Cake Consulting--- Workable Business Idea?

Business By nccmama Updated 19 Dec 2008 , 1:25am by nccmama

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nccmama Posted 16 Dec 2008 , 10:54pm
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A few years ago I tried to start a cake decorating business out of my home. I made several cakes for friends and began to get referral business, but I found it very hard to make a decent profit. By the time I factored in all of the time spent brainistorming for ideas, baking, cleaning, and decorating, I found that I was paying myself peanuts and decided that it was not worth the time. Plus, having deadlines to meet and a messy kitchen to clean up quickly took the fun out of decorating for me. So, I decided that there was no feasible way for me to operate a successful cake decorating business out of my home.

But, while helping a friend decorate a cake for her friend's birthday party, I had an epiphany. Maybe I could start a cake consulting business? There seems to be quite a few people who have either thought about taking a decorating class but not pursued it, or have actually taken a class but have been unsuccessful at decorating. That tells me that many people have a desire to make their own cakes but need a little help. So, I thought that perhaps I could offer a "consulting' service where I brainstorm a design with them, give them a cake recipe, lend them equipment (if necessary), and give them 2-3 hours of my time to walk them through the decorating process. They might be able to do it, if they had someone in their own kitchen to help guide them. That way, the client would be able to say that they made and decorated the cake themselves, and I would get to do only the part of cake decorating that I truly love--- the creative design idea part and, of course, the hands on decorating. The client would be responsible for the baking, and it would be in her own kitchen, so she would have the mess to clean up, not me. It would not impact my family life nearly as much, since I would not be trying to bake and decorate a cake with my three kids underfoot.

Has anyone ever done this or heard of this kind of business? Any thoughts? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

9 replies
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costumeczar Posted 16 Dec 2008 , 11:25pm
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I hate to say it, but I don't think that you could make very much money with this idea. How much time would you be spending with each client, and how much would you be charging them? It sounds like you'd be spending at least 3-4 hours with each person, and if you factor travel time and gas into that, you'd have to charge a decent amount to make it worth your time. I doubt that people would be willing to pay very much for help on one cake...It just doesn't seem to be something that you'd get a lot of repeat business from. Sorry to be a buzzkill... icon_sad.gif

If you do want to do something like that, you could reconfigure your idea to aim it toward doing in-home cake decorating classes. Maybe you could advertise that you'll do classes for individuals or groups who want to learn a specific skill. The only thing is that Wilton classes are so cheap, relative to other places that I've taught, it's hard to get people to sign up to pay more than that for a one-off class.

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nccmama Posted 17 Dec 2008 , 4:11am
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Thanks for the reply. I know that I couldn't charge too much. I was thinking of a fee of $40 for 2 1/2 hours, to include about a half hour consultation to decide on a design, then 2 hours of hands on decorating. If more time was needed, then it would be, say, $15-20 per hour for the additional time. I figure that this is almost all profit, since I would have no ingredients, just my time and gas, etc. I do realize that they could certainly buy a cake from a bakery or other custom decorator for this much, or even less. But, that is not factoring in the premise that many people really would like to do it themselves but just need some help. I have "helped" my own friends many times (for free, of course), and they seem to take pride in the fact that they were able to tell their party guests that they had made the cake "themselves".

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CakeForte Posted 17 Dec 2008 , 4:19am
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I think you should do some market research and see what you find because essentially you are just offering private cake lessons. Personal chefs offer this service I don't see a reason why you shouldn't at least try.

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BlondiezBakery Posted 17 Dec 2008 , 4:41am
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hmmm..sounds interesting. I think it would be worth a shot...I mean if you aren't quiting a high paying day job or anything. Everything is worth trying.

It does sound like more of a 'private lesson'. If you teach them enough skills in one lesson, then it would be worth the money...but you probably wouldn't get the repeat business for the same reason.

Also, I think it would be very difficult to advertise or market for this kind of business. What were your thoughts on advertising and promoting?

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nccmama Posted 17 Dec 2008 , 7:19pm
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What do you think of the pricing? Around here, there is a successful cake lady who makes cakes out of her home and sells them for $50. They are basic Wilton pan shaped cakes filled in with star tips. I have tasted them, and they are not anything special, but they look good. She seems to do a lot of business, so she makes her profit by doing several cakes at once in a weekend. She bakes ahead and freezes them, so that all she has to do for the order is decorate. I have a couple of friends who bought a couple of her cakes and were pleased enough, but complained about the price (but, still ordered from her again). I'm not sure if she offers any kind of carved cake or exceptionally detailed designs.

So, for roughly the same price, I would be expecting the client to do considerable more work, which is maybe a hard sell. But, my niche would be the person who appreciates home baked cakes, but would really like to do it herself. She just needs help, and maybe some equipment. It seems that there are at least 3 types of customers: the ones who recognize and appreciate high quality and are willing to pay for it (probably the customer base of the successful cake businesses on here); the ones who are not willing to pay past a certain low price point regardless of quality and usually buy their cakes from the grocery store; and the ones who are somewhere in the middle--- recognizing quality and uniqueness and willing to pay a little more for it. I would be targeting this group, and within this group, I think, could be a significant amount of people who are doityourselfer wannabees.

