Business Idea, Is It Possible?

Business By Stitches Updated 17 Mar 2010 , 1:59pm by Stitches

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Stitches Posted 9 Mar 2010 , 5:05pm
post #1 of 48

I have this business plan in my head, but I'm not sure it's workable. I'd love your opinions both good and bad, please?

My goal is to provide great cakes at reasonable prices. The customer chooses their base cake in any size or flavor I offer and then they buy the decor items ala carte. You can design your own cake as simply or as complexly as you'd like or you can choose your design based on my many samples and photographs. You could buy a cake completely undecorated for dessert or decorate it yourself at home.

Some of my ala carte items would be:
Large chocolate bows in many colors, to wrap around cakes, etc...
Gum paste flowers, etc...
Assorted edible 3D items like: bunnies, chocolate purses, martini's, etc...
Graphic designs like: fondant stripes, fondant polka dots, stars, etc...
Gift tags made of chocolate
Numbers drawn in chocolate
2D names cut out of fondant

I would price my ala carte design elements by the piece. They would be displayed and numbered. I would not sell my decor items alone with-out selling a cake. My concept is make celebrations cakes in mass. I wouldn't need highly skilled cake decorators to place the objects on the cakes. It's sort of like choosing what toppings you want.

Then for those people who want custom work at what it costs for a cake artist to design and decorate a cake, I'd have a completely custom option available.

Would people be interested in something with more contemporary designs like this? Or are people more prone to stay with the traditional bakery butter cream designed cakes?

47 replies
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TexasSugar Posted 9 Mar 2010 , 5:19pm
post #2 of 48

Have you seen this post? It is about charging more for decorations and such. Which sounds kinda like what you have in mind.

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Stitches Posted 9 Mar 2010 , 6:48pm
post #3 of 48

Thanks for that link!! Maybe I'm being silly, but I see my plan as being different then what was talked about on that thread.

I'm more interested in doing a "fast cake" concept, like "fast food" and getting away from custom work. This wouldn't be for wedding cakes or stacked cakes. Those would be custom and I probably would price them per-person. But for the fast cake concept I'd like to have a bunch of cakes on hand (they could also call ahead to make certain I have their flavor and size) already frosted with a top and bottom border, ready to go as is. Then they choose the decoration, which is put on the cake right then by the sales person. Sales person writes message on standard size edible gift tag. No piped on decor, no cake decorator.

Cakes are priced by size not by servings. Cakes are all basic cake flavors and frosting's, not custom. Like doing an upscale version of a grocery store cake. Making Great tasting cakes you can pick up with-out pre-ordering with very contemporary edible cake decorations. No guarantees though.....if you want a certain flavor and decor you'd be smart to call ahead and order.

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cakesdivine Posted 9 Mar 2010 , 8:44pm
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Wow what a novel idea! Definitely thinking outside the box. Kind of like those bake it yourself pizza places. You tell them what you want they slap it together you take it home & bake it. But instead you have stock cakes ready and they purchase all the decor they want and they can put it on their cake themselves or have you do it maybe for a little more money. Actually pretty cool.

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Stitches Posted 9 Mar 2010 , 11:03pm
post #5 of 48

There's a couple of issues all cake decorators run into. They can't run a profitable business: while marketing it, baking all the product themselves, decorating all the cakes themselves, answering every phone call, cleaning the shop, washing the pans, updating the website, coming up with new ideas, etc...

Those that can find good help spend more money paying the helps salary then paying themselves. The profit goes to the landlord and everyone else.

I think the concept of grocery store cakes "buy it off the shelf" is a good idea. They just do it poorly, with bad tasting product and horrible designs. Look at how many cakes warehouse clubs sell! Whole foods and similar high end grocery stores are selling high end cakes with cash and carry style. Can we compete with them???... and why not, we have more skill and taste.

This is in no way competing with high end cake decorators. Only artists can do what we do! But there's only so many people with the money to buy high end cakes and they buy only for major occasions. What about cakes for the average celebration, the average budget somewhat in mass with much more style?

