Was It Always Like This?

Business By AllCakedOut Updated 11 Jul 2008 , 3:53pm by loriana

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AllCakedOut Posted 30 Jun 2008 , 9:08pm
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I've had a cake business for just over a year now, and I'm really happy with the success we've been having. We started off strong, gained a reputation quickly, and it all came together nicely. I have a business / marketing background.

Also, this is in a state that does not allow home bakeries, and where most / all venues check to make sure that you are licensed and insured before you deliver the cake.

I've noticed recently that I have been completely inundated with calls / emails from people that seem to have romanticized the idea of having a cake business. I just did a big public event yesterday, and I was shocked at the number of people that approached me about this, so I had to post!

I notice a couple different kinds of people.. the first (and most prevalent!) is the person - usually a housewife or student - who emails to say that they are an artist and/or big fan of Ace of Cakes, and have decided that Cakes are *THE THING* they were meant to do with their life. They want to open a business, and either need advice ("Where do I start??"), or want to work for free to get experience before going out on their own.

This gets annoying, as I've had people contact me before even finding out the regulations... ie I have to start out by saying "You need to find a licensed kitchen.." which gets me a "Oh. I can't do this at home??" in reply. Ugh! Why email me if you haven't at least STARTED research first??

The other is the recent culinary student who usually goes to a crappy school (that they picked off a TV commercial during horrible daytime talk shows, I bet!), then decides they know ABSOLUTELY everything about the biz, and either wants advice / work for free as above.

I've called it the "Ace of Cakes" effect, but maybe there is more to it. I have friends that are wedding photographers (yay, networking!), and they experience the SAME sorta thing there... only in their case, it's people who go buy a nice camera, and decide then and there that they are a pro photographer. In this case, it's the "I just took a Wilton course, and now I'm going to get rich by making cakes!"

Anyway, I'm firmly of the opinion that you need to be a *business person* to be *in business*. I'm sure there are many successful cake people out there without a background in business, but I doubt there are many successful cake people who aren't at least naturally gifted with a business mind.

I'm just wondering.. is this a nation wide thing? Has this been the way it always is in this industry.. or is it just an economy / trendy thing? You really don't see the same sort of blindly romanticized outlook on starting a business the same way with most industries!

Talking to some of these people, I really think they have these visions of nothing but being artsy and piping frosting all day.. and they have NO idea how boring / mundane / annoying / expensive the REAL ins and outs of running a business are.

Know what I mean?

225 replies
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snarkybaker Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 1:27am
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This happens all the time. When I was getting married, I participated in the Knot forums. No less than 10 of the brides I got to know all over the country decided that planning their wedding was soooo much fun that they were going to become full time wedding planners.

I get apprentice/interns in all the time, many of whom have masters degrees in other disciplines who decide that this is what they want to do with their lives, and they go to culinary school. One in particular had absolutely no talent for cooking whatsoever.

I think people are always looking for their " dream" job, and TV makes a kitchen look a lot more glamorous than the 16 hour days days and 100 degree kitchens really are on a daily basis.

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tygre Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 2:24am
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This happens more than you might think even with other "creative" businesses. I ran an art gallery/frame shop for 15 years and all kinds of people thought they could do what I did. They saw what custom framing cost them and thought we were making a killing, not so! I actually worked for one woman who bought an existing gallery who couldn't even read a tape measure agghhhhh. When even 1/32 of an inch makes a difference, you have to be able to read a tape measure. Same thing with baking and cooking, you cannot just jump in and start doing 6 tier wedding cakes and making huge profits, not going to happen.

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AllCakedOut Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 2:24am
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Oh, I forgot about the wedding planner thing!!

I wonder why no one stops and thinks "gee, I had so much fun planning my wedding.. I bet most other women also have that much fun planning their own wedding, and don't hire wedding planners"

I personally didn't go to culinary school. I'm one of those freaks that was born knowing how to cook, lol. The thing is - and I don't know if this is just a local thing - but the way culinary school is advertised here.. it's really put me off ever even considering it. Like they market to total idiots.

My favorite is the commercial that says "Is this what cooking is like for you?", then shows some moron burning himself repeatedly.. like trying to grab a hot pot out of an oven without gloves, etc. Repeatedly exclaiming "OWW!!!". Then it says something to the effect of "Do you want cooking to be more like this?", just showing someone sauteeing something. Very lowest-common-denominator, ya know?

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AllCakedOut Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 2:26am
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Btw, am I being too cynical for taking "I want to get into the business, and will work for free" to mean "I want you to train me for free so that I can go out and be your competition as soon as I think I'm ready!"?

