Newbie - Crazy But Big Opportunity (Long)

Business By lsienna Updated 2 Jun 2008 , 12:27am by denette

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lsienna Posted 24 May 2008 , 12:55am
post #1 of 65

Ok, tell me am I crazy?! I have been researching for awhile ideas, information, recipes etc to start a business where I would specialize in 3D/theme cakes similar to what Charm City Cakes does.
I have loads of info and started hanging out with a local home cake baker who does business out of here home nearby. She has been very helpful in getting me started.

My idea was to find local events and see if I could perhaps donate a cool looking theme cake for their event. I recently contacted an event who will be putting on a very big equestrian jumping event in September. There are about 10,000 people who attend this event over a 4 day period with big press and media covergae throughout this event. The sponsors and VIPs are big local corporate bigwigs and the crowd overall is a very upscale and affluent crowd.

My intent was essentially was only to get information and see if they might be interested in my donating a cool theme cake. Upon my initial call, I happened to speak with the owner of the event and when I described my intent, and clarified of the type of business I wish to launch, all it took was for me to mention the show Ace of Cakes explaining that I want to make cakes like that - well, that was all she need to hear. Suddenly, this woman became my own private agent. She exclaimed that is favorite show ever, and she absolutley wants me to be a part of this event. She said this event will absolutely be awesome for me to promote my business given the upscale nature of the attendees and sponsors involved. She has offered to me a free tent (whcih starts at $1000.00) to promote my business, where I could pass out brochures, have cake tastings, have dummy cakes etc., free advertising all full color in all their printed material, a featured spot for the theme cake in their VIP and rider tents, as well as a featured spot for their media day (television and print media)!!

In exchange, all she wants from me is to put on some sort of decorating contest for the kids on Family Day, where I need to make about 200 - 300 cookies or cupcakes. This will take place outside but probably under a large tent. However I want to do it will be fine with her. Then I would have to make my theme cake of course which I am thinking to make a horse and rider jumping over a big fence - probably a mixture of gumpaste, fondant, and rice crispies over a wire structure and mounted firmly to a base. The base will be the ground, grass and then I will have the lead sponsors name and event name as part of the fence structure. Yikes! She also suggests I provide maybe a few sheets cakes so I can feed some of the VIPs and riders each day. She said it can be whatever I want - theme or not, or even sheet cakes decorated nicely.

Wow! Sounds like a great opportunity huh? YIKES! Here is the kicker, the funniest damn thing about all of this is - I don't even own a dang mixer yet!! Nor do I have a business name/cards etc. - and never really made cakes before, let alone a 3D theme cake!! I have signed up for classes all summer, both some Wilton classes which are starting in 2 weeks and 3 great cake decorating classes at a local culinary institute which I am told are quite good, covering everything about baking, fondant, gumpaste etc.

The event owner knows I am completley new at this but has all the faith in me and really wants to help me all she can. Anyways, I am very excited but scared as hell! I need to buy all my supplies, practice and make some cool dummy cakes to start. I also want to make a small version of the theme cake to be sure it will work. I have lots of experience making models, carpentry, painting, airbrushing etc. just not with cakes.

Am I crazy or what!!?? What do guys think - any suggestions, psychological therapy, tips, advice would be greatly appreciated. If anyone wants to know how to grow their business, call some local big events and donate your work -you may have going on- you never know what can come of it!! Sheeeesshh!


64 replies
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terrier Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:11am
post #2 of 65

I say.... that is a lot of work! icon_eek.gif
Wow you totally skipped the work your way up! LOL

I think you should have fun with this!!! So stop writing and get to work! icon_biggrin.gif
I look forward to hearing all about it... you are going to have one sore wrist after this!icon_cry.gif
Wishing you all the best!

