November 12-15th 2015 saw the Cake and Bake Show being showcased at Event City, within the grounds of the magnificent Trafford Centre, Manchester.
This was my first huge event. 4 days of selling cupcakes to the public. Want to know how I did and what I’ve learnt from it?
Booking onto the Cake and Bake show
I was originally approached by the Cake and Bake marketing team a month prior to the event to hire a stall to sell my products. I must admit I felt a little overwhelmed yet honoured to be considered for an event of such size and reputation.
Due to a slight lack of communication I assumed that the stalls had been taken and wasn’t approached again until one week prior to the event, yes, ONE WEEK!
Having discovered that there would be only two other cupcake stalls attending the Cake and Bake show, and being the kind of person who enjoys a challenge, I weighed up the logistics and cautiously agreed… eek!
I found the marketing team at the Cake and Bake show to be useful with any queries I had. They were also willing to heavily negotiate on the cost of the stall in order to ensure that I would be able to make a profit.
One week until the Cake and Bake show
Once I had agreed to appear at the show it was time to crank up the workload and churn out 2,000 cupcakes!
I decided on 8 different flavours of cupcakes, including a chocolate sponge with Nutella buttercream, mini pancakes and maple syrup. This was labelled as BAKO cupcake of the week. I was thrilled with this achievement.
— BAKO North Western (@BAKO_NW) November 13, 2015
Choosing the correct cupcake flavours was key as I assumed that it would be tough competition at the event. Here’s a list of flavours that I made…
- Nutella buttercream with mini pancakes and maple syrup
- Lemon meringue
- Peanut butter with Reeses Pieces
- Toblerone with honey buttercream
- Raspberry and white chocolate
- Chocolate Orange
- Cookies and Cream
- Mississippi Mud
Once I had purchased the necessary packaging, bags and ingredients, I then moved onto thinking how I would like my stall to look and represent my brand. After all, the Cake and Bake show would be an ideal opportunity to showcase my business if nothing else.
I decided to create an afternoon tea setting and included a couple of wedding cake dummies for decoration and advertising purposes. However, this was an additional expense that I had not really considered.
The Cake and Bake show normally runs over a 3 day period. However, this year the show was being ran by a new company and tagged onto the Ideal Home Show which was 3 times the size of the Cake and Bake Show! This helped with ticket sales as the tickets allowed people to attend both shows, fantastic idea.
Once we had set up, we had the opportunity to mooch around the show, check out the competition and admire some wonderful pieces of work.
As the Cake and Bake show opened for business, I soon realised that the positioning of my stall, at the front on the main walkway from the entrance was very advantageous. The doors opened and people would wander past and come back later.
The first couple of days were much quieter than the last. I soon realised that I had to change my tactics to begin selling off the vast quantities of cupcakes I had prepared.
By lunchtime on day 1, I reduced my prices and began chatting to customers much more.
By day 3, I took the sound, honest advice of two other cake decorators who were attending the show. They said that the stall looked “to pretty and decorative”. I agreed and understood what they meant after a customer browsing asked me how much the teacups were?
We then moved the afternoon tea set to the back of table and moved the cupcakes to the front and centre. We changed the pricing structure and started to give out free samples, which were snapped up. It’s funny to see people’s behaviour when there is free cake on offer.
Although cake slices of lemon, carrot and red velvet were proving popular, I decided to scrap this on day 3 and 4 because I was having to decorate these each night, fresh, it made financial sense to focus on the prepared cupcakes.
Day 3 and 4 were over the weekend and the amount of people through the door was overwhelming and we managed to completely sell out!
This meant that I had broke-even and made a very small profit. I was happy with this though as I had given out my business cards to approximately 800 people, had brand exposure, and despite it being a hectic week I thoroughly enjoyed myself on the last couple of days.
Event City, Manchester, is an ideal venue for large scale events. However, the arrangements for loading and unloading items was a little faffy but understandable.
The organisers were present daily and rubbish was disposed of (very helpful considering the amount of cake boxes I had). The stall itself was stunning, a traditional market ‘feel’ with lights and a printed sign with my business name on which now has pride of place above my kitchen door.
Event City is situated at the Trafford Centre. Anyone familiar with the mentality of Christmas shoppers and the Trafford Centre will soon appreciate that transport links to the venue were a little chaotic and off putting for many.
Only people with a car were really able to attend the show. Getting home took three times as long as usual. Which is something else to consider.
- Decide the purpose of attending the event. If it is to make a large profit then I wouldn’t bother as a lot of stalls made heavy losses.
- Try and get free staff via friends and family as this will save you a small fortune.
- Consider the location of an event. Many stall holders had travelled some distance and had to factor in expenses and overnight stays.
- Get your product right and have a USP because competition is fierce.
- Make friends with fellow stallholders. It lifts moral and it’s good to network.
- Make the most of social media. Live tweet, add Facebook status’ and encourage ‘fans’ to attend the show. It’s always lovely to see customers.
- Be organised, make sure you have disposable gloves, hand gel, a bowl with hot water, cloths, food hygiene certificates, council registration forms and aprons as well as a healthy cash float and tin. The food safety people are ready and raring to offer advice when you get to the venue.
- Label all your boxes/flavours to reduce time when replenishing stock.
- Be chatty with customers but not pushy, ask them how they are finding the show to be? How long have they been there? Have they bought anything nice?
- Make sure you have a plan of how you would like your stall to look, you can practice this beforehand on a dining room table.
- Give yourself plenty of time. There were some stalls still setting up when customers were arriving and this looked unprofessional and unorganised.
- Be prepared to answer questions about your products, ingredients and how much a wedding cake costs (the dummy cakes generated some discussions).
- Overall try and have fun and do not be disheartened by slow sales during mid-week days. Expect weekends to be busy, keep your cool and sell, sell, sell!
Let me know if you’ve attended a Cake and Bake show, or are thinking of signing up to do one?