Opening a cake business
Cake decorating is so much fun! From what I can gather nearly all cake decorators start out as a hobby baker. Some people start cake decorating because they start making speciality birthday cakes for their own children or for family friends. Then at the birthday party all the other mums see their wonderful creation and before you know it, word has spread and they have requests for orders. I remember my first hobby order was for my boyfriends niece. Looking back now I can see all the flaws, but I so enjoyed making them and blushed with all the praise I received. I then discovered the whole Facebook community pages and couldn’t believe how big an industry it was! I work full time, I’m a mum and have the standard (but busy) household jobs to run too, but I remember thinking “oh what the heck, lets open a page” and the madness began…
At this point I wasn’t making much of a profit on my cakes. I was doing ‘favours’ for friends and family and friends of friends of friends – you get the idea – but where does it end? Tired and run-ragged, stressed out (I found my first grey hair – boohoo) and only making a tiny little profit along the way I eventually realised that after I’d learned some new techniques, got some experience and a portfolio that I needed to take this a little more seriously! Can you believe one night I spent about 3 hours cutting out letters! I didn’t even have any letter cutters! Amateur! 😉 I was always very confident with my baking skills so that part was the easy part, I’d development my decorating skills with practice and research, but what was the next step? How did I go about making this serious? It eventually clicked that if was going to be this busy and stressed I may as well start making at least a half-decent income from this hobby I’d become so addicted to!
Anyway, whatever the reason you started cake decorating, you’re doing it because you enjoy decorating cakes, you have a talent for it and now you’re thinking of making this hobby into a business, whether that be a side-line (like me) or as a full-time business.
Here are my top-tips for running a successful home-based cake business:
Step 1 – Legal Formalities
Don’t be scared of this part! Its really simple and free to do! The very first step is to contact your local council and speak to the Environmental Health Officer there. You must register you intent to sell any food produce from your kitchen and whilst all councils vary they will need to pay a quick visit to your home to check that is suitable. You will then be given a Food Hygiene Rating’ score. I got a 5 (promise I’m not gloating now) and that’s the highest score possible. Its really easy to achieve top marks, and your EHO will give you lots of pointers and help.
Lately I’ve seen a few pages on Facebook with the description “please note this is my hobby, not my business” – but they are charging for ingredients, providing cakes to the general public, advertising on selling groups – that is a little more than a hobby and its really important that you don’t get confused with this! Did you know you can actually get a £1k fine for not registering? Hmm.. not worth it at all right! Plus, if you are going to do this you may as well do it right and be proud of yourself.
Last legality – you must register your business with the Inland Revenue within 3 months of opening. Even if you make a loss, even if you only charge for ingredients – its a big MUST!
Finally, whilst believe it or not insurance is not a legality, but highly recommended! I currently have business liability insurance with Direct Line, and it covers for me lots of things, including your equipment – which you will find out can get a little pricey. And if you want to do food fairs they wont let you participate if you don’t have this.
Still with me? Good.. as that’s the boring/least fun part out of the way! 🙂
Step 2 – Stocking that Kitchen of yours
Or in my case the Utility Room, the cupboard under the stairs and the garage! 😉
Seriously though, make sure you have all the necessary equipment, a decent set of round & square tins to start, mixing bowls, spatulas.. you name it. You can start off small and build up as you along. At first (and I still do now) found EBay amazing and found some great bargains on there. Find a supplier for your boxes/boards etc. and order in bulk where you can as this will work out cheaper. Some of my favourite suppliers are: Cake Stuff, The Cake Decorating Company, Wedding Acrylics, Pretty Witty Cakes, Purple Cupcakes & Windsor Cake Craft.
Step 3 – Be Organised
Once your orders start coming in work out a diary system and to do list that works for you. Whether it be a big whiteboard, a Filofax, your IPad – organisation is the key 🙂
Step 4 – Know your market
Everyone knows how competitive this industry is, but work out who you are trying to appeal to? Listen to what your customers want, what they prefer, try to offer something a little bit different to other cake makers around you – whether its your distinct flavours, a certain technique you prefer, even a signature swirl! Something people will remember you by. But most of all, be nice, friendly and approachable. If you can achieve a balance of cake decorating being fun for you as well as your customers, you will enjoy it so much more.
Step 5 – Pricing
Work out a fair and competitive price for your cakes. This is a constant and popular discussion in the cake world, but remember these are bespoke cakes/cupcakes you are creating, something you are going to put your heart and soul into, please price correctly, use one of the cake apps available to help work your base costs, give yourself an hourly rate – even if its just minimum wage to begin with. Would you be prepared to work for less than this in any other job? No, so why do it in the one you love?
Step 6 – Support your fellow cake makers
I can very happily say that I have made some great friends through the cakey world and have built some great relationships with some of my fellow competitors. We all help each other, provide support and all know that there is enough custom out there for all of us.
I set up a Facebook group for us all to chat on, discuss ideas and we even organise cake meet-ups where we get to taste each others creations!
I really hope that you find this post useful and feel free to ask any questions about anything I have posted.