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ButtercupMama Posted 9 Mar 2010 , 11:37pm
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I really like this idea, and when I was forming my original plans, I wanted to do something similar! I ended up adapting away from that, because I don't have enough space in the storefront, and mainly, because we don't get enough walk-in traffic.
For months when I first opened, we'd keep a few "ready-to-go" cakes in the bakery case. They almost never sold. Folks would walk in, and want a cake, but not that size, or not that flavor, etc.
So I totally think it would be awesome, but you would need a fabulously convenient and visible location, and a steady flow of people coming in, or you'll be throwing a lot of product away.
I noticed my local grocery store has a big new menu board that says something like, "It's easy to order a cake!" Then it says, Step 1: Choose your size (then gives size/servings info), Step 2: Choose your cake & filling flavors (then gives all options), Step 3: Choose your decorations.... see where I'm going??? It seems like, DUH! But seriously, it leaves no question as to how things work! I think this would be an awesome idea for your concept.
People walk in to my tiny place and look around like they don't know where to begin. But we are all custom, so we run out help them right away; but I could see a giant cute menu board thing workin like a charm, so your clerk does not have to explain the concept every 5 seconds.
My other random thought was, who is going to make all the little custom fondant critters, crowns, and doo-dads? Some can certainly be pre-bought thru Bakery Crafts or somewhere, but stuff made in-house will take a skilled hand...

I love the idea, overall!

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joenshan Posted 10 Mar 2010 , 10:53am
post #7 of 48

I think it's a great idea with a lot of potential. Makes me think of the Cold Stone Creamery model where the customer makes all the choices and they put it together. I have never heard of anything like that which means you could really have something that would hit an untapped market. I would name it "The Cake Station" because its like those stations you see at large events these days; pasta station, salad station, dessert station, know what I mean?

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Stitches Posted 10 Mar 2010 , 11:35am
post #8 of 48

For the decorative items, besides all the great ones I can buy already made, I can teach someone how to make them. I'd choose designs that I can buy molds to make or have custom molds made. Every skill has to be taught, you need to teach someone how to bake a cake, someone how to frost, etc... Which I already do and have got those skills simplified. If this took off I could have a central kitchen where everything came from and ship out product to my stores.

What are the down sides?

Cake and frosting flavor choices....would people never be happy with what I had on hand? Would they settle for something convenient and universally liked?

Does this fill a need already there?

How to display all my design elements cleanly and logically?

What's a price range that people won't choke on, yet is profitable?

Only a couple of people have responded to this thread, so maybe the majority of you think it's a dumb idea? If so please help me so I don't waste my life's savings.

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costumeczar Posted 10 Mar 2010 , 11:42am
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Personally, I think it's a good idea on paper, but I have to agree with Buttercupmama, who seems to be the only responder who has real-world experience with actually doing something like this. It sounds like you'd have to have a very limited number of pre-made cakes on hand, or you'll have a ton of wasted product. Honestly, it doesn't sound much different from buying a kit to put on a cake, other than customers would be paying piecemeal for the exact pieces they want. The new kits that DecoPac are doing with Duff sound very similar to this in that they have the white pieces that come with coloring dyes, and the customer personalizes them. Your idea could be a workable one, but I don't think it's going to be enough to drive an entire store. You'll still have to do casegoods and other cakes, which it sounds like you'll be doing anyway.

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Stitches Posted 10 Mar 2010 , 12:26pm
post #10 of 48

I tried to look up the DecoPac product you mentioned costumeczar, I only saw 2 decorating type packages. But that's not really what I had in mind.

You and I know about DecoPac and similar companies where you can buy pre-made flowers and objects, etc... but that's not accessible to the average customer. They can't buy that. I could in addition to my original concept sell a variety of "add-ons" like great candles and cool serving plates. To that I could sell kits like what Duff is offering for the person that wants to have a personal hand in the decoration of the cake.

I don't know it this will work, but I'm trying to show you an example of items I might sell. I'd sell 3D bow's, bunny's & teddy bear's, etc...

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costumeczar Posted 10 Mar 2010 , 12:34pm
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You're explaining it well, I think I know what you're talking about, but I'd just be careful about going overboard with the cakes that you have on hand. For every cake you have in storage waiting to be sold, there's an expiration date on it. As long as you don't have too much waste it would probably work. You could also structure it where people come in, place the order in the morning, say before 10:00, then pick the cake up later in the afternoon. That way you wouldn't have to bake things before they were ordered. I just think the comment about people coming in and not wanting exactly the flavor or size cake that you have available is something to consider. Part of a business is about selling, and part is about controlling costs and waste...It all counts toward your profit.