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snarkybaker Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 2:37am
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I take on interns from culinary schools and it has worked out great for me, but the health department in my county is so strict and real estate so expensive that they'd need to come up with about $200,000 to become my competition.

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ColeAlayne Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 2:52am
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I'm not in the cake business but I do make cakes for friends and family as a hobby. I'd love to get licensed and officially start a business but I need to find a kitchen to work out of and the courage to quit my accounting job! I can see both sides of the debate.

Ace of Cakes definitely started a craze with the general public, but the show also motivated more people who would have purchased typical "bakery" cakes to go out in search of something more creative.

The people who do not have a natural talent for baking or the culinary background and a strong creative side will easily be "weeded out" after attempting their first cake or two. It might be fun just to let them try it out and see what happens icon_lol.gif

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mom2leelee Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 2:55am
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I'm have a degree in interior design and I work as a kitchen designer. I think the cake business is experiencing what the design business went though thanks to HGTV and shows like Trading Spaces (which is the most HORRIBLE design show ever!).

I have had people basically tell me they can do what I do because they sit on the couch and watch these shows 10 hours a day. Ummm, don't think so but go ahead and try. Just don't call me when you screw it up..no on second though do call me. I charge double to fix screw ups..lol.

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mindywith3boys Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 3:04am
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Well, I started making cake about 12 years ago for my boys for their birthdays, long before Ace of Cakes... I guess I am just that kind of "housewife" I would love to start a business so day. I guess maybe I'm not entitled to that dream since I've only been able to take "Wilton courses". I am deeply hurt, offended and discouraged by this post and now feel like this isn't the warm helpful place I thought it was. icon_sad.gificon_cry.gificon_sad.gif

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Sugarflowers Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 3:05am
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This seems to be a problem everywhere. It seems as if someone's grandmother, aunt, etc. had decorated a cake that they could have made a fortune in the business. They didn't need classes or business sense because it's just cake. Augh!!

Maybe someday someone will think before asking or leaping.


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dragonflydreams Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 3:09am
post #11 of 226
Originally Posted by AllCakedOut

Btw, am I being too cynical for taking "I want to get into the business, and will work for free" to mean "I want you to train me for free so that I can go out and be your competition as soon as I think I'm ready!"?

. . . I'm sure that some are indeed looking for a free education . . . however, not necessarily . . . back in the day, I would have made this type of offer to get my foot in the door (realizing I would NEED to be trained and understanding that it costs money to train people I wouldn't have expected anyone to hire me, unless I had something to offer) . . . I would have gladly apprenticed under anyone that would take me, with the idea that at the end of the training period I might possibly gain a job in a field I loved (if I was able to prove myself as a valuable addition to the company . . . if not, at least I would have gained some experience that the next employer might have found valuable) . . . and I would have worked my butt off trying to prove myself . . . now, I also realize that many of the "younger generation" (gen y's) are not necessarily cut from the same cloth . . . so it may or may not be a workable arrangement . . .

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ColeAlayne Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 3:14am
post #12 of 226

I am in the same boat as you mindywith3boys and I hope AllCakedOut isn't talking about people like us. I've been baking since I was about 5 and learning every day since. I think the complaint is with the people that may have thrown together a few box mixes with some frosting out of the can and think they should be able to make the cakes they see on TV.

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mo_like_it Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 3:16am
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This really is a pessimistic view! Plenty of people have successful businesses without formal business training. I too thought this was a site to encourage other bakers/decorators, many of whom started out in those Wilton courses. May I ask, AllCakedOut, how you started out in cake decorating? I'm not trying to be rude, I just think you might have an "All Caked Out" attitude!

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Doug Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 3:18am
post #14 of 226

prime example of no formal training......

Colette Peters

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SWHEATLEYCAKES Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 3:38am
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Well I guess I am the wilton class decorator! I see both sides of the story! I am the stay at home mom baking cakes and who has taken wilton classes. I am selling my cakes and staying home with my 4 boys(4 yr old triplets and a 2yr old son). I thank that cake decorating is an art form and if your good enough you can sell them!!!

check out my site www.swheatleycakes.com icon_smile.gif

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khoudek Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 3:50am
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Actually, a good many of your more noted cake artists have no formal training. Colette Peters actually has a masters in art... not culinary school or a business degree. I happen to teach cake decorating... both Wilton method and private lessons. I learned my basics via my grandmother, who was a professional cake decorator, took the Wilton courses, way back when, and have taken seminars and courses, bought and studied via tapes and dvd and cd ( depending on the decade) and books. Learning is a life long event. I don't think it's where you gain the knowledge that is so important, but rather what you do with it once you have it. I don't think people who are self taught should feel any less then those that were taught through a formal education. That said, I also don't think that is what the point of the post was, it was just stated in a vague way, leaving room for misinterpretation.

