I Need To Vent, Getting Depressed-Long

Business By Lenette Updated 18 Nov 2006 , 6:18pm by lisap

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Lenette Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 3:44pm
post #1 of 19

I am so down about this business, I am beginning to feel it was all a mistake. I am seriously considering selling my equipment and just forgetting about it. I truly didn't expect it to be easy, honestly. I know the first year or so is hard but the stress and stuff is really getting to me.
I guess I just wish I knew what I was doing wrong. My phone just is not ringing. Is it really possible to do this without a storefront? I am licensed but that's a whole nuther drama. I have done ads with the radio station (promos mostly), charity auctions, given away probably a thousand dollars or more in products/samples/discounts etc. Very little has come from it. People RAVE about my desserts but very few orders.

On top of all that I am having trouble at the place renting from. They had a caterer in there who damaged some of my stuff. When I brought it to their attention they just laughed it off. I am so PISSED! I mean I am paying rent to be there, not the caterer, and I feel I should not have to worry about my stuff. I am looking into renovating my garage ($10,000) or getting another house with the space for a kitchen.
I am running out of money. I don't know if I should get a job to maintain until things pick up. Should I do more marketing? If so how, especially with no money. If anyone has any words of wisdom or encouragement I could really use some now...

18 replies
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Firstlady Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 3:54pm
post #2 of 19

I am so sorry that things are not working out for you at this time. Do you have any friends or family that could possible promote your business? What about some local churches or daycare centers? Have you tried baking for a locate resturant or diner in you area that don't have desserst on display? What about a cake club where you would ship cakes for the hoilday and people give them as gifts (like the fruit of the month club). If you were to go back to work would you be able to do cakes doing the week? Just a few suggestions! Don't give up on your dream.

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MikeRowesHunny Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 3:58pm
post #3 of 19

I feel for you Lenette - I have been in your shoes only just a few short months ago! I started to take this seriously about 18 months ago, and it has taken a long time to build a reputation and a client base. I work from home and it took a few well-placed flyers to really start bringing the business in, and as I said, that has only been since September. Since then, I've done an average of 2 cakes a week - not as many as I want, but I was going 6 -10 weeks between orders before then! I find that if I included a few business cards with every order, people were passing my details onto friends who were then contacing me for orders. Sure, I've had people enquire and then not call back after being given a price, but that's OK, because I refuse to slog my guts out for nothing. I've also been giving 10% off vouchers for the next cake with all first cake orders - a little incentive to come back!

So, yes, it can be done from home, but it takes a while to build up to the level you'd like to have (and I'm still after 3-4 celebration cakes a week, and at least a couple of weddings a month!).

Hang in there - it will happen, I'm sure your cakes are great!

P.S. I still have a part-time job (5 hours a week housekeeping), because right now I still like to know that I have a solid income per week! It can be a struggle during busy cake weeks, but I like the security for now!

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RisqueBusiness Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 4:02pm
post #4 of 19

Hi, how long have you been in business? Did you do a trial run with your recipes? how about doing cross promotions with radio stations.

I just opened my place and some weeks I have like 10 cakes and then some week I don't have any. I have found that on those slow days, I make practice cake or cakes that I need for the website.

Why don't you PM me and maybe we can put our heads togeter and get you out of your funk!

I know I"m struggling and sometimes it gets depressing when you have to reach into your personal funds to pay the bills, but sometimes it takes a while for people to come knocking at your door!

Cheer up, Maybe some other lic/professional bakers can join up here and give each other the support that we need, that's a little different from a SAHB

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peajay66 Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 4:02pm
post #5 of 19

What other things, other than giving away the farm, have you done to promote your business? Do you have flyers around town? Especially at daycares, libraries, grocery stores, bridal stores and laundromats?

Do you have professional looking business cards printed? (you can get nice biz cards at www.vistaprint.com for only the price of shipping). Hand out professional biz cards to EVERYONE you know! Give them to cashiers when you shop, bank tellers, receptionists/nurses/doctors, anyone you do business with.