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MollyBea Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:13am
post #3 of 65

I am also new at this, but I say GO FOR IT!!!! It's an amazing opportunity and you should not pass it up. Just practice, practice, practice. And you have your other skills to fall back on. I wish I knew how to do some of those things. Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

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jl5949 Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:16am
post #4 of 65

Hi, I don't want to be a negative factor, especially for such a great opportunity! but you could be in over your head a little. You would have a lot of work ahead of you. If you take this on... maybe talk to your friend and see if she would be willing to help you out with this event. Completing a 3D cake is a lot... especially if you've never decorated before... Don't get me wrong, I'm sure you'll be great at it but you might want to make sure you have all your eggs in the basket before you take this one on so soon. Just my opinion icon_lol.gif Either way Good Luck!

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Melonie1005 Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:17am
post #5 of 65

I say Go for it!! It's great someone is so willing to help you. Wish I knew more people like that.

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adunfag Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:17am
post #6 of 65

I say you go for it. What's the worst that could happen? If you are successful, then it's all gravy. If not, at least you took on the challenge and you'll never have regrets about not doing it.

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AnythingSugar Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:19am
post #7 of 65

Wow, congrats and good luck with everything!!

Not to rain on your parade, but please make sure you are licensed and legal when you do this. At events this large, you never know who you might run into. I say this because I had "dreams" until I found out that my state will not let me bake out of my home. I hope this turns out to be a great thing for you. Good Luck!!!!!!

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Curtsmin24 Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:21am
post #8 of 65

icon_surprised.gif OMG!!! That is a little nerve rattling. Just practice a lot and don't get too frustrated. It is a lot of work and you will enjoy it, but also a lot of pressure on someone new to cakes. I'm sure you will do fine and I wish you the best of luck!!! Definitley keep us posted. thumbs_up.gif

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manahigh Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:27am
post #9 of 65

I admire your determination to go after what you want. But I can't help but ask about the legal aspect of this. You will have alot of exposure with this event and thats great but what are the licensing requirements in your area? How will you handle all the orders that come in (hopefully). I mean it sounds like you will have a major expenditure in all the equipment you will need. A mixer and cake pans are only the beginning as my fellow CCers can tell you. I will be interested in hearing how this turns out. I really do wish you the best of luck as you are an inspiration to so many of us who dream of having our own business.

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terrier Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:29am
post #10 of 65

Not to rain on your parade, but please make sure you are licensed and legal when you do this.

You are so right....Really do make sure you cover all angles before doing this!
The last thing you need is 200 kids parents coming after you and you not being covered.

And make sure you have the all your ingredients listed if anyone ask for them and for the allergy folk.


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SweetDolly Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:29am
post #11 of 65

You've stressed this to be an event with many affluent people in attendance. Playing devil's advocate for a moment, if for any reason you may not live up to the expectations (quality, quantity, etc.) of the event owner, there is a possibility she could take legal recourse against you. If you are not legal, licensed, incorporated, etc., your personal assets could be at stake.

I agree that this is an incredible opportunity, but I would think long and hard about any potential fallout/negative consequences and make sure you have the event owner's expectations clearly defined in writing.

Best of luck to you!

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costumeczar Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:32am
post #12 of 65

Definitely get your licensing and other business legalities finished before you do this. Make sure that you have insurance, too. With that many people going through you want to be covered liability-wise.

On the side of the baking of it, I'd see if you can get your friend to help, and maybe offer her a chance to share in the advertising part of it (If she's legal also.) I've done events with a similar headcount to this, and it's a tremendous amount of work. Just think about the amount of icing that you'll have to make, let alone the cupcake baking part of it.

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buffim Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:32am
post #13 of 65

congrats on the opportunity but I agree with the others in a word of caution...I am still new and at first it always took longer than anticipated to do what I was trying to do. If you have never done a 3D cake before, you might want to try making one (maybe even similar to this one) so that you know more of what you are in for.

Best of luck and remember to keep us updated!