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krysoco Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 4:32am
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I couldn't DISAGREE more w/your OP.

1. It sounds like your coming off as one of those ''know-it-all" ppl after owning your business for a year. I'd guess you have a business education in your background that qualifies you above everyone else you speak to that shows an interest in cakes?
2. Your post sounds like you're very limited in your worldly experiences if you think you need a business background to run a business.
3. You're complaining b/c ppl want to help you for possibly free? Be glad that you can find helpers - esp. if its free.
4. Just b/c someone is in the same line of business as you are doesn't necessarily make them competition.
5. You've slumped housewives and students together and referred to them as though they are beneath you. It sounds as if you look down on them. I promise you that everyone has started somewhere.
6. I'm just going to say that I hope you were in a really bad mood when you posted this. The way you describe what you're doing is "boring / mundane / annoying / expensive " leads me to believe that YOU'RE not very happy w/what you're doing.

I'm one of those housewives that think b/c I've taken Wilton courses I can bake/decorate cakes. I can't cook. I have no talent on the stove. But I can bake one hell of a cake! According to you, I'd be doomed.

DH owns a business that produces enough money to make your eyeballs pop out of your head. Neither of us have a business degree. Both of my parents started their own businesses at about 18 years old. Neither of them had business degrees. Both had extremely successful businesses. My dad has more business than he can handle. And my mom sold her business after almost 25 yrs., to a "know-it-all" business degree gal who ran it into the ground w/in a few months of owning.

We would love to have workers/helpers knocking our door. B/c in our experience, our country is so fixated on the "gimmes" that we can't find help. Nobody wants to work in our area.

Personally, DH works w/other companies in our line of business. All the surrounding companies try to help each other out as much as possible. Only one company has tried to stab us in the back when they thought we weren't looking. It totally fell on their noses. They fell on hard times after years of having a successful business and had to come to us for help. The same thing might happen to you. Just keep that in mind. You might not always be successful. The person you have to turn to might be one of those ppl you looked down upon previously.

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karateka Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 4:40am
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I don't think the OP was slamming housewives with wilton courses in particular. I think she is irritated by those who think you can decide on a whim that this is an easy way to make money, a glamorous career choice, but have absolutely no clue what running a cake business is all about. Obviously they haven't thought it through or researched it at all if they don't know their state's requirements for opening a business. Those who take classes or teach themselves but are serious about the "business" aspect needn't feel her comments apply to them. After all, she's talking about those who decide on the spur of the moment that "this is cool, I can do that!" and don't realize how much WORK it can really be, jumping in with no forethought and expecting someone with their own busy enterprise to take them by their hand and turn them into Duff Goldman.

I was able to read between the lines and see the spirit of her post, so I'm sure it was there for everyone to read and understand without jumping to a conclusion that she was purposely being offensive.

I don't usually chime in on these types of things but I am growing weary of the propensity to jump to the conclusion that one is being personally slammed. Most times no offense is meant by a post, and unless it is blatantly racist or sexist or some other "ist", we should all assume the best intentions instead of the worst, no?

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gateaux Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 4:43am
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Everything is cyclical. Right now there is a lot of emphasis is on Food Network and HGTV.

When I was a little tyke I used to watch the CIA Culinary Institute of America all the time I could and I learned a lot. All the women and many of the men in my family cooked and baked and I learned a lot from them. My Aunt is a chef and there were many times I did not like some of her stuff. I was young, now I know better.

We all have aspirations. You might see competition or you might find an employee in some of these requests. You might just have to see.

Think about it, how long have people flocked to Hollywood thinking they could make it in TV or the Movie Business only to end up working in a restaurant, or doing something totally different and then heading back home with their dream crushed.

Cake decorating seems more atteinable. If people find something they think they love they should go after it and try it out.

You dont have to answer all of their e-mails or even all their questions. It would be nice to send them a reply, you might just want to give them cc's web site and that way they can ask questions and look stuff up for themselves.

We are here to help each other. If we did not this whole world would fall apart.

Good Luck.

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krysoco Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 5:10am
post #20 of 226
Originally Posted by gateaux

We are here to help each other.

You're right. She should send her wanna be employees my way! icon_lol.gif J/k.

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denette Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 5:14am
post #21 of 226

Well, I learned from this, that there is more to starting a business than what I realized. I. too, have had dreams of "someday". You helped me realize that if that "someday" comes, I have a lot more research I need to do.