Do you have a button to wear that says "I Have a Sweet Job! Ask me about it!"? It would be a great conversation starter and gives you an opening to hand your biz card to a complete stranger.

Are you a member of your local chamber of commerce? In larger areas this can be a steep investment, but the networking could prove invaluable.

For the customers you do have, do you offer a referral incentive? Write their name on the back of a few business cards and let your customer know that whenever you recieve a card back that has their name on it, you will give them 10% off their next order.

Or a frequent buyers card? Let your customers know that you keep track of their purchases and when they've accumulated $XXX.XX amount they'll get a free simple birthday cake! Offer them a discount of 10% on a cake in the month of their birthday too!

There are many ways to promote your business without investing a ton of money. It just takes more time and effort on your part.

Good Luck and I hope you don't give up!

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goal4me Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 4:03pm
post #6 of 19

I would put first priority at getting a job with steady income and then put aside a certain portion you can afford each month from this check to develop your business and business plans.

Perhaps working at a quality bakery you would have the opportunity to see the ins and outs of the business aspects and what volume it takes to make a profit, what products sell, who's buy them etc.... When you are stable economically you can venture out and you may well have developed a lead contact list through this experience...

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patticakesnc Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 4:08pm
post #7 of 19

I am sorry you are feeling like that. I know how you feel (sort of). I am new to this but everyone loves my cakes. I got really depressed last week because my neice turned 18. She wanted to cookie cake and my sister went ane paid for one at the mall instead of even asking me to make one. I truthfully was offended. It is her right to go to the mall but she could have at least asked me! It makes me feel like if my own family won't buy from me who would? I have a long way to go and I know that but I do make delicious cakes.

I can suggest one thing for you since you are legal though. Try advertsing on www.onewed.com if you haven't already. People look there for wedding vendors. Maybe that will help some and you can advertise for free. Well if you have a website that is.

Hang in there!

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whimsette Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 4:16pm
post #8 of 19

Lenette, I'm sorry you're having such a hard time! {big hugs}

This business can be brutal sometimes. It took me, oh, about 3 years to work out how to be profitable and it's tough to stay that way-- even when business is good.

I rent space from a commercial kitchen and let me just say that I've had to get surly with the staff about keeping their grubby mitts off my stuff. I've had supplies pilfered and equipment outright missing until I bought a locker (with a lock) to store my non-refridgerated stuff. So, you're not alone!

There are so many factors that can be determining how your business is doing:

What's your business structure? Are you cakes-only? Weddings-only? Desserts? Cookies?

Which markets are you targeting? Kids, weddings, corporate, risque, general occasion?

Are you in a competitive market? Are there other bakers doing the same thing as you nearby?

How's the ecomony in your area? Booming or lots of layoffs or just ok?

What's your price point? Are you going for upscale, mid-range, or budget clientel?

How good are you at cost control?

That's just the beginning. icon_cry.gif

My best advice is to follow your heart. Is this something you want to continue? Go for it. Keep working toward your goal. If you're not so sure anymore, can you take a break to clear your head? There's absolutely no shame in taking time for yourself to recharge and re-evaluate what you want.

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aobodessa Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 4:32pm
post #9 of 19

Unfortunately, this business is going to be one that will run in "streaks" ... lots of work one month, very little the next. I've been at it for 36+ years, and that is one of the reasons I just refuse to have a storefront. I have a full-time job and I bake evenings and weekends. My time is very precious to me and I still love what I do, so I just keep doing it the best way I know how.

Unfortunately, I've been in a dry spell this entire calendar year. Last Sept., my oldest daughter got married and I turned away about $3,600.00 worth of wedding cake orders for the same weekend as her wedding, which sucked! icon_cry.gif The word-of-mouth alone I would have received from those cakes would have kept me going all year long!

But no sense dwelling on something I can't control. I just keep plugging away. I wonder if you could offer something other than your specialty cakes? Perhaps a limited line of artisan breads? Maybe expanding your product line would be enough to get your foot in some other doors that will in turn pay your light bill and get your product out there.

