Sunday, May 3, 2015

"I wanna start a cake business...."

When I was at the CKNL trade show last month, someone came up to me and said they knew someone who wanted started to their own cake/cupcake business and what kind of advice I could give them.  I have been in business for 8 years now as of this month (we opened our doors May 2007) and I am CONSTANTLY learning the business. I can give some pointers though...

Do your research first. Go to your local city hall and health officials and find out what you need to do to start your own business. From start to finish, it took me about a year to open up for business, I had to get the necessary licensing, permits, and insurance. PLUS, I had to submit a menu to the health unit to get the okay. I also had to submit building plans to the city and the health unit before I started construction on my second kitchen. Once construction was completed, I then went through a final inspection. Another thing,... I have to get water inspections too. Even though we are on city water, I have my water trucked in, so I have to get my water inspected.
Now is also the time to set your policies.. in regards to delivery, pickup, forms of payment, deposits, hours of operation, discounts (if any or to who), etc.

In addition to research... take the time to get your recipes down pat. Once you are in business, it is NOT THE TIME to start looking for a vanilla cake recipes. Sorry, you should have done that BEFORE you got into business. How many times I hear people in the cake business requesting a recipe for a vanilla cake or a lemon cake. Now, it's still OKAY to try new recipes on the side and if you find one that happens to be better than the one you have, than OK ditch the old one and go with a new one.

Most importantly is your pricing... take the time to establish your pricing structure. Cost out  your INGREDIENTS, OVERHEAD (power/fuel/licenses/materials/water/marketing/permits/ office supplies etc), TIME (this includes not just baking, but shopping, cleaning up, delivery, design time and discussion time with the client) and PROFIT.
Part of your research includes checking out what your competitors prices are. This is very important... DO NOT UNDERCUT YOUR COMPETITION. Not only does it hurt you, it hurts your competition and hurts the industry. It will put your competition out of business too.  There`s not enough  work to go around. Any market can only bear so much competition before it is over saturated. When the competition is over saturating the market and charging ridiculously low prices just to get business, it devalues the market. So, for example if your competitors are selling cupcakes for $3.00-$4.00/ea, then you should price yourself somewhere  in that area too. If cakes are priced between $4.50 - $6.00/serving, then again price within that area. Bottom line... price accordingly!

Get your self a website. No... a FACEBOOK page is not a WEBSITE. A professionally built website gives yourself a professional appearance and level of credibility. Besides.. these days I  find most people head to the internet in their search for a baker.
For myself, I have a website, a FACEBOOK page, BLOG, newsletter, twitter, and Instagram. I use each one differently for different purposes.  The more you market yourself... the better.
Another thing about marketing... is deciding on what kind of image you want for your business and what kind of customer you want.  For me, I promote to those clients who want a high-end quality cake using the finest ingredients, up-to-date with the latest decorating techniques and attention to detail with supreme taste. I do not do grocery style sheet cakes or the Wilton style star tipped cakes.With that in mind, I do not advertise on local buy and sell Facebook pages. Those sites are for those clients looking for a deal and that`s not my market plus it cheapens my image. You don`t see Mercedes or Porsche  advertising on buy and sell Facebook Pages...need I say more.

5) Get the whole picture... 
Before you get in business, think about your life and how much you value your free time. Plan for long late nights with little sleep with few weekends off, especially from May until September. If you have kids or family, you won`t see them very much.   Trust me... I know. I see my kids more during the school year when I am ferrying them around to all their after school activities  then in the summer months during their vacation. The key is to be super organized. I break each cake project into a series of steps doing a little bit each day. Plus, I try to work during the day while they are in school leaving me the evenings free to be with my family. A lot of it is trial and error, working out a plan that works best for you.  Also, learn to plan your life and holiday time a year in advance. I already have brides looking to book for 2016 and we have just started the 2015 wedding season. After 8 years in business, I am starting to finally be a little bit selfish and take some time off for my family. I booked off at least one weekend a month so I could relax and do something with them.

So there.. just a little something to ponder. Now, you might say.. I only want to sell a cake here or there a make a few bucks, not to get into business. SORRY.. once you accept any form of payment for cake or cupcakes, YOU ARE IN BUSINESS.  Pretty simple...

So there you have it.. just a few tips.  Over the past 8 years, I have learned soo much (and a lot the hard way)  and I am still learning more and more every day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It`s TRADE SHOW time again...

Well, it `s that time of year again. This past month we attended the 43rd annual CKNL trade show here in Fort St John. It`is one of THE BIGGEST trade shows in the Peace area boosting up to 16000 people in a weekend.  This year we were SUPER excited to be attending the  show since we decided a CHANGE was needed in our booth design. In the past, we have decorated our booth to go with a more elegant design.. black curt tans, table skirts and lavender tablecloths... you know a more elegant, poshy look.