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apetricek Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:34am
post #14 of 65

Holy crap this is an awesome opportunity....but I would just know what you are getting into. Decorating cakes is a TON of work, and I would suggest PRACTICING, and then practicing some more! Fondant and Gumpaste will not be your friends! Buy a KITCHENAID asap!!!!!! I have been doing this 10 years and think I would be intimidated by this, but what the heck you may never have another opportunity like this again! I would see if your friend may be able to help you, you will need help it is way too much work for one person to do all of that(sheet cake, cupcakes, etc.) I know I have had weekends that I do 4 cakes, and that is CRAZY!!! Plan your attack too! Get a name, I have a great place to get business cards cheap, and will do any logo or anything on them, and you will have them in a week or so, also have a friend that does websites...if you are interested email me at [email protected] and I will pass the info on to you! GOOD LUCK, you will need it. Be prepared too of what all could come out of this...which is GREAT. I know as soon as I got a website, I went from having a couple cakes a month to 4 a weekend now! All and all I think you should do it, and I wish you the best of luck I would love to have an opportunity like this icon_lol.gif and the worst thing that could happen is that you decide that it is too much, and not something you are "in" to. Let us know how everything turns out! AMY

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indydebi Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:37am
post #15 of 65

It is so exciting to find someone who is so willing to help you get started like this. Karma!! thumbs_up.gif

Also not wanting to be a Negative Nancy here, but you've "...never really made cakes before, let alone a 3D theme cake" and you're going to make a horse and rider jumping a fence cake for a prestigeous event like this?? icon_eek.gif

Everything else sounds so do-able, but be careful not to overpromise and underdeliver. Get legal, licensed and insured. I'd be real surprised if the organizer of the event doesn't require proof of insurance from all vendors anyway.

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lilyanddayne Posted 24 May 2008 , 1:45am
post #16 of 65

good luck!
Just make sure about the legalities , health department is almost always involved in big events where food is involved. insure yourself also, outdoors...heaven forbid someone got sick.
I hope you do it and let us know!

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denette Posted 24 May 2008 , 2:01am
post #17 of 65

Wow! I would definitely go buy a mixer and start practicing!!! With all your experience in modeling, building, etc you'll probably pull something spectacular off!
My only piece of advice is practice now! I'm a bit of a procrastinator and I would end up leaving it til the end!

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lsienna Posted 24 May 2008 , 2:30am
post #18 of 65

Oh my gosh, you guys are so right. Yeah, thanks so much for the inspiration as well as the warnings and advice. You all have given me great and sound adivce. I pretty much for figured it will be too much for me as well, I mean, I have confidence and a positive attitude but jeez, I know it is very close to being unreasonable at this point.

The post that said to be careful not to over promise and under deliver was spot on - especially with that particular crowd. Also, the licensing and insurance are super key I know, I am looking into it now. I already have liability ins. but the rest I need to put together.

I just think the event owner is way too overly excited. I simply need to meet with her in person and explain where I am (which I already did-I just think she doesn't realize what exactly is involved), what I can reasonably deliver to her at that time, given the time frame and the level of my experience. The cookies alone are enough to make anyone crazy let alone the 3D cake.

I do appreciate all the advice, and to be smart about this, I think I need to re-evaluate, check on all the legalities first and then decide what I will be able to deliver that would be best for me. I obviously have no real idea what really is involved here and to hear from you guys who are experienced, I need to heed your advice. I absolutely do not take it as anyone being pessimistic but only realistic, that is why I sought advice was to get from the ones who are in the know.

You know what, I would rather take it slow, practice, get good, build confidence and then hit some events when the time is right. even if it means not doing this particular one. Depending on how long it will take to get legal etc. and get up to speed, I really don't think it is reasonable to think I can be ready in time to do a bang up job. She can either accept a minimal investment from me for now or decline. Either way, I think I will gain because she may appreciate my honesty and professionalism etc. and that in turn could still lead me to contacts she has outside of this particular event. Even so, it will all work out, if not now, certainly in the future.

I will let you all know how it goes - first things first. Get legal, my cards and web site is covered by designer friends. Mixer is coming tomorrow, then I plan on practicing for awhile and see what I think is possible. Thanks a million all, you were most helpful and I will definitely take all the advice!


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terrier Posted 24 May 2008 , 12:20pm
post #19 of 65

Make sure you post your practice cakes!