You might want to consider less "freebies"; only donate to one or two good causes (local Cancer Run or high school prom gift certificates for graduation cakes, for instance). When others come asking for a donation, inform them that you will consider donating at cost, but not free -- not every business can afford to donate to every good cause! Pick and choose what will give you the best exposure and run with it. But there's really no sense cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Another option I can think of: send a questionnaire to past Clients, asking for their assistance with a marketing survey. Offer them a dozen cookies or a small cake (5" or 6") if they respond within a certain amount of time. Gear your questions toward pricing (too much? too little?), selection (what would you like to see? is there anything you would go out of your way to purchase from me?), quality, likes and dislikes. Also ask if they think of you first for their specialty baking and if not, what can you do to put your name at the top of their list? I'll bet your customers have a definite point of view about why they do/don't come in and once you tap into that, you might find that you're right on target.

I would definitely continue with the business card idea; maybe a stamp or a hand-written "offer" on the back of every 5th or 6th card giving a discount or freebie with purchase. That might get more people in.

Don't forget about the Small Business Administration. They have lots of experts who can assist you with your dilemma and help get you jump started. And the best thing is that it may all be free! I would give them a call as well.

I hope you don't give up. If you have the skills and the drive, you can really make this work! And don't worry, we here at CC are dragging out our pom-pons and we're going to cheer you on, all the way!

Best of luck to you, and keep on baking!


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RisqueBusiness Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 4:34pm
post #10 of 19
Originally Posted by goal4me

I would put first priority at getting a job with steady income and then put aside a certain portion you can afford each month from this check to develop your business and business plans.

Perhaps working at a quality bakery you would have the opportunity to see the ins and outs of the business aspects and what volume it takes to make a profit, what products sell, who's buy them etc.... When you are stable economically you can venture out and you may well have developed a lead contact list through this experience...

This advice can be a sword with a double edge. Sometimes if you take a job with a bakery, you may have to sign legally binding papers that you cannot open a bakery that directly competes with the employer.

And who would want to invest time, money and training on someone that you know is going to leave you?

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Lenette Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 4:34pm
post #11 of 19

Thank you all for your replies. I have only been licensed and "official" for about 3 months but I have done cakes from home for about 3-4 years. I do think after reading your responses that I do need to pound the pavement some more. I did join the chamber od commerce as well as a women's business group. I did 3 different promos with the radio station, 2 charity auctions, a display and samples at a business breakfast, etc.

I do wedding and celebration cakes, cookies, and desserts. I bake from scratch so while I am not necessarily going after high end clientele/cakes I really have to price at a certain levle to make money. The economy is okay here. There are lots of new homes being built, expensive too like $200,00 plus. There are 2 others bakeries here that do cakes other than grocery stores. One is kinda mediocre but priced well (not cheap). The other is more upscale, both are well established.

I have very professional print materials and get lots of compliments on them. Baking and decorating is the only thing I have found that I love to do. I have had lots of jobs abd gone to school for a variety if things. I really can't think of anything else I would do. Thanks again for all the suggestions.

"Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."

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RisqueBusiness Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 4:40pm
post #12 of 19

Don't give up. Remember, even though you've been baking for a while you still have a brand new business!

I to opened my doors around 3 months ago and I also went after a lot of free publicity that sparked a lot of business and interest...

It has died down somewhat...but I had predicted that by the Holidays I would have to start advertising! I'm just sorry that I paid over 600 dollars for a phone book lising! ouch.

I should've used that money to get my brochures reprinted and to purchase mailers!

Live and learn.

Let's all keep putting our heads together...we just may get each other over the slump!

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Lenette Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 5:06pm
post #13 of 19

I am so with you on the yellow pages ad! I spent way too much. Also, I can't get a job in a bakery. I have advertised my business and trust me, they know about me, word travels fast in this town. LOL!

I do feel better just getting that off my chest and knowing that you all can understand where I am coming from. The major reason that I hesitate to pick up a job is that I have children. So, if I am working part time and taking care of my family, I don't see where I will have the time to grow my business. So, I guess that's not the best choice. You ever feel like sometimes there is no good decision?