Since the CKNL trade show is a more a relaxed, family oriented event, we decided to go with a more  homey look.  In came the burlap and lace..We wanted to go with a original storefront look, however I couldn't`t figure out how to create, build and transport a wooden counter  so I went with burlap. To make it more vintage, I added lace. LOTS and LOTS of lace.  My late grandmother had  crocheted me many lace table cloths and doilies, so I have a HUGE collection which came in handy. I also purchased wooden crates, picture frames and little knick-knacks  to complete the overall look.

I am SOOOO happy with the overall look. It was amazing,. Plus, the feedback I had from those attending the show was phenomenal. Every person who stopped by our booth said they loved the look commenting it was one of the nicest looking booths at the trade show.

We were super busy that weekend selling cupcakes, cookies and talking to all those who stopped by our booth to look at our `cake designs and answer questions.  At the end, we sold over 460 cupcakes, over 120 mini cupcakes, and over 120 cookies. I can`t wait until next year... got my thinking cap on already!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The "IN BETWEEN" Stage...

I call the time  between Christmas and Wedding Season, the "IN BETWEEN" stage. This is typically the time (for most cake designers) when it is a bit slower in terms of cake and cupcake sales, but this is also a VERY BUSY time for me.  During this time,

1)  I hold all my wedding cake consultations, starting from October -November, and then once again from January to March. I really, really enjoy this part of my business. I enjoy meeting with couples and seeing their  ideas and drafting up designs for their wedding cake. Every cake I create, I try to bring a personal element of the client into the design.  Plus, the bridal couples enjoy eating cake.. that's the FUN part.

2) Inventory... this is when I go through my kitchen and all my wedding cake orders and see what I need to order for the upcoming busy wedding season. Sometimes, if I need a special cutter or mold, I need to order it at least 6-8 weeks in advance to make sure I get it on time. Sometimes a special piece of equipment comes as far as the UK.

3) This period is also the time when I typically attend bridal or trade shows. Right now, I am busy prepping for the upcoming CKNL trade show in April. It usually draws in around 16-20,000 people in a weekend. I sell on average around 600-800  cupcakes in one weekend. Last year, I had a smaller booth and I was tripping over stuff all the time. So this year, I rented a much larger booth, plus totally revamped my booth design. Sorry, no hints, I will post pics of my booth after the show.

4) VACATION... need I say more. With my husband working in the oil patch, the spring break up tends to be around April, which happens to land before wedding season. As a result, our family tends to take a family vacation at that time. Gives me time to recoup after standing on my feet for 3 long days at the trade show and relax just before the wedding season. Sleep and days off are not an option from May until September. Last year, we went to Punta Cana...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Our Business Philosophy...

At Just Like Gram's, we are really "picky" about our cakes. We use only the finest ingredients in everything we make. It is our philosophy that...

  • Our cakes are made from scratch using fresh, high quality ingredients. I use 100% butter, flour, sugar, fresh eggs, Dutch cocoa, buttermilk, no artificial flavorings ( I use Madagascar Bourbon vanilla bean paste for my cakes).
  • We do not use box mixes and our desserts contain no artificial ingredients or artificial flavorings.
  • All our cakes are baked fresh just for your event. We do not pre-bake, ice and freeze our cakes in advance.
  • We offer 2 types of buttercream: Italian Meringue Buttercream and Traditional Buttercream.. both made from sweet creamy butter and premium Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. 
  • Our fruit fillings are made from real pureed fruit. All my fillings are made fresh from scratch. We do not use sleeve fillings. These are pre-cooked fillings found in a sleeve that you just squeeze out. All our fruit is locally grown, and we handpick our raspberries from our own garden. 
  • We cover all our cakes with a thick layer of creamy butercream before the fondant is applied. This serves several purposes. First, it tastes delicious. Second, it protects the cake and keeps it moist and fresh. Third, it makes for a perfectly smooth presentation so that your cake will look as beautiful as it is delicious.
  • We DO NOT BELIEVE in the heavy use of  food coloring in both our cakes and buttercreams. Therefore, we do not believe in making tie-dye cakes or vibrant colored buttercreams. We feel heavy use of colors in our products is artificial and unhealthy causing staining of skin and teeth. Therefore, we cover our cakes in colored fondant (which does not cause staining) which can be easily peeled off if desired.
  • We believe in supporting our community and we purchase our ingredients locally whenever possible. 

Why do we do this? Well... we think real ingredients just plain taste better? Plus, it's better for you and better for the environment.

Friday, February 6, 2015

2015... A NEW YEAR!

It's 2015... and thought I would start a fresh new year with making it a weekly goal of BLOGGING. I can dream and set goals, RIGHT?  It's was an EXTREMELY tough year last year filled with family illness and deaths, thus the lack of BLOGGING. So, let's start off the new year with a fresh face.

This year, we started off January with several cakes and the first wedding cake of the year. 

Tartan and Sugarpaste Thistle Birthday Cake

FROZEN theme cake created as a birthday gift for my niece.

Pretty Pink Rosette Cake with purple sugarpaste butterflies.

First wedding cake of 2015. Small wedding cake with matching cupcakes adorned with black sugarpaste blossoms.