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bec_elias Posted 24 May 2008 , 12:42pm
post #20 of 65

Congrats!! I say go for it, but if it was me I would include your friend who has helped you and also let her get her name out there. That way you won't be so overwhelmed and it would be a great way to thank her. You get lots of practice and she will be there to help you. Either way this sounds like an awesome opportunity you shouldn't let pass you by!! I'm happy for you.

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grama_j Posted 24 May 2008 , 12:47pm
post #21 of 65

Let me get this strainght...... you have "0" experience... never made a cake, don't have any equipment ,supplies, license....not a CLUE as to how hard all this is....NOTHING... but you are comparing yourself with DUFF ? Uhhh.... I think you need to be in public relations, or maybe even politics.... anyone that can talk someone into giving them a thousand dollars ( price of the tent) and free reign of a project at such a large event, has a gift, but I'm not sure ( yet to be proven) if it is in baking.... GOOD LUCK..... I think you are going to need it... and so are they ! icon_wink.gif

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leily Posted 24 May 2008 , 12:54pm
post #22 of 65

So others have already covered the legality issues and timeing issues for one person....

But what about price. Yeah I mean she is giving you a $1000 tent, but what will you have in supplies for all the cakes/cupcakes/and cookies? Are these things she would typically purchase? If it is then I think from a business standpoint she is getting one heck of a deal. With the numbers you are talking about to me it looks like just your cost alone will be more then $1000 of the tent.

As a start up business can you afford that? If not then you need to sit down with her and tell her what she will get for the $1000 tent.

Also, for all of the cake cuttings and then the decorating contest one person will not be able to handle it. Is she going to provide someone to help or are you going to need to? If you need to then you need to look at it like a business and that you will have someone on payroll and paying them hourly.

Personally I think the $1000 tent is not worth everything she is asking for. But I don't know the crowd and how many viable opportunities you will have for customers.

But like others said check out what it takes to be legal and if you can bake out of your home or if you have to have a commercial kitchen.

What state are you in? We may be able to send you in the right direction quicker.

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lsienna Posted 24 May 2008 , 3:52pm
post #23 of 65

Wow, lots of support here - I am surprised at how many postings to this.
As for those who are wondering, especially Grama J, you didn't completely understand how all this happened. I am not trying to be anymore than who I am nor do i think I am like Duff - oh my God please. That is so not me nor how I operate.

When I contacted this event, I only offered to donate this one theme cake to it. I didn't talk her into giving me anything at all. I only wanted to make this one theme cake for her (3 months from now), and hang out and give out bus. cards/brochures. That was it. I was really only getting information about the event and one thing led to another. When I mentioned my idea and what I am considering to do, at that point, she asked if in addition to the theme cake, I could put together some sort of decorating contest for kids, if so, she would give me a tent, and all the free advertising. Next she emailed me and suggested more cakes and other things - she was the one that made this explode into a huge thing.

My intent over the summer was to keep taking classes and continue to practice. I have made sculptures and models before, understand the uses and properties of fondant, gumpaste etc. now its just a matter of doing it. I essentially have 3 months to work out the solutions of my initially proposed cake. I cannot imagine that I wouldn't be able to figure that out in 3 months. It is not an amazingly difficult project, I just need to get used to the properties and limitations of the materials I am working with.

I have not agreed to anything yet, and we are still working out the details. I let her know I am literally just starting out and working out of my house and am not at the point to take on such a big undertaking. However, I said I would like to meet with her to discuss the details and work out a reasonalbe game plan. What that plan is I am not sure yet. I only want to make the theme cake, and maybe do the contest. That, I know is doable. She by way, has offered me several volunteers to help in the contest and I have help with family and friends. This is a four day event so alot will be happening.

I agree leily, it is way too much to ask for a $1000.00 tent. I am mindful of that things will cost me, materials and time and you are right - it way too much. No big deal, we are just talking things through and I am certain this woman has no idea what she is asking of me. She is very genuine and excitable. She has a great willingness to help me more than how she is thinking her event will benefit. As I said before, I can offer her a realistic plan that I am capable of doing, she either can accept it or decline. If I get a tent, fine, if not that's fine too. I only want to present my theme cake. My whole future does not hinge on this one event. There will be other opportunities. Mainly, I want to get practiced, learn by trial and error and continue getting the help from my friend, enlist the help of others that are local and into cake, as well as continue getting support from all of you here. This forum is awesome!

