There are a lot of people out there who are making cakes for fun and wondering whether they should go for it and set up as an official business. I have taught a lot of lovely students who are toying with the idea of making a hobby into a home-based job and wonder when you know it's the right time to make the leap. So here's my 2p or whether you should go for it right now.
First, it's important to know that you might already be running a cake business without realising it. Even if you are only taking money for ingredients, the second that money changes hands for one of your cakes, that's what you're doing - and as such you should be covered by all the regulations necessary, such as public liability insurance. Even if it's your best mate buying the cake off you, if someone unknown to you at her party eats it, gets sick and then sues you, you really won't have a leg to stand on legally without being covered. Food for thought.
Here are some terrible reasons to start a cake business:
1) People tell you you should sell your cakes
2) You're bored of your job
3) You think it's insane people would spend £150+ on one cake and you think you can rake it in from the word go because it's just eggs and flour, right?
4) You've watched a LOT of Bake Off.
I'm sure there are many more!
Now what follows isn't the ONLY reason to start your cake empire, but it is an essential one:
1) You want to run a business.
If you just want to make cakes and be creative, that's not a reason to do this. You have to want to run a business, if you are going to be able to enjoy it, sell cakes and be successful financially. And that means getting up close and personal with accounts, marketing, sales, social media, customer service, SEOs, and all the rest of it. For me, it happened to be cakes. It could have been anything else - I just wanted the ownership and flexibility of being my own boss along with the interest, variation and challenges of having to tackle all those different skills and lessons with my brain and hands.
So to keep your motivation going through all that hard work, you need a really, really good WHY. Some call it the 3am why. I call it the 5pm why. When the cats are miaowing incessantly for food, the kids are tetchy and fighting because they're hungry for the tea I'm desperately trying to finish making while separating them before they kill each other, the client is texting me and the cake isn't nearly as ready as I wanted it to be before I picked them up from school... THAT'S when I need a really good why. I need a reason that I'm doing this that swallows all the hard stuff up into it and tells me it's worth it and that I know exactly why I chose this.
When I started Three Little Birds, my whys were as follows:
1) I wanted to run a business and I had done since university.
2) I really wanted to go back into paid work (for several reasons) but I didn't want to use paid childcare.
Those whys are still there, 100%, but there are others now. One big one is that I want to make a difference in the community and my plan is to employ more people who need flexible working hours, for example mothers who need to be able to do the school runs.
The why can change, but your resolve cannot. You need a rock solid reason to keep going when you aren't getting any orders, or the ganache just split again, or you get your first complaint. And frankly the old "ooh these are amazing, you should totally sell them" is NOT gonna cut it.
The "why" isn't just your reason. It gives you some good direction for business decisions. For example, sometimes I get a bit down about how slowly I've grown my business compared to other well known cake makers. But then I have to remind myself that one of the goals for me is that the business is kept in check enough that I do not work between the hours of 3pm and 7.30pm so that I can be fully present with my children - or at least present in the kitchen cooking while they watch telly ;). That in itself is a criterion of success for me. So comparing my success to someone else who's dedicating 70-90 hours a week to it is futile and unhelpful.
Your why gives you the guidelines of what success looks like for YOU.
So that's the first answer to the question "should I start a cake business?" Find your "why" first, and if it's not a good enough one right now, put it on the back burner and carry on playing with buttercream to your heart's content. Because our society has spent way too much time telling us all that if someone is good at something, they should monetize it. Something can be beautiful and valuable in itself without having to be financially valuable. So really, if you don't want to run a business, if you just love making cake, just carry on doing you and don't pay any attention when people tell you you should sell it - because they're not the ones whose hands will be red raw from washing up 10 times and day and they're not the ones who'll have to fill out the tax returns.
If you think the time is right and you're ready for this, I'd love to hear from you. Do you have any burning questions about where to start and where to go? Drop them in the comments and I'll try and answer them in a future blog.
Thanks for reading, and to order a wedding cake, celebration cake or macaron tower in Keighley, West Yorkshire and beyond, just click here: www.threelittlebirdsbakery.co.uk