Forum: Cake Decorating BusinessWho Does this for a living? And do you have any tips on how you got started? I am interested in starting my own cake decorating business, but do not know how to get started. Is there grant money for this sort of business? How do I get the word out? And what are some marketing strategies? I am a teacher, but can not find a...
I am interested in starting my own cake decorating business, but do not know how to get started. Is there grant money for this sort of business? How do I get the word out? And what are some marketing strategies? I am a teacher, but can not find a permanent teaching position. And subbing is really stressing me out. I would love to be creative and do something that makes me feel good about myself and putting a big smile on other peoples faces too. I am an artist and work well with fondant. The baking part I am learning more about through forums and tutorials. Any advise would be extremely helpful to me and much appreciated. Thanks in advance. Mollie
Jenniffer White ...
Hi Mollie! I started as a hobbyist and then turned it into a full-time profession. My advice is to first do some checking at the state and local level to see what’s legal in your area. Some states have a cottage food law that allows cakes and other “non-hazardous” foods to be prepared right in your own kitchen.
Next, if you don’t have a nest egg, start working towards one. Starting a business can be very hard financially, both in terms of the equipment necessary to open as well as those first (hopefully) few months that business will be slow to start. Or be prepared to mortgage your house. I was told that even with a rock-solid business plan that no bank would loan you money on that alone.
I worked for a pastry shop for almost a year to learn more about the business and enhance my baking skills. They worked me from 4am – 6pm 6 days a week at $9/hour salaried position. I knew what I was getting into and I didn’t care. It was my pastry boot camp and it was cheaper than culinary school. I figured out what the business was doing right and wrong, and I took notes so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes.
This is, of course, just my story. I have been at it now for almost 8 years and I still love making those cakes! I wish you the best!
Jennifer, thanks for sharing me your story. I love your cakes and you are a true professional. I am going to keep it small at this point. For one just to see if I am even any good at it lol. The scariest part for me is not being able to afford health insurance if I do this. So for now it will be making cakes on the weekends for friends and family.
Jennifer, I just looked up where you are located and the population was under 2,0000. How do you find people lol. Do you live near a bigger city or do you travel a lot to deliver your cakes? Also, love your football studio cakes. How on earth do you do the crowd. It looks so cool.
Jenniffer White ...
Mollie, I am lucky that my husband still works a “regular” job and so I am on his insurance plan. As far as finding customers, I live about 20 minutes south of Chattanooga, TN. It’s where most of my business comes from. For my stadium cakes, usually my DH will take the small end of #5 tip and use it as a cutter to make the people. It’s mindless enough that he can do it while watching TV and the cone shape of the tip will let him cut a lot before he dumps them out on a cookie sheet to dry. I actually like the look of the stadiums without the people.
And thanks for the kind words. When I was starting out it was hard to find good information, and I vowed that I would try my best to give back if/when I could.
Thanks so much for giving back. Your studio cake looks so complicated (saw the video on it you did) But it is very unique and impressive. My husband is self-employed so not sure if I will be able to do this. I am a teacher, but can not find a job either ): So I need to do something, but most place do not offer insurance so I guess being self-employed would not be any different than working a minimum wage job with no benefits. At least I would feel good about what I do and not HATE my job. Sorry, did not mean for this to sound like a therapy session lol. Again, thanks for sharing Jennifer, you are awesome!!
I’ll tell you my story/journey, and hopefully some of it might be of some use to you:
I work full-time and run my cake business part-time. At least it’s supposed to be part-time – I find most weeks I have 2 full-time jobs. I used my holiday time over 3 years to go to college to study cake decorating and sugar flowers 1 day a week. It was really hard not taking holiday over that time, and I also was spending any spare cash on building up my supply of equipment. I still take short courses, as I’m determined to keep up my skill level, as well as the fact that not only do I find courses re-energising, but you get to meet other cake decorators. Whilst I was studying, I was making cakes for free for friends and family. I wanted to build up my confidence as well as have some photographs to put on my website. However, although my website brings in a little business, I’ve actually found my Facebook page to be useful too. The most useful though has been word of mouth. I started making wedding cakes this year – the first one was incredibly nerve-wracking. I will be going to wedding fairs after the summer, to try to drum up more wedding cake orders. I’m a member of a Facebook page for local cake decorators – we share out orders (e.g. holiday time, when others can’t fit them in, etc), as well as share knowledge and advice with each other. As I work in the UK, I don’t need to worry about health insurance.