I'll figure it all out, and make it work for me as best I can. I am not going to go too fast, and will only take on what is reasonable both in time and money. There is always next years event to aim for. As for the legalitites, I have already looked into it, I can work out of my home but I think I have to take a food safety course as well. I may not be able to get all legal intime anyways so there is alot to work out. If I stay calm, take things one a time, stay focused, have a sound plan, and don't get in over my head, I will be fine - with or without this event. I am sure the event woman will help me anyway she can, so I am not worried about it. She is very, very nice.

I will keep you guys posted. Thanks so much for the encouragement, and advice. It truly is so appreciated and needed!


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Cakebelle Posted 24 May 2008 , 4:27pm
post #24 of 65

WOW! that's a totally awesome opportunity! I agree with the other posters that you should get your legal end in order before anything else, and practice, practice, practice! Oh! and buy a mixer! icon_wink.gif

Good luck to you! thumbs_up.gif

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MaisieBake Posted 24 May 2008 , 10:38pm
post #25 of 65

I'll sit with gramma j. You've never done this before and you're starting by offering to something "like Duff."

Good luck.

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terrier Posted 24 May 2008 , 11:08pm
post #26 of 65

I'll sit with gramma j. You've never done this before and you're starting by offering to something "like Duff."

People, people.... she didn't say she was Duff she said she wanted to do cakes like Duff!
It was the lady that went crazy when she heard the name Duff.

I do think it is a little much to take on but hey some people are able to do that!

I have seen people decorate a prefect cake on the first try!

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MaisieBake Posted 24 May 2008 , 11:55pm
post #27 of 65

I paint a little, but I'm not going to tell someone I'll paint their portrait "like John Singer Sargent". That's promising more than I can deliver, even with a whole summer to practice.

Yes, some people do do great work their first time out, but if you look at the galleries here you'll see many many more who don't.<img src="modules/Forums/images/smiles/icon_rolleyes.gif" alt="Rolling Eyes" border="0" align="absmiddle" />

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mkolmar Posted 25 May 2008 , 3:15am
post #28 of 65

I'm glad to see that you decided to take it slow. With your past experience in airbrushing and such I think you have an advantage compared to others just starting out. However, it is VERY hard to do cakes. I have past experience in many forms of art and cake is a totally different medium that is not easy to work with. She was offering you a wonderful opportunity but that seems like a lot of work, even if you were a seasoned pro, to be doing. (My DH read your post and said it sounds like a great opportunity for her, but not for you) If you were to do it and not pull it off to Duff standards she would still be upset and your reputation could be ruined before you started.
You are smart for taking it slow. It takes a large person to say No to an opportunity like this for the right reasons.

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DeKoekjesfee Posted 25 May 2008 , 5:32am
post #29 of 65

I wish you a lot of luck...
did you said very straight that you have zero experience ?
It sounds to me that lady understands it all wrong.
didn't she wanted to see your portfolio or something ?
I think you should be very careful or it blows up in your face, and that before you even really started.
And I would make a first cake soon, to feel how it works with fondant maybe. So you would know what you are talking about.
And maybe you could bring it to a meeting with her.

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wgoat5 Posted 25 May 2008 , 5:48am
post #30 of 65

I am speechless..

Cake decorating is not something you can learn ALL about in 3 months...nor is it easy or cheap.

Cutters and fondant tools are expensive themselves....I know people who have many thousands dollars worth of JUST fondant tools. Let alone really GREAT pans... at 25 -35.00 a pop.... and you need doubles unless the pan is huge..

I dont think you misled the woman but I do think you have talked yourself into thinking you can learn all of this in a short period of time. I wish you lots of luck and a great time learning icon_smile.gif

((((hugs))))))) to you

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