Having worked for a Manchester based Supported Housing company for the past 11 years, alongside running Candy’s Cupcakes and looking after two young children, I’ve realised that I am not Super Woman (despite trying to pretend) and something had to give!
Being Creative With Cake
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of my ‘roles’, I ultimately found that my passion was leaning more towards using my creative side. Being involved in the happier days of people’s lives such as their wedding, christening or birthday celebrations is much more rewarding. I adore the look on happy customers’ faces when they collect a cake and send photographs. It’s also a pleasure to receive beautiful words of thanks on a weekly basis.
Cake decorating started out as a hobby when I had my first born. As time passed, friends and family would ask me to make cupcakes and cakes for them. I decided to create a Facebook page to post all my pictures and keep them together. Unintentionally, this soon expanded at a rapid pace and I was attracting people who weren’t friends or family. I found this overwhelming and a huge complement. After all, word-of-mouth is still the best way of generating new business.
From this moment, I decided to register my hobby-come-business with the Inland Revenue and had my kitchen inspected by the council (5 star rating). I also bought public liability insurance and began to invest in tools and equipment. I started watching a number of YouTube videos, online tutorials and read a number of library books about cake decorating and recipes.
Without sounding too cheesy my husband has always been my ‘rock’. He had belief in me that I could succeed long before I ever did. He decided to invest in my business and gave me £300 to purchase the tools and equipment I needed to get started (if only he knew how much I have actually spent on tools and equipment to this day haha). With the £300 I bought a mixer, as I soon found that my mums handheld electric whisk wasn’t very practical! I also bought a few cutters, a craft knife, business cards, cupcake boxes and cupcake cases in bulk.
Fast forward a couple of years and I now have a super duper website ranking high in Google, again thanks to my better half who also happens to be a web designer and social media consultant. I have a successful Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Cake Décor and Google Plus account which creates sales and increases brand awareness. Thanks to social media and an online presence, I have built a hobby into a successful business bringing in regular orders.
I continue to teach myself new techniques and follow a number of successful, inspirational cake decorators online, there are so many fantastic artists out there. It’s good to make friends within the cakey world and learn from others and not be afraid to ask for advice/tips.
Over the past few years I have developed my skills and experience, and have moved on from making cupcakes to making five tier wedding cakes and becoming an award winning cake decorator. Look out for me in future competitions.
From 30th October 2014 I will be a full time cake decorator, aiming to expand my business further. Look out for video and picture tutorials, blogs and classes. I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my career and hope to be even more successful.
My Tips to Being a Cake Decorator
- Cake decorating is time consuming and involves a lot of unsociable hours. Only consider pursuing a full time career if you are willing to put in the hours and still smile at 2am when you are happy with your creation.
- Be prepared to invest most of your profits back into your business for the first few years. However try not to be suckered into buying every fancy utensil, cutter, stencils etc. Try and think “can I recreate this by hand?”. If so, you will save a fortune and demonstrate your skill set.
- Pricing cakes is probably one of the most difficult aspects of the job as people tend to have a strict budget when it comes to buying celebration cakes. However, the skills, equipment and techniques required to produce a bespoke cake design soon mount up and needs to be reflected in the overall cost. There are a number of useful online tools or apps you can download to help cost a cake correctly.
- Never underestimate the amount of time a cake decorator has to spend on taking good pictures of their work, editing, uploading and sharing recent work. Other time considerations are writing blogs, tutorials, delivering cakes, wedding consultations, wedding fairs and waiting in for cake collections.
- Register with your local council, inland revenue, purchase public liability insurance and start keeping accurate records/book keeping.
- Find a good, reliable wholesaler (Tom Anderson). Look out for local offers at supermarkets and buy in bulk to increase profits.
- Approach local companies who have window space and who would compliment your business. For example florists, balloon companies or wedding dress shops. Offer to provide them with a dummy cake to advertise the work you do.
- Don’t feel obliged to offer your services for free or make too many donations. You will receive a number of charitable donation requests. However, as a small business you need to ensure you can afford the time and cost of donating products. A lot of companies will also expect a cheap or free cake in return for publicity. Ensure you weigh this up, as from personal experience you can get stung and be out of pocket for no return.
- Purchase business cards, book onto local fairs, events and get ‘seen’. A good investment would be a website that can be found in local Google searches.
- Always make sure you are 100% happy with your finished product, don’t let anything leave your kitchen if it isn’t perfect. The added time of re-making an order is worthwhile compared to an unhappy customer. Always think of potential repeat custom and reputation. A good business should thrive off ‘word of mouth’ and be backed up by a website and social media channels.
- Discover your strengths by attending courses or self teaching via online tools and books.
- Work to your strengths and avoid taking on orders that are out of your comfort zone.
- Practice, practice, practice.
If you’ve got any tips or advice about for anyone considering taking the leap, then please comment below.