5 common mistakes when starting a cake business
To talk about mistakes is not always easy, but sharing my experiences so you don’t make the same mistakes I think is worth.
Three years of experience decorating cakes as my side hustle made me feel confident. Level cakes, add crumb coat, ice and decorate cakes to look very pretty was easy by that time.
I was ready to make a business selling cakes and be happy forever. Or so I thought until I made a few mistakes and learned from them.
1. Work for free for family and friends.
It is OK to make cakes for free if you truly feel like doing so. You get to practice, and cakes make a perfect gift every time.
But the reality is that everything has a cost. Just to mention a few, one time I paid $42 dlls for 15 dozens of eggs.
The pure vanilla extract price is around $400 for a gallon at the time I am writing this post. Just add the cost of everything you need, ingredients, tools, overhead, training and the so overlooked TIME.
But they are family! That is what we all think in our heads, trust me I still think about it sometimes. So just for a moment lets put thing into perspective. If they are your family / friends they want for you to succeed in your business. If you don’t make their cake they will get a store bought cake anyway, won’t they?
So my suggestion is: instead of giving it for free, give them a family and friends discount. That would cover at least the ingredients, disposable and overhead.
How much of a discount? Well my friend, that is up to you. My suggestion is 20% off.
2. Undercharge to get the business and practice
I knew all the basics and I could decorate almost like a pro, but in my head, it was never enough. I needed to practice more. For that reason, I would underprice my work so I could get the “business” and still practice. I would convince myself that was the smart way to go.
The end result? Total Frustration.
At the end it would not be a business. Adding the materials and the time used to create the cake, it was like I was paying my clients so I could do their cake. o_O
That is not a business, you gotta agree on that one. If you don’t well just do the math.
Set a base price per slice, multiply that number times the number of servings of the cake and that would be your base price. ( Not how many serving they are asking you for, but how many servings the cake serves).
For example, if your price starts at $3.00 per slice and your client asks for 100 guests-slices, the base price for that cake would be $300. Now if the cake serves 105 slices due to the pan size used, charge for those extra 5 slices too.
Charge the full price. The practice should be before you make the cake. Don’t use your clients cakes as guinea pigs for new techniques. And by knowing what you are doing you can actually charge full price and not feel guilty.
3. Wait for customers to show up / No advertising.
It is understandable not to have a budget for advertising. As a matter of fact pretty much all the cakers I know started their cake business by word of mouth.
Word of mouth is an excellent way to “advertise” but it takes time to build up. Paying for advertisement works faster and you get so much more exposure.
Nowadays with social media is so much easier to advertise on a small budget. Take good pictures of your work, post them to IG, create a facebook page, get an email list etc. There are great apps to help you with your cake business advertising.
4. No workflow / I had not enough time.
Since we are dealing with perishable products we have to work fast an in a short period of time. So if you have a cake for Saturday morning you would start baking probably on a Wednesday or Thursday morning and then try to rush the process. Sleep less, work more, be more stressed, miss important events in your family life etc.
You can easily fix that, you dont have to wait until Wednesday or Thursday to bake your cakes. You have to have a process in place and more so if you have a 9 to 5 job.
Any sugar decorations like flowers, figurines,sugar pieces can be made well ahead of time. Start making your ganache, buttercream fillings etc on Monday. Bake on Tuesday if you don’t want to freeze your cakes for a couple of days. These way you would have Wed. Thr. and Friday to decorate the cake.
Look for what fits your schedule best. Just a suggestion: write it down your plan and just edit any changes until is perfect for you. Now you can go to bed early….or not. 🙂
5. Not investing in myself
Hooray for YouTube and all the amazing people who take time from their schedule to create those amazing tutorials. Ahem, ahem. you can check mine here:
Yes, it is great and free, plus you can learn so much from all those videos. But how about certain techniques, specialty cakes, social media, advertising, how to price your cakes, photography and so many other things. Take a course or two that will help you and your business. It is an investment for your business, it will return.
It is a win-win situation, you will not regret taking a step forward. That is what moved me, the fear of having regrets of what I did or didn’t do to make a better version of me and my business.
Are you investing in yourself? What books have you read lately? You have to keep on top of new trends, new markets etc.
This is the one thing that changed my cake life and helped on other aspects of my life. And I AM LOVING IT!
You dont like to read? You can listen to books. Here are just a couple of the books that have helped me enormously.
I hope you don’t make the same mistakes or at least that you learn from the mistakes and make it right. Thanks and I will talk to you later. Take Care.