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Stitches Posted 10 Mar 2010 , 12:40pm
post #12 of 48
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Stitches Posted 10 Mar 2010 , 12:47pm
post #13 of 48

Costumeczar, I GREATLY appreciate your comments and advise!!

Currently, I do keep cake layers in the freezer unfrosted and frost as needed. I don't see why I couldn't keep butter cream frosted cakes frozen too. The thing is, not freaking out people that they are buying a cake previously frozen.

Technically almost all "fresh" fish was frozen at sea. The burgers McDonald's and most restaurants sell are previously frozen. I work in a professional kitchen and tons of items are pre-cooked or previously frozen. It's just not announced to the buyer.

I think you've got a great point! I have to think further on this... what else am I missing?

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cakesdivine Posted 10 Mar 2010 , 2:35pm
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The reason people freak about a cake being frozen is because of grocery stores. They purchase already baked cakes that are shipped frozen then they throw them in the freezer. Problem is that if they sit on the loading dock at the grocery store (and most times they do) and aren't put in the freezer pronto they defrost, it is the constant defrost/refreeze that lowers the quality of the cake. (I know from experience). A cake that you personally bake then freeze and keep frozen until production will remain fresh tasting when defrosted, and be more moist for the process. You do have to have a quality freezer and protect them well. The only thing about a prefrosted frozen cake is the BC might crack during the defrost process. Your best bet is to not prefrost them. Or if you decide to realize that it must fully defrost first so you can repair any icing cracks before decorating the cake. Do you have an idea of what you want to call your biz?

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jammjenks Posted 10 Mar 2010 , 2:46pm
post #15 of 48

I think it is a great idea! I just hope you're not down the road from me. icon_biggrin.gif

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Stitches Posted 10 Mar 2010 , 4:41pm
post #16 of 48
Originally Posted by cakesdivine

Do you have an idea of what you want to call your biz?

Not yet, I'm horrible with naming things. Got any ideas?

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ButtercupMama Posted 10 Mar 2010 , 5:07pm
post #17 of 48

When I saw your bunny cake picture, it also occurred to me that you're going to want plenty of pictures around; on the walls, or dummy cakes, all customized. Consider one of those big flippie things that holds flat mylar balloon designs or posters, so folks can stand and look thru finished designs rather than at a little album. Each picture can say what is shown: [8" round cake+ #40 Peach Bow + #25 Bunny+ Tag]
Many people cannot envision things finished, so they will see these items, fall in love with them, and spend more than they originally planned.
Kind of like how Build-a-Bear has finished bears everywhere, decked out in every accessory known to man? Once they see it, they'll spend more. icon_smile.gif

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JanelleH Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 5:49am
post #18 of 48
Originally Posted by Stitches

What are the down sides?

Cake and frosting flavor choices....would people never be happy with what I had on hand? Would they settle for something convenient and universally liked?

As far as flavors go, I have worked in grocery store bakeries, and we always kept cakes ready to sell in chocolate, white, and marble cakes, in both buttercream and whipped icings. I think you would have the advantage in that our customers always wanted the exact combination that we didn't have; the right flavor cake and type of icing, but we had pink flowers on it and they wanted it for a teenage boy's birthday. Does that make sense? Since you're letting them pick the decorations, you won't have to keep as many cake flavor/icing type combinations on hand as grocery stores do, thus, less waste.

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JanelleH Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 6:00am
post #19 of 48
Originally Posted by Stitches

How to display all my design elements cleanly and logically?

What's a price range that people won't choke on, yet is profitable?

For displaying elements I'd definitely suggest some type of flip book of photos, sorted by category. You may also find it easiest to store your actual supplies in full view in clear containers, since you'll always be hearing "Well, how big is this actually? Can I see it? Do you have any other colors?" You don't want your clerk to have to go very far to point out items to customers who will inevitably change their minds 20 times before deciding on their design.

As far as price is concerned, you can't expect people to pay custom-design prices, but they should definitely be higher than standard premade cake prices. You need to take into account the custom options, the higher quality decorations, and your sales clerk's time.

