Making the leap from hobby to cake business is a big jump with LOTS to think about. Thankfully, founders of The Cake Professionals, Phil and Christine Jensen, are here to offer their advice and wisdom, as two cakers who have gone through that very process. It’s over to Phil and Christine…
Phil and Christine Jensen.
How to transition from cake hobby to business
Should I turn my cake hobby into a business?
Our aim is that by the end of this blog, 25% of you who want to start a cake business decide against it. Why? Not because we’re being a negative Nora. We want to see businesses that’ll take off and fly, but for those that won’t it’s much better that they stay on the ground.
We’re all for cakers! The cake making world is an amazing industry to be in. You get to add extra sparkle to the best moments in people’s lives. What could be better? As a way of making a living it’s fulfilling, varied, and interesting.
But, it’s also hard work. Really hard. It involves long hours and often isn’t brilliantly paid. There will be tough moments. Really tough moments. You’ll wonder why you ever thought cake making would be a good idea. We’re not making it up. Most cake businesses don’t last more than 12-18 months.
So why do cake businesses fail? The harsh truth is many don’t make it because they should never have started. That’s why we hope this article helps you either to decide “YES! I’m in” or just as importantly “NO! I’m not!”
Should you start a cake business? Here are four areas to consider:
2006 – simple beginnings while still a hobby.
1. The shift from cake hobby to business is HUGE
You started by making cakes for your family. You love the joy those cakes bring. Soon other people see your amazing cakes and ask you to make one for them. They’re super appreciative and tell you that you should be doing this as a job. 'Hmm' you think… 'maybe I should'.
That’s the story of how our cake business (and many others) started. It’s a lovely way to get creative, and see heart-warming reactions to what’s been brought to the table. Would you choose not do that full time?
So far what you have is a gloriously sweet hobby that makes those you care about happy. Don’t underestimate the shift of gears required to move from a hobby to a business.
In a business you have to make cakes. You don’t choose to make them. Before, making cakes was a joyful escape. Now you are required to make them to a deadline. Sure, you can turn down an order you don’t want to make, but you have bills to pay, so you’ll need to make enough to do that. What was an escape into pleasure is now a job. Don’t expect floods of 'thank you' letters when you’re making cakes for people you don’t know. There will be some gorgeous ones you'll treasure and there will also be a few complaints as well.
'Thank yous' are lovely, but don’t pay the bills.
Understanding the difference between a hobby and a business is vitally important. Getting to grips with that before you start will help you decide if this is the right path for you.
2011 – getting a little more adventurous.
2. Are you ready to be a self-employed caker?
Both of us had only ever been employees before starting our cake business. The idea of being self-employed sounded really quite attractive.
- Do what you love
- Flexible working hours
- Be your own boss
- Control your finances
- Choose who you work with
- Profiting directly from your hard work
Sounds great – sign us up!
All of those are true and are great when your business is profitable several years down the line. But before you get there it’s also important to look at what you lose. Some things are quite obvious… You’ll have no guaranteed salary. No sick pay. No pension contribution.
The less obvious one is loneliness. It’s perhaps the biggest single struggle that we experience and hear about from fellow cake makers. Most cake makers work from home and that means that day-to-day you don’t see anyone else. If you’re used to working in a team that can be really hard. But there are some great Facebook groups out there. The isolation was also in part why we set up The Cake Professionals, where cake businesses can find connection.
- No regular salary
- No pension pot
- No holiday/sick pay
- No weekends/summer freedom
For a wealth of cakey content, look no further than Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft magazine – packed with expert advice, techniques, the latest trends, tutorials and SO much more!
2014 – first ever competition entry.
3. What do you want from your cake business?
How much money do you need? If you want a little extra cash or perhaps a part time job alongside raising children that will look very different than trying to raise a full-time salary. Earning a full-time salary from cake will require you to work long hours – fulfilling, creative and interesting, but long.
Is work-life balance important to you? Cake making involves quite a few late nights because cake needs to be fresh so you can’t make it all in advance. It also means that you’ll work a lot at weekends. That’s when all the parties are. Another important consideration is that you’ll be at your busiest during the summer months when the weather is better and children are on holiday.
Thinking about what you want and what cake making can deliver is so important. Speak to other established cake makers about what you’re hoping for and let their experience help you make the choice.
2014 – our first paying cake, a Sweeney Todd pie!
4. What will get you through year one and two?
In our early days of business, we had lots of business coaching. The most useful thing we heard was this:
- Year one – you pay for the business.
- Year two – the business pays for itself.
- Year three – the business pays you.
We’ve found that to be remarkably accurate. If you’re planning on cake making being a big part of your income, plan on how to get through those first two years.
Is making the transition from cake hobby to business for you?
So, should you start a cake business? Only you can answer that question, but it’s ok if your answer is ‘no’ as much as it is ‘yes’. It’s important to make the right decision now before any money or time has been spent.
…And if it’s a yes – go for it! Read plenty, get business coaching, learn from others who are making a profit and invest in elevating your skills. Give it your very best shot and we’ll be there pom poms on hand cheering you on!
Decided you want to make the leap from cake hobby to business? Here are 5 things you need to know to get you started – and be sure to check out Cherish Finden’s tips for a successful cake career!