I am a hobby baker - I bake for friends, family, and fun. I have had a lot of friends and acquaintances say that I should start a legitimate baking business - there are cottage food regulations where I live. This is very flattering, but I do not think that my skills are up to par to be start a business, and quite frankly, after reading about all the hassles of a home based business, I am not sure that I need the extra stress. I thank my friends for their vote of confidence, but I am happy doing what I do. My dilemma is that I have received 3 phone calls in the past 2 weeks from people who have been referred by my friends, that want me to do cakes for them. I have explained that I am not in business, and thanks for their interest, but no thanks. My friends think that they are doing me a favor, I have asked them not to, that I am too busy with my regular job and family to start such an en-devour. The call today was from a lady who saw one of my cakes at a friend's party at a restaurant and went over to get a taste of it. She said it was the best cake that she had ever tasted, thanks so much, and I had to do a cake for her, umm, no thanks.
So, not really a question, more of a sounding board, I don't want to totally alienate my friends, but they are being a bit pushy about this whole business thing. So just for fun, how did you know when to make the shift from hobby to legit,. Was it worthwhile; monetarily, stress-wise, time-wise.
Oh swishykitty; you've just about written my story. I know exactly how you feel. I'm a hobby cake decorator too. I love making cakes for family and friends and I love experimenting and learning new skills. One caterer acquaintance kept pestering me to make cakes for them . Eventually he begged me to help out in an emergency and I reluctantly agreed. The chef and owner of the business wanted to "talk business" with me after this wedding. It was such a stressful experience that it blew away any little vague thoughts I occasionally had about going into business.
If the reason that you have of going into business is that your friends want you to do it, then you shouldn't go into business. Running a business isn't fun, it's work. If you enjoy doing the cakes that you want to, when you want to, for whom you want to, then keep doing that. If you want to take on the task of filling orders, giving up your free time because you have to work on deadlines, dealing with customer service and bookkeeping, then that's what you're getting into when you're running a business. it's not like the people who are telling you how fabulous you are when you're doing this for free are going to keep doing that when they have to pay you. They'll expect professional service and they'll feel free to complain and whine about your prices if you're charging a price. And for custom cakes an appropriate price is generally more than people want to pay, because custom cakes are luxuries, not necessities.
Tell your friends that if you do decide to start selling cakes you'll appreciate the referrals, but at this point it's just harassment! Then look into the business side of it more if you're really interested in running a business. Not if you're interested in cake decorating, if you're interested in running a business. Because once you start taking orders they're not your cakes anymore, they're the customers cakes that they've hired a technician to make for them.
Thanks Cher2309b and costumeczar, you both just reinforced my feelings.
Cher2309b, i fully understand the wedding cake stress - i did the cake for my best friend's daughter, I was a wreck before the wedding and during the wedding. I was nervous getting the cake to the venue and then spent too much time watching other people's reaction to the cake - it was all good though, the bride burst into happy tears when she saw it. A manufacturer used a picture of my cake, which was on their stand, in a show and upped their sales of that stand 200% (but that is another story).
Costumeczar, I had a friend whose daughter was a gifted artist and her mother was pushing her to go into graphic design, as a job. Her daughters response was that then she would be drawing what other people wanted and not what she wanted and that would negate her creativity and love of art. I feel the same about this cake stuff - I do it because it's a challenge, creative, and I get invited to the best parties. I love your use of the term harassment - yes it does feel like that and a bit of bullying also! I had a business teaching art after school to preschoolers for a few years. I loved the teaching bit, but the business bit, not so much. I can only imagine that a baking business would be so much more stress on the business side.
So ladies, thanks to both of your's feedback, when I was asked numerous times tonight when I was opening my business, I just smiled and said never!!!!
You are a smart lady, SwishyKitty. Just like you, I am a hobby baker. Compliments are music to every baker's ears, and the biggest compliment people can offer is to acknowledge that your cake is good enough to compete with [or be better than] bakery cakes. Many people who eat my cake say, "You should go into business!" I smile, thank them for the compliment and say I do it for fun. If I did it as a business, it would no longer BE fun.
I absolutely could do this, since I'm retired, and in a cottage food law state, but I worked for 30+ years in sales and marketing and know the reality of possible profits selling baked goods vs. the amount of work involved. People who say "Go into business!" generally have ZERO idea of the reality of a part-time baking business.