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cakesdivine Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 5:36pm
post #20 of 48
Originally Posted by Stitches

Originally Posted by cakesdivine

Do you have an idea of what you want to call your biz?

Not yet, I'm horrible with naming things. Got any ideas?

PM'ing you now icon_smile.gif

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lexi55033 Posted 12 Mar 2010 , 8:06pm
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You might want to consider a really good website where people could place their orders through. Keep the original concept, but instead of having the cakes all premade, list all your selections online, have the customers pick and click on the items they want with what flavor, size, etc and send the order 24 hours before pickup. Then you could bake the cake fresh, assemble it using the items they picked and you already have on hand ready to go and they could pick it up at your store. You wouldn't have to worry about having a lot of inventory that doesn't get sold and going bad. The best of both worlds! Just my random thoughts!

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EvMarie Posted 13 Mar 2010 , 3:43am
post #22 of 48

Yeah, sorta like pizza hut online. I like that pick and click phrase.... I would think the "extras" would be premade. You're not going to eat those anyway. I think it's a neat idea.

I'm not a pro caker, but from a consumer standpoint with regard to flavors - I like the standard choices of white, chocolate, marble. But, I feel like if you're going for a sort of in between grocery store & custom...maybe offer a flavor of the week/month? Keeping with the idea that people can't coordinate ideas in their heads, I'd have the cake & frosting flavors paired. Like, "peanut butter cup cake" (choc cake, choc icing, peanut butter filling) No option to vary the components though, or it would get crazy.

Just a thought.

OHHHHH - pina colada for another flavor of the week!!! I'm sure you could vary the standard options to include extracts/flavorings for coconut and pineapple. Maybe you have a great filling for this one.

Sorry...I'm a rambler from way back! icon_smile.gif

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aundrea Posted 13 Mar 2010 , 4:09am
post #23 of 48

i love this idea. and i hope it works for you!!
my two cents:
1) as a customer i would expect a cake for MUCH lower price then i would pay if you were doing the decorating. as a cosumer- we think if we are doing any of the work, we should be paying alot less.
--which leads to me to:
2) how will you make a profit? as a decorator you will need to be compensated for making or purchasing the items sold with the cake-that the customer will be finishing at home.

that would be my main concern.

but honestley i really love this idea. especially now that the cake market has exploded....the possibilities are out there.

this sounds good for a big chain that would mass produce the decoratings for pennies on the dollar - where the profit is really coming from selling their cakes.

i hope i havent discouraged you- because again great idea!!!

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icingimages Posted 13 Mar 2010 , 2:35pm
post #24 of 48

I love the idea. I think it gives the customer the feel of a custom cake that they have a more itergal part in. I would definately launch a website before opening the store. A high traffic location as this gives the option for a last minute idea as people walk by. I would also agree on baking and freezing the cakes. Baked fresh and immediatley freezing locks in the moisture and makes for a great cake. I am not a professiopnal decorator or a baker. I decorate cakes to sell my products since I sell supplies, so I come at this CC more from the business side with my experiences. Keep thet shop very small. I would even go as far to bake elsewhere and have your store front be very small and have the items ready to sell. But that being said. Go about it at another angle like the pottery shops that are out there. Where you offer a space that people can build their own cake and decorate it as an option. You could have birthday parties and offer a smaller individual cake or cupcake for the kids to decorate. Us moms pay a lot for birthday parties and this could help to suppliiment your income. This would also give you two audiences to draw from. A kids and a adult who has limited time but really wants something that they have a hand in. So your marketing is two folded. One at all the schools which is cheap advertisement. You could go as far as to host field trips for schools for nominal fees that schools, day cares and camps can all take advantage of. Then the kids would bring their experiences and their masterpieces home for their parents (who have the buying decision capability) to see. Giving you word of mouth and actualy products and you can offer a coupon which would be thier incentive to come back to the other side of your business where the adult picks what they want, take it home and create it. I love the idea. I would also patent the idea get with a good lawyer and put it together. Your idea is bigger then you realize. Way to think outside the cake box!

