Been thinking hard about whether starting a cake business from home is right for you? Ready to take the plunge? That's great – congratulations! However, going from home baking to starting a cake business is a really big step and it's important to take your time and make sure you understand precisely how to set up a cake decorating business from start to finish.
Don't be daunted though, CD&S and Phil and Christine Jensen, founders of The Cake Professionals are here with everything you need to know for starting a cake business!
Let’s start with the simple stuff first… time travel! If we could sprinkle some magic icing sugar over ourselves, and teleport back six years, what would we really want to tell ourselves?
Six years ago, you’d have found us full of enthusiasm, hope and (let’s be honest) mostly ignorant of what starting a cake business takes. Since then we’ve been on an amazing journey from our first Vistaprint business cards, to building a customer base, making cake on TV and even delivering some international orders. It might look like effortless plain sailing from the outside, but our reality has been stuffed with highs, plenty of lows and a bunch of hard-won lessons to show for the journey so far. We’ve fallen into a bunch of gaping holes, and picked up a few bruises along the way. Our hope is that you’ll avoid the same ones we fell into.
The Cake Professionals team.
1. Don't quit the day job
We jumped straight into our cake business. We’d some money set aside, and anyway, how hard could this whole cake thing be? Turns out… really pretty hard. Some of the best advice we ever got was that starting a cake business looks like this:
Year 1 – you pay for the business
Year 2 – the business pays for itself
Year 3 – the business pays you
That was exactly the pattern we experienced. So, whether you are starting your business as part-time or full-time it will take time for money to flow back to you. If you have another source of income, keep it while you get started. Gradual growth is healthy growth. Every business owner makes mistakes, and plenty of them. It’s part of the process of creating something new!
Year 1... Christine selling toppers.
2. Keep pushing foward
There were several moments we thought “Wow, THIS is it!” Nope. None of them were the silver bullet we were looking for. Even being on TV! You’d think being on TV would mean you’d just need to sit back and wait for an avalanche of orders to roll in. Not at all.
We’ve had some amazing opportunities and what looks like some big breakthroughs. But each event/planner/cake/photoshoot was simply a shiny door opening into a new room of work, networking and new possibilities for growth. Each one still needed us to expend effort in order to take advantage of the fresh bit of ground we were now standing on.
Year 3... serving royalty!
3. Don't be too hard on yourself
We all screw up sometimes. With the best intentions, and careful planning, the end result is sometimes failure. Don’t beat yourself up! If you want to know how to set up a cake business but seem to be struggling, your problem is most likely not your cake skills. It’s your business skills that need proper attention.
Each mistake is an opportunity to learn how not to do something! Some of our biggest mistakes have been the source of our biggest successes. Our first few wedding fairs were a complete bust. We spent the money, did the marketing, but no orders, pretty much a complete failure. Taking a step back to review the situation, we talked to some more experienced suppliers, did the work, and now our wedding fair approach is totally and utterly different - and it really, really works.
If you’re really worried about wedding fairs in particular then don’t panic, we’ve got you covered with our cake business discussion all about how to succeed at wedding fairs!
4. Business skills matter more than cake skills
Oooh, getting a bit controversial now. Of course, you have to have good cake skills when starting a cake business from home (or any cake business for that matter!). But… there are lots of people who can make amazing sugar flowers, create cake corners so sharp you’d cut your finger on them and carve fabulous cakes. Lots of them. Yet so many can’t make a sustainable business of it. Why? Well great cakes don’t sell themselves. You’ll be a marketer, salesperson, administrator, courier, all before breakfast! Your sweet sugarcraft skills can't help with any of that.
Finding an experienced mentor, going on business courses, getting help from small business government support, reading credible business books, practicing selling, learning about marketing, going to conferences. These are all ways to fill in the knowledge gaps and equip you for brilliant business. Choosing to fuel up on business courses - over cake courses - is a wise investment. You've already got the caking and baking skills in hand, so keep your focus on things you know aren't such a strong point for you!
A lot of things people don't take into consideration when starting a cake business is the legal (yawn, boring!) side of things. We've got a quick, easy guide to things you need to consider along those lines to help you out though, so check out Food Safety for Cake Decorators to get clued up on all those extra bits of information you might not have known about!
5. Take time for yourself
Our final piece of advice is to breathe. It's a scientifically sound, fundamentally brilliant idea. One of the things we've learned is to schedule days off after big events or particularly heavy weeks of cake making. After Cake International, for example, we always book a couple of days off from all of the excitement! There's only one of you and you can't pour from an empty cup. For the first three years we kind of forgot to breathe. It really wasn’t great for us, our health, our family or the business. You just can’t work every hour without it catching up and hitting you over the head.
There's always time for tea!
Which one of the points felt most true for you starting a cake business? If you could do a bit of time travel, what are the wise words you’d tell your cake-business-beginner self?
Starting a cake business from home is no easy task, but we don't want you to feel put off! Knowing how to set up a cake decorating business from professionals who have been exactly where you are means you can avoid many of the difficulties they had and save yourself a lot of hurt, hassle and heartbreak along the way!