I have worked in bakeries and I know what it takes to work in one, to supervise, to bake cakes, etc, but I sure don't know all the details to be able to own one. All the insurance, taxes, etc. In fact I'm still learning the legalities of doing cakes decorated with a liscensed character! Maybe it's just me, but I might always be happier letting someone else take care of all the legal work!

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tonedna Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 5:37am
post #22 of 226

My 2 cents!

I can't say that all people that going in the business will succeed. Doing cakes is not easy and not everybody is cut to decorate a cake.
Runing a cake business is not easy.. Making cakes look pretty is an art..Is not something that you only learn, it something that comes embeded with the person. You learn techniques but the art has to be there in your blood already.
I say let them open their business.. se how tough it is to run a cake shop.. And how many customers will buy cakes from them and time will only say if they really want this for love of it of for the tv shows that let them into it.

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flowers40 Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 5:52am
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Well, I guess I am one of those idiots you are referring to. I called two of the bakers in my area, I knew worked in fondant, and asked if they would be interested in taking on a intern. They must both be cynical too, because they both turned me down, without even trying to see what my talent might have been. I'm not trying to take their business, I'm not even interested in the volume of business they do. I like my job, it pays my bills and my health insurance. I just happen to love making great cakes and am always looking for a opportunity to improve my craft. Just because you are trying to find a way to improve your self and get better at the thing you love to do - doesn't mean you are a day dreamer, and can't grasp reality. Maybe it does take a business sense to run a business, but it takes a giving personility to touch a life. And maybe you are passing up a opportunity to do something special for a deserving person - even if it is to open their eyes to the reality of a cake shop is more than just baking cakes, it is a hugh responsibility.

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TandTHarrell Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 6:01am
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All caked out, can you post some of your cake Pics. I would love to see your work.. I still have a very long way to go with my cakes.. Like another person said, you have to start some where and starting somewhere mean asking questions. I find that people who are afraid to help other's , or only afraid of competition and in some cases the person who's doing the asking is only asking because they truly would like to know and they are not trying to steal anyone business. Just my 2cent...Since I ask you about your cakes, here is my website.

I hope all that made sense

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BCJean Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 6:02am
post #25 of 226

I think what most decorators don't realize when they offer to work for free to learn the business....Usually the person owning the business does the fancy, unique, impressive cakes. If they were to hire someone it would be to bake, ice, clean, clerk, and do the simple decorated cakes. If you took a job like this, you would learn, speed, the ropes of the game and if you were a natural you could just look at what she had done and know instantly how to do it. To hang around for free, waiting to be shown how to do something spectacular I would think would be unreasonable.
In all of the bakeries I have worked in, most of the decorators worked for a year as an icer first. You first have to learn how to make that icing do exactly what you want it to, and at a fast speed. Ask for a job doing this, rather than asking someone to let you hang around while you show her everything about decorating. To me, learning to decorate is not how did you do that ruffle or flower...it is a matter of learning exactly what to do with the icing to get the effect you want, then when you see something you want to recreate you will be able to because you know what it takes to get the look you want. I think too many think....show me how you did that...no, you play with that icing until you can do whatever you want.
I personally love decorating and have no desire to do the business part of it. I will continue working for someone else and love it.

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smitakasargod Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 6:15am
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Wow! All caked out. This is probably the most pompous post I've read on CC. Haven't you heard? "To teach is to learn twice."
I can understand the practical implications of what's been asked of you but to put someone down because they have a dream (no matter how far out of their reach ) shows a lack of basic compassion.


Ugh! Why email me if you haven't at least STARTED research first??

May be they figured you were a good place to start research since you've been through it.


I have a business / marketing background.

Since when is this a requirement to run a successful business?


The other is the recent culinary student who usually goes to a crappy school (that they picked off a TV commercial during horrible daytime talk shows, I bet!), then decides they know ABSOLUTELY everything about the biz, and either wants advice / work for free as above.

How insulting is that for a talented.creative person who may not have had the time/resources to go to Le Cordon Bleu ...

My question!! Are you for real?

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all4cake Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 6:16am
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Growing up, I wanted to be a country music singer. I would sing and write songs and sing and pick the guitar and sing...I never could carry a tune but I still sang all the time. I couldn't read a note of music either....matter of fact, I couldn't play that guitar(I said I picked...not played). I still dream of being a country music singer...I know that I'd be good for a Hee Haw skit if even that.

My real dream was to be June Cleaver...she cooked, cleaned...hell...did she do anything else????
Oh, yeah, she greeted Ward when he got home from work and she wore pretty dresses with pretty aprons. Only thing is, I hate housework...I'd rather eat than cook...and daggumit, Ward wasn't exactly my dream guy. I still dream about being June Cleaver too.