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tiptop57 Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 5:17pm
post #14 of 19

Do you have a business plan, budget and a marketing plan? If not, make them. Then Id work my plans. Not having a storefront can put you in a pickle. It is hard for people to buy what they can not see. I would do everything possible to get your face out into the public.

I would also concentrate and develop a "trade mark" item. One that people rave over and say is that so and so's cake?

Then around each holiday, I would send out a four-color postcard size mailer to past customers and concentrated neighborhoods advertising a slight discount for preferred and new customers. You can get reverse addresses online. You can find something to celebrate almost every month.

New Years Day
Valentines Day
St. Patricks Day
Earth Day
Mothers Day
Fathers Day
Independence Day
First Day Back to School
Look that is eleven different areas you can mail your information to monthly!

Then I would really work on getting a fake storefront somehow. Share space with local title companies, insurance agents etc. And then use this for private consultation appointments. Contact your local florists and see if you could work out a deal to market flyers in purchases their flyer in your cake boxes and your flyer in birth announcements etc.

See if you can start gleaning names from the local paper for honor students, new babies, engagements etc. and send flyers to their homes also.

I would also check out local restaurants and diners and offer your trade mark item for resell.

And if you print off this thread you have the beginnings of your Marketing Plan!

((((((((((((Hugs)))))))))))) and Good Luck.

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prettycake Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 5:27pm
post #15 of 19

I would say maybe give it little more time, and see if business picks up..
It is the same thing with other business, even those big stores..
There is always a slow time.. I am not in the cake business, but I can see how you feel. icon_sad.gif Here in Silicone Valley, big electronic companies have a period around this time where they close, and employees take a break since they know that business is slow around that time.

hang in there.. make yourself a cake and enjoy yourself.. icon_smile.gif

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Lenette Posted 14 Nov 2006 , 8:41pm
post #16 of 19

I just wanted to express my thanks for the replies and pm's. I am feeling better than I was this morning.

If anyone out there has any other ideas or suggestions please post! I need all the help and wisdom from others I can get. icon_smile.gif

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cupcake Posted 16 Nov 2006 , 5:47am
post #17 of 19

Every time I read of battle wounds and scars of this business, I look back , when I opened my storefront. My husband and I dumped 40,000 into our shop, the first day we opened, I literally had 8 dollars in the cash register, we did 34.00 the first day. I had a full bakery, and just sold cookies, brownies and some pastries that day. I had spent all night preparing everything and getting my cases full. I had spent weeks prior, giving out cards, putting up flyers, ads in the paper, did a little radio, joined all the chambers in the surrounding areas, and gave some free samples out. After the first day, we sat down and just looked at each other, like what have we done? At this rate we will not survive.. Thank goodness my DH had a job, we would have starved. Things went very slowly, and each day I had few customers, but still nothing to brag about. But then... one day it changed and the orders started to come in, and all of a sudden I was buried in work. Now....almost 7 years later, its all paid for plus some, we sold our storefront, and rebuilt a larger store, but I strickly do custom now, no walkin retail, I really enjoy the flexibility, I can do as much or as little as I want. So I guess my point is hang in there baby, when you least expect it ... it will come. Patience....

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RisqueBusiness Posted 16 Nov 2006 , 3:04pm
post #18 of 19

wow, cupcake...what did you put into your products that made your place blow up? lol

How long into your 7 years did it turn around?? I hope that you took all the products you had to throw away as a loss!!

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lisap Posted 18 Nov 2006 , 6:18pm
post #19 of 19

If you are doing wedding cakes, have you thought about bridal expos or shows? I know they can be expensive but they can really pay off...especially if you follow up with a mailing or postcard. I paid $350 to do my first bridal expo at the beginning of October. I spent probably another $200 on business cards, flyers, dummy cakes, samples, supplies, etc. After the show, I sent out a flyer to all brides. That was the beginning of Oct. So far, I have had 7 consultations with brides and have been contacted by about 5 more. All in only one month's time. Of course, the work is all for next year but at least I know I have income coming in down the line. I have heard other people on CC say that the money is in wedding cakes...maybe you could really try to push that side of your business?

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