• Bec

Why I'm not the cheap cake lady


One of two things happens to the cheap cake lady. One, she goes out of business. Or two, she puts her prices up.

She goes out of business because making cakes for maybe £2 per hour, and sometimes even being left out of pocket, starts to wear very thin. She's exhausted and never spends time with her kids, staying up late to finish all those orders she's got. Maybe her oven breaks, or she has to pay her insurance (that is if she has any) and she realises that there's just not enough cash coming in to cover even these basic business expenses - and that since she's slaving away for 40+ hours a week this doesn't make any sense... and just isn't worth it!

I used to be the cheap cake lady. And I didn't go out of business (not yet, anyway). Instead, I put my prices up.

I'm here to tell you that I put my prices up because I care about YOU, the customer. Here's why. One, I want to be the cake business you can rely on. The one you can book in for your wedding in January with confidence that three-tier cake will be delivered in July. And this means making enough of a profit that I can account for that broken mixer (yep, been there, done that), or that bill that came in, without stressing or going bust. Being around for a long time also means keeping well; keeping well means having a great work-life balance; and that means earning enough in my working hours that I can afford to have a life outside it. A happy and healthy cake maker will have far greater stamina to stay in business for longer. - not to mention less of a chance of sneezing all over your cake batter ;).

Two, I want to keep my customers more than satisfied. And that means having energy to make fantastic cakes that are baked and decorated to the highest possible standard, with all the joy and love that should go into a cake to make it sing (well, not literally; I don't want to disappoint you...). Being fairly paid with the ability to take a break on occasion is important to my mental and physical health, and therefore my capacity to give you the cake you deserve.

Three, I need enthusiasm and drive (and cold hard cash) to keep pushing forward and bringing you new surprises. These can come in the form of new products, or new skills (or both!). I could never have developed my popular emoji macarons without having the time and funds to spend on making them. I wouldn't be able to offer handcrafted figures if I hadn't been on a course to learn how to make them. I wouldn't be teaching classes without money in my bank account to invest in all the equipment before a student had even stepped through my door.

Four, I don't want to skimp on quality. My cakes are high end products. They are tailored to every individual client so your creation is uniquely yours, and where possible, totally edible and handcrafted. My cakes are a form of edible art and represent hours of skilled work (and hours of practice to get to that point!) I also use quality ingredients to ensure the cake, buttercream, ganache and fondant gives your tastebuds just as much of the wow sensation as the appearance of the cake did for your eyes.

Now the cake world comprises a huge spectrum: from your packet mixes, to your supermarket bulk produced cakes, through to cakes that cost thousands of pounds. There's room for everyone in this market! I'm just explaining where my place in it lies and why I chose to be here... for you, the client - the ones who keep me in my apron and oven gloves, for which I am truly appreciative.

I want my customers to know that they can trust in the value of my craft because I can see the value of it myself. We don't simply buy a wedding dress or birthday present based on the cheapest possible price; and bespoke cakes, which are a luxury item, are no different. Alternatively, we don't bat an eyelid when our car mechanic or plumber charges us £50 per hour for labour costs, yet we expect to be able to buy a bespoke cake for £20 when several hours of labour go into each one. Importantly, labour costs (wages) are not the same as profits, even for someone who is self-employed. A big company couldn't take money away from their employees' salaries to fund new equipment, repairs or training. Neither can or should cake makers. Now because I think it might be an eye-opener and just to be even more transparent about why my cakes aren't cheap as chips, here's a breakdown of the true costs of an 8" sponge cake, filled, ganached and covered with fondant:

- Ingredients: £7.66

- Materials: £3.02

- Direct labour: £30

- Overheads (marketing, insurance, gas, electricity, legal costs etc) - £2.00

- Labour overheads (my labour in admin tasks, cleaning, marketing etc.) - £6.00

The cost of that 8" cake is £48.68 before I've even turned a profit on it or done any fancy piping. Underpaying people for their craft is bad for us all. It means there's a high turnover of people in the industry, who start out and then give up, disillusioned, meaning their skills are wasted, they are disappointed, and so are their customers when they try and order and find they've lost their favourite cake maker.

Low prices go hand in hand with a lack of regulation - many cheap cakes come with no insurance, or no health & hygiene certificate, for example. This is dangerous for both cake maker and client.

Ultimately, low prices devalue the whole industry, and more widely, every industry that is built on craftsmanship. Creativity is precious. It has the capacity to bring joy to humanity; and my absolute passion is to bring joy to you, my amazing clients and your friends and families by giving you a memory that will last for years after the crumbs have disappeared. That's priceless, I hope you agree. :) To order a tailor-made cake that will bring your eyes, tastebuds and heart joy for years to come, just email info@threelittlebirdsbakery.co.uk or contact us here. For birthday, wedding & celebration cakes in West Yorkshire (Keighley, Bingley, Bradford, Saltaire, Skipton, Ilkley, Menston, Guiseley, Silsden & beyond!) visit: www.threelittlebirdsbakery.co.uk

#business #cake #pricing #handmade #profit #insurance #entrepreneurship

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© 2020 by Rebecca Severs. Photos by Andrew King Photography (http://www.andrewkingphotography.co.uk/) and Rebecca Severs.