I like making cakes...I never dreamed I'd own a profitable business...the thought crossed my mind many times but not like a DREAM. However, I do own a profitable(not highly but still)cake business and I love when someone asks even if they could stop in and watch for the day and lend a hand if I need one. I don't share the financial details just the production end.

Oh, yeah...no formal training...not in business...not in decorating(okay, I did win a trip to IL to take the masters course...but I knew what I knew before the trip but I'll be doggoned if I was gonna pass up a 2 week paid vacation!!!)

My 25cents....

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Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 6:30am
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I think this sort of sums up to what the original poster was referring: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2003534148_chefs21.html

Of course, there are always exceptions. Many top chefs and 'cakers' started in their own kitchens with knowledge passed down, a desire to learn and a kitchen full of books. One prime example of a great cook who 'made it' without going to culinary school: Rachael Ray. Her dollar and her dream (and determination) got her to where she is today.

If someone has the talent and desire to learn and love of the craft, and the wind is blowing the right way, there's always a chance they can make it in this business. Of course there are more failed business than successful ones. Sometimes it's the luck of the draw, but it never helps to hurt a fellow human being when possible. icon_smile.gif

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KathysCC Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 6:56am
post #29 of 226

You know I think that sometimes we forget what is wonderful about living in this country.

Anyone can pursue their dream.

If you don't want or need an apprentice or free help, it is your choice to turn them away. But if someone is inspired by the cake decorating "hype" that shows like the Ace of Cakes has caused then I say Go For It.

We have the freedom to open a business in this country. Success or failure is up to the individual and their talent and hard work. It does not matter where your inspiration comes from or where you started out.

So I think you should keep an upbeat attitude about the hype and excitement and if you don't have the time to help them, then tell them so but you should be honored that they come to you for advice. And a good attitude and treating others right will only make you and your business prosper.

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sarahnichole975 Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 7:14am
post #30 of 226

Anytime ANYTHING is glamorized in the media, it's going to become hot. A N Y T H I N G!!!! Waif thin, cake decorating, teen pregnancy, Zac Effron, Brittney Spears, rock and roll, mini skirts....if it's glamorized and shown to be exciting, tough, challenging, popular, hot, sexy, the "in" thing, you are going to see a surge of human interest in it. I too can see what the OP was trying to say, though I will agree with those offended, it came across very hurtful. It labeled a large part of this community to be a part of a fad of uneducated wanna be's. Perhaps you could reconsider how you made your point. Though I think the largest part of the point you were trying to make was a valid one. Yes, there will be tons of people who see cool Duff and so many other great decorators with this successful, glamorous life and think, "I can do it." But after doing this for quite a few years BEFORE there was anything "cool" about being a well known cake decorator, I will admit that it is something that you totally have to have in your heart. It is definitely not for those who don't have a complete love/hate relationship with the cake. ("THIS **^&%#@ ICING JUST WON'T COOPERATE, I'M GOING TO THROW IT OUT THE WINDOW" a few hours later "OMG LOOK HOW GREAT IT TURNED OUT!! I KNEW I COULD DO IT!!!") It's called perserverance, and those who have it will find their niche and stick it out and still be pulling crazy deadlines and praying for no disasters 10 years from now. The rest of them are just trying to find their way, as all of us were...I completely stumbled into cake decorating...totally as a hobby, no intent on making a business at all. And decided I just loved the challenge and the pride when I saw my end result. When there are nurse or teacher or any other kind of shortages or what about the run I saw here a few years back where everyone wanted to be massage therapists as the spa thing really took off. Again, less than half of these people followed these "dreams" to fruition. But for a moment they thought that could be the path they wanted to take. (Hey I wanted to be a teacher, a catering manager, lounge singer, a vet technician, and quite a few more before I found what grabbed my heart and kept hold.) I do agree with the previous poster that if I can help another person on the path that suits them or to help them realize maybe another path is what they want, by all means, I open my arms, and heart and am willing to do it. Do I think you the OP needs to be brutalized because she doesn't....no not at all...it's not in everyone's blood to teach and encourage others...that doesn't make her a bad person. However, when you post on a site that's all about encouraging and helping and degrade those looking for it and giving it in return, you should expect you're going to get some heated arguments on your point.

I hate when these get ugly, I like to speak my opinion, but in a non confrontational way. And I'd like to be a messenger of peace here by saying, OP, you should reevaluate how your words made others feel, and to those who are hurt, I feel ya, but don't fuel the fire. I really don't think she was meaning to put us down.

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