What I envision is somewere along the lines of a home decorator consultant who comes into your home to help you choose a color palate and maybe a decorating style, but leaves you to do the actual work of buying the items and putting it all together. The client feels like they "own" their own decorating, but they got some professional help to guide them.

I think that the marketing/advertising would be roughly the same as for a regular cake business, except maybe trying to find a way to target the doityouselfer.

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FromScratch Posted 18 Dec 2008 , 2:54pm
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Honestly.. I think it won't work. You have a very hard sell. Are you going to teach them how to ice a cake? How to pipe borders? Maybe how to make a rose? Sounds to me like you want to just go in and help them design a cake and leave them to their work. That is cool and all, but the average do-it-yourselfer isn't going to have the basic skills to pull it off. I think that most people have the ability already to think up a cake.. it the basic skills they lack.

I, even thinking as a person who doesn't already know what they are doing with cake, wouldn't pay someone to come in and design a cake with me. Certainly not $40 that I could have spent on the supplies, because for that price plus what I am going to spend on ingredients and supplies I could pay someone to make a cake for me.

That's my take on it anyway. icon_smile.gif

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lauritasolorzano Posted 18 Dec 2008 , 6:14pm
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Personally, I don't think it would work, but what I will recommend you to do is to do some research and try it. The reason why i'm telling you to try it is because if you don't do it, you will later have the doubt in your mind of what could have happened if you had done it. If you decide to pursue your idea, i wish you the best.


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CakesByJen2 Posted 18 Dec 2008 , 10:13pm
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I think you are seriously underestimating the time involved. While it might take you working along only 1/2 hr to design a cake, and 2 hours to decorated, it will take much longer when working with someone else. Just think about how much longer it takes you to do things when your kids are "helping", LOL!

Most clients would not be able to decide on a design that quickly, and there are plenty of those wishy-washy type who will go back and forth, and second guess every detail. THen the decorating is going to take forever because you're going to have to teach them each and every skill and technique for the given desing before they can even start.

I don't really think you'd get many customers willing to pay what you'd need to be worth it. But, you don't have to really invest anything to give it a try since you already have all the equipment and experience, so what the heck.

One thing I've thought of doing, not really an actual business, but to make a little extra money now and then, is to offer small group classes geared specifically on teaching people how to make character cakes for their kids, utilizing very simple techniques such as star fill-in with shaped pans, frozen BC transfers, colorflow, candy molds, etc. That way, they can make good-tasting homemade cakes, but still have the characters their kids want, without having to buy crappy supermarket cakes with tacky plastic crap on them. We can't legally do these kinds of cakes anyway, so I'm not giving away any business, and saving some kids from having nasty dry cakes with chemical icing.

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nccmama Posted 19 Dec 2008 , 1:25am
post #10 of 10

Thanks for all the advice. What I'm envisioning isn't so much a decorating teaching session as it is a help session with a particular cake. These would be people who have either always wanted to do it but were too scared, or have tried it and failed. So, they probably have somewhat of an idea of how to do some of it, but need guidance in putting it all together. I think that I would end up doing much of the actual decorating work while they were the ones doing the "helping". But, since they would have done much of the time consuming prep and all of the baking, the actual decorating would be much faster. And, since they would still be partaking in the decorating, they would get to feel like they did it.

How I thought of this was when I was helping my friend make a cake for her friend's birthday party. She had made several cakes for her own kids over the years with mediocre success, but she really wanted to impress her friends with this cake, so she knew that she needed help. It was for her knitting group, so she was wanting to do something with a knitting theme. We came up with a design together of a knitting fairy standing in a meadow knitting directly off of a sheep. She borrowed my pans, baked the doll skirt (wonder mold pan? I think) and 1/4 sheet cakes, and made the icing according to my recipes. When it was all done, I went to her house to help her decorate. I did show her how to do several things like crumb coat, how to hold the bag, how to use certain tips, etc. I did the majority of the more difficult parts (piped knitted bodice on the doll, ruffled skirt), but she ended up being able to do all of the grass, and even the baby sheep, once I figure piped the mama sheep and showed her the steps. It turned out very cute, and all of the knitting ladies loved it. Best of all, my friend was happy because she felt that she had a major part in making and decorating the cake and could honestly say "thank you" when people complimented her on it, even if she did admit that she had some help.

For me, this was cake decorating at its best. I didn't have to bake a cake that I have baked many times, my kitchen stayed clean, and I didn't have to do the more tedious parts of the decorating (all that grass!). What I did get to do was brainstorm a unique and creative idea (always my favorite part) and do some fun decorating like knit with frosting and make some sheep. Then, when it was all done, I took pictures, helped her put it in the box, gave her advice on how to successfully transport the cake to its destination without having the worry of driving in rush hour traffic to deliver the cake on time. She thanked me like crazy, then I went home to my own clean kitchen.

Of course, she didn't pay me anything, so I know that would certainly change the dynamics of things. But, when I thought about it, I realized that what I was doing in my friend's kitchen was being a "cake consultant", just like all of the other kinds of consultants that are out there who are paid to give their expertise in their fields. Maybe cake expertise could be valuable as well?

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