out about him doing his part and once I realized he'll get it done and it get it done well life has been a lot less stressful for me. The control freak in me had to die quite a bit that day lol.
Yikes so it's not just the cake world!!! People can be so ruthless when it comes to the almighty dollar. I'd rather be dirt poor again then act like that for a dollar. Even when the other bakers customers come to me and complain about so and so I keep my mouth shut they will never be able to say I said a bad word about them. I refuse to get involved even when they throw us under the bus we turn the other cheek. The more they bad mouth us the busier we get lol. when all they have is lies about we get to keep doing what we do and that shows people it's not true.
After having worked in bakeries (including a very famous one in NYC) and restaurants I have come to the conclusion that customers are the absolute worst. Too bad we need them to make $!
Luckily I haven't yet had to deal with much in the way of politics and nastiness from other businesses, but I imagine when we open our cake studio it will be time to grow some thicker skin!
The first Christmas we were open I sent Christmas cards to all the other restaurants in the area. I heard about their reactions for months! Our customers were the worst gossips ever and would make sure we heard about everything.
What a nice gesture!!! Unfortunately here that would peg us as weak and a target bc we are nice lol. So we just treat our customers great and leave the others alone.
thin skin will last about 5 minutes in the small business world. I learned that really quick. And if you are for one second viewed as successful or a real threat the daggers can really come out. I really hope that's not the case everywhere but it's bad here. Maybe it's bc we are small enough of a city where people know someone who knows you type thing but yet big enough to support multiple bakeries and people feel threatened.
but on the flip side of all of that we've met some really great people and been a part of some really awesome things since we opened and despite me quitting from time to time lol I wouldn't change starting our business and I certainly won't let other people's negativity run us out either. Onwards and upwards :)
It is a shame how low down people can be. You open the business because it doesn't feel like work, then the worst is you make the mistake of going in with your sister in law who doesn't have a clue about a bakery. My first business venture,was excited and it all went down the tubes because your partner doesn't want to work hard. I would love to try it again but the funds are gone so I learn the hard way, stay away from greedy family.That's my advice for today,I will not vent anymore. LOL It can be very rewarding though and yes people don't have a clue and they think you should be as cheap as Wal-mart cakes; we had a lot too that didn't want to pay the price, that was the most frustrating. Good luck to all who venture out.
You're right about that. I hate it too when you're the one with the experience and knowledge and others want to get jealous instead of trying to learn all they can.
Cake businesses are bad, but wedding businesses as a collective are the worst. I had people tell other vendors straight-up lies about me doing things to them, out of nowhere and for no reason that made sense to me. It's nuts. Once someone called me and asked why i had used them as an example of unprofessional behavior at a meeting I'd attended. I had no idea what they meant, and they finally told me that the person who told them I'd said that wasn't at the meeting anyway. ???? Wedding vendors are nuts.
I'm in my second year and I'm starting to get the repeat clients, which is nice. For some reason, it's a little less stressful when they've ordered from you before. I do mainly celebration cakes. I stay away from most of the wedding hoopla. I've finally worked out a good baking, decorating schedule so no more late nights which is great.
I do realize now, that it is a lot of work for one person. I cannot keep up with all the social media, networking, etc. So, I basically don't. I try to keep it to one cake a week. I still have another part time job running a medical office, so that's all I can handle and not lose my mind.
The hope is that in the next 5 years or so, we will re-locate south and my sister and I will go into business together (she is the only one I would ever consider doing this with). We would make a rockin team. Until then, I think I'll stay small potatoes :)
Congrats to you Webake2gether - I remember reading your posts just before you opened your doors! Thanks for sharing your updates!
I'm a hobby baker but my husband and I run our business together. Greatest obstacle - leaving work talk at the office! Our business day never ends as it is and there are always emergencies and special circumstances!
It's great to be the boss because you get all the sick days and vacation days you want. It's terrible to be the boss of a small business because you can't take them! A sense of humor is essential along with the thick skin others have noted!
@Jinkies yes there is so many hats to wear when you are a small business. Bc my husband works full time I do a bulk of everything else business related and I'm not complaining at all we knew when we opened it would be mostly on my plate to run the daily operations leaving the cake decorating to him. So everything from taking orders, baking, paying taxes and all the million things in between I do it lol. Marketing is by far the hardest to stay up with and probably my least favorite thing to do bc marketing is tricky what works for some falls flat for us and vice versa. With increase in marketing comes the increase of looky Lous and basement bargain shoppers and I hate dealing with that. Especially when they are far and few between now. But when I'm ramping up my marketing it just naturally comes with it. I purposely don't market and advertise on fb much sometimes bc I want down time then when we want more orders I kick it back up and the orders come in. We have repeat customers now but we are still very much building up our customer base which takes a lot of work. Establishing and maintaining is never ending. I would love to do primarily weddings and 100+ serving events our weekly max on cakes currently is anywhere from 4-6 depending on the complexity of the cakes designs. I'd rather focus on one big order than 5 separate ones and with weddings there is months worth of planning in most cases whereas celebration cakes people wait until a few weeks or less to order. Personal preference though and I've not done a whole lot of weddings so maybe I'm naive lol.
@theresaf I totally relate to the "office talk" lol. We usually say once we come up from the commercial kitchen we are no longer working and it's family time otherwise we could talk cake nonstop and drive our kids nuts. What's funny is we text each other cake ideas and recipes all the time. Always looking for the next thing to do or try I think we may have a bit of a cake problem haha :)
I love working together and couldn't imagine not doing it now. Even though we don't talk much while we are working it's nice to be together. I actually don't like being in the comm. kitchen by myself I'm used to him being there. And just last night he was finishing up a cake and that part we do together and as I was thinking he should move something down he started doing it we've worked together for enough time now that we both see things and think things at the same time. We used to have to verbally tell each other but now it's like we can work without talking it's really weird.
Our 2 cooks walked out on us one busy day thinking we would beg them to come back and stop insisting that they show up on time and put up their cell phones.
We had tried to tell them that "just because we don't, doesn't mean we can't ". So we started doing the cooking. We each had our own area and shared the 8-foot grill.
When we got really busy, we'd go into what my husband called "ninja mode " and we wouldn't talk at all. It really creeped out one of our waitresses. She thought we were communicating telepathically, I guess.
"ninja mode" + "creeping out waitress" BWHAHAHAHAHA