I give my cakes away and love that I have enough extra income in my retirement to be able to spend the money on cake supplies and ingredients that I can give to others as gifts.
I suggest you tell your friends that although you enjoy their appreciation of your baking talents, that they are not doing you a favor by having people call to order cakes. If they argue, jokingly tell them for every referral that you receive from them, they will have to make you a nice dinner that takes them at least 6-8 hours to plan, buy ingredients for, and cook.
Then, after you eat this lovely (hypothetical) meal, you will start telling others to contact 'friend John/Joanie' and ask him/her if they would provide a quote to cater this meal for an upcoming party since "it was the BEST meal EVER!".
Oh Apti, I am dying with laughter - best suggestion ever!!!!!!
Glad you liked it. Happy Holidays!
And if you do start a business the next thing they'll say is, "You should be on *insert baking contest name*! Friends have no end of "helpful advice".
That is a very clever response Apti! I'll have to use it.
I can completely relate to you Swishykitty. After hearing that same comment for the thousandth time, I actually gave the idea some thought. " Hmmm, how great would it be to earn a living by making cakes all day?"
One of the reasons I started to follow this site was due to the forums. There are a lot of really helpful people here that share their knowledge and experiences with everyone. After following the forums for a while, I got a much better idea of what it actually would take to successfully run a baking business. Thanks to the great advice shared on CC, I was able to figure out that trying to start a business in my area would not be a great idea. Neither would i want to be burdened with the business side of running a cake shop. I also tend to be one of those "tempermental artists" who can not get anything done if she is stressed of distracted. ( I often plan on staying up all night to work on a cake because it is so nice and peaceful at that time.)
Since I started baking as a creative outlet (giving away the finished product keeps me from eating cake 24/7), I decided being a hobby baker is what makes me happy.
@ Apti, love the scenario you illustrated - totally hilarious!
One of the most fascinating aspects of cake decorating is the "low entry barrier". Per Wikipedia: "Markets with low entry barriers have lots of players and thus low profit margins."
The other thing low entry barriers have in common is the many people who "think" they'll make extra money, or a living, or a fortune, because they are good at something, getting compliments, and don't have to invest significant sums of money to "make a sale". My nutshell advice (which I rarely put so bluntly here on CC) is: Unless you can make more baking cakes than working part time at McDonald's; work at McDonald's.
In other words, don't quit your day job.
I'm glad all of you have the self-confidence to recognize the compliments and still retain the sanity to keep decorating as a hobby.
Talking about low entry barriers. I was on the highway out of town and noticed a home made sign tacked to a stake on the side of the road. Written in magic marker on a piece of corrugated cardboard was an advertisement that said "I Bake Cakes" and a phone number. Top notch bakery right there.
Wow, that's lower than low...In my area there have been two established custom cake businesses close within the past month, partly because of the low bar to entry. Since the cottage food laws have been put into place in so many areas loads more people have entered the market and driven prices lower just by virtue of too much supply and not enough demand. Then they find out it's not fun all the time and they quit, but in the meantime people have been trained to think that elaborate cakes cost what basic grocery store cakes do. Custom cakes used to be rare but they're all over now.
Also, my teenage daughter just got a job cashiering at a grocery store, and they're paying her $9.25 an hour to start. I'd be willing to bet that most cake decorators haven't figured out their pricing to even make that much. So if you're not earning at least $9.25 an hour, you're making less than a teenager with her first job scanning groceries.
.....I think I'd have a harder time of my "friends" giving out my phone number....
With that said, I'd rather not be tied to an oven in summer heat. (But that's just me :) )
Another option if you haven't tried it is to calculate out what it costs you to make a cake, including a decent wage for the amount of time it takes to plan, buy ingredients and supplies, and bake and decorate, then tell them how much you'd have to charge to actually make a living at it, and ask if they'd be willing to pay that on a regular basis. I'm guessing the answer will be no.
I'm also a hobbyist who constantly is told I should do it for a living. I generally explain that 1) I don't have the time or kitchen/fridge/storage space to do it. 2) If I charged what I'd have to in order to make it worth my time, nobody I know could afford my prices, which would have to be far higher than Costco or the grocery store bakery. 3) I find doing cakes (especially wedding cakes) stressful, and wouldn't want to deal with that any more often than I do, and 4) If I were doing it all the time for a living, it wouldn't be fun anymore.