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Stitches Posted 13 Mar 2010 , 8:47pm
post #25 of 48

I was hesitant to mention my idea, because I do think it's highly marketable. But I can't even get my husband to consider this as a "good idea". I've been a professional baker and cake decorator for over 20 years....yet my hubby thinks I don't own a clue. Besides, I'm scared to death to lose any of our life's savings. Maybe one day if I inherit money I can play with that.

Some of the comments got off track though.........but maybe your right and I'm wrong. I didn't want people to put the decorations on the cakes themselves. If you let them do that, their going to screw up non-stop, so I'd be patching together frosting gauges all day. Plus edible objects can be fragile, can melt in your hands, etc... and I'd have to fix those problems non-stop too. No, I'd just let them choose their design with their budget then I handle the rest.

I'd have whatever cake flavors pre-frosted and on hand. If I run out of a certain size or flavor "oh well" they'll learn to place their orders ahead if they are picky. Or I can secretly pull them out of the freezer and tell the customer I'll have some really in an hour or so, if I have the time to frost more.

I thought it could be like Einsteins Bagels where you fill out a form choosing your toppings (from my displays and photos) you hand it to the counter person. They gather the cake flavor & accessories you've chosen, they hand the cake and accessories to the cake decorator (who's on display) and the decorator places the edible objects on the cake, they pass it down to the person who boxes and checks them out.

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Stitches Posted 13 Mar 2010 , 9:01pm
post #26 of 48

One job that I worked at used to have gingerbread decorating events. It sold well, but the mess is uncontrollable. So you wouldn't want kids with bags of frosting running around your clean displays. If you had a party room with seats where you could coral those people, then they could decorate their the pottery place.

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Marci Posted 13 Mar 2010 , 9:29pm
post #27 of 48

I like the idea. However, you will need to budget a bit for advertising, I would think. "Wait, so it's like a grocery store cake because I can just go and pick one up at the drop of a hat.... but it is more expensive... and I have to wait for it to be finished... Why is that?" People would need to understand what they are going to get, before they show up and get sticker shock.

Also, you would need make sure your system is as streamlined as possible. How long will each cake take (I realize the number of decorations will change the timeline)? What if you are customer number 4 in line? Are you waiting an hour to get your quick pick up cake? Hope this make sense!

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Stitches Posted 13 Mar 2010 , 10:28pm
post #28 of 48

If you don't want to wait, call ahead! That's the ideal goal!! But for those who don't order can wait at my shop or go somewhere else that will turn you down completely.

The decor definitely has to be upscale and the cakes better tasting then anywhere else...

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EvMarie Posted 14 Mar 2010 , 12:24am
post #29 of 48

The more the discussion develops, I agree a website is crucial. Someone wanting to design a cake may take a bit to decide. A website would be neat, because you could picture the elements that can be added. Maybe there could be a calculator of sorts for them to click all the elements & then see the total & then when they are satisfied either "click" to order/pay or "print" a sheet with elements they preselected to bring in store. Of course, knowing there would be a wait time. I'm just thinking somebody may have questions or want to think on it.

I thought the "flavor of the week/month" was a good idea because it lends itself a bit of a "gourmet" feel. Standards are great. But, you can't get a specialty flavor at a grocery store. For the cost of extracts & perhaps an easy to apply upgraded filling, people may feel like they are getting more for the money. And, just ONE flavor of the week/month. To keep the variables down.

Jello pudding is fabulous as a filling - tons of flavors available, low cost, and can be made quickly. Plus, you could call it something fancy. For example, pineapple cake with coconut cream filling for the Pina Colada I mentioned earlier. Just alter your white cake, and add flavor to your BC...add pudding filling. Same process as the standards....well except throwing the filling together.

I'm excited about this - Just follow through. Following through is the hardest part I think.

Oh - for your extra's - I'm sure you've thought of it but outside of figures, things that could be reproduced with cutters or molds would be easy to teach people and produced at a fast pace.


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cakesweetiecake Posted 15 Mar 2010 , 4:10pm
post #30 of 48

I think I've seen an idea similar to this, but now I just have to remember where. However, the difference is that I dont think you could walk in and make a purchase. It was still a "custom cake" place with the ordering done online. However, the company gave you specific options on choosing your cake and the add-on designs and allowed you to make and place your order/selection online.

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