I think the hardest thing has been having faith that over time, that word-of-mouth would actually start working. I used to fret about not having enough cake orders. However, what I should have been doing more of, was practising techniques on dummy cakes. My best advice to you would be to look out for affordable courses (Craftsy and Cake Masters are online, and have superb courses), and if you can, try to build up a portfolio of work (either through freebie cakes for family and friends, or on cake dummies). That way you have photos to show your future customers :)
Thanks clearlycakes. You have great advice. I am going to be making lots of cakes for family and friends. How do you make cake dummies?
Fun Fiesta Cakes ...
Hi, Mollie, I am basically a newbie also – I’ve only been doing this on a regular basis a little over a year and I LOVE it… I started by taking the basic Wilton courses, which led to meeting other teachers and cake designers who also offered classes in cake decorating and flower making and I’ve never looked back.
Starting a cake decorating business is not an easy task, but it is very fulfilling once you get going. The first thing I recommend is deciding on the image you want to portray – fun & funky designs, classic cakes, traditional, weddings, children cakes? Once you have an image in your head, then work on a name for your business – this is tough because all the good and clever names are taken (LOL) – then go ahead and print business cards. Next, do your homework regarding pricing – call around your area and find out what your competition is charging – this is so you can have an approximate idea – you will need to adjust your prices according to your specific needs. It is important that when you price your work, you take into account the cost of your materials, the per hour rate you want to pay yourself, the decorations you provide to your clients, the packaging, delivery, etc. Again, this is tedious work, but necessary if you want to be successful – don’t be afraid to charge a fair price for your work – once you are known as the lady who charges “cheap” prices, it will be hard to change that perception. Start at a fair price and go up from there as you get better.
The best advertising is word of mouth – give your family and friends your business cards – let them be your agents! If you know of any fundraisers, offer to donate a cake; many churches require couples to attend marriage preparation classes – talk to the priest or pastor and offer to raffle a bridal shower or wedding cake among those couples; drop off business cards at florist shops in your area – they often work with brides. Offer to bring a mini-cake so they can taste your work while you build a rapport with them. If you have children in school, donate some goodies; let your neighbors know you are considering starting a cake decorating business and invite them to a “neighborhood” cake tasting – the point is getting your name out there.
Last, but not least, practice, practice, practice – watch as many videos as possible, bake your recipes over and over; decorate dummie cakes; make sugar flowers and figures and store them for later use. The best advice I can give you, as you start in this journey, is to NEVER practice on your clients – that is not the time to try out a new method, or a new recipe or a new buttercream decoration. Your clients deserve your best work because they are hiring you to make their day special.
I’m still learning and I know that if I want to achieve success, the learning process never ends.
Best of luck and I’ll be happy to help you in any way I can.
DJ, thanks so much for taking the time to write me all of this. It is very helpful and inspiring. Do you do this full-time? Are you doing this out of your home? I will need to get licensed to do cakes out of my home and I will have to have a working kitchen with the appropriate stove, sink, and much more. This would cost A LOT! I am not able to fork out that kind of money for something I do not even know will take off ): However, I am doing cakes for family and friends. What are dummie cakes? Is the base rice krispies?
BTW, I LOVE your cakes!!
Elli Warren ...
Hi Mollie! dummie cakes are fake cakes made of polystyrene, you can buy them all different shapes and sizes, people decorate them for display purposes or use them for practising decorating, e.g. you can practice piping and simply wipe it off and start again, or practice covering it with fondant etc, hope this helps! :-)
Thanks Elli, I appreciate the response (: