Food Tips

How to start a cake business

How to start a cake business

© planet design Image by: © planet design Author: Canadian Living

Food Tips

How to start a cake business

If you spend your off-hours dreaming up cupcake creations, experimenting with icing, or coming up with whimsical ways to help your kids blow out their birthday candles, you might want to start a cake business. Like any business, to successfully make cakes for a living you'll need lots of creativity, a good way with people, and an entrepreneurial spirit -- not to mention above-average baking skills! You'll also need to be prepared to put in lots of time and hard work.

But if cake is your calling, it won't feel like work. At least that's what Sophie Bifield of Ottawa, ON found when she started the Sophie Bifield Cake Company in 2010. At 28, Bifield says she didn't grow up dreaming of cake. Instead, she says a lucky combination of chance and circumstances lead her to a career she's passionate about. But like making sure you have all the ingredients before you start baking, there are a few important factors to consider before you start a cake business. 

Tips to help you start a cake business:

1. You've got to love baking (and be good at it!)
Working wonders with icing is one thing, but your cakes have to be delicious, too. If you have any doubts about your abilities, there are lots of confectionary courses that can help you hone your skills.

Bifield first got interested in making cakes after failing to find a suitable cake for her own wedding. That's when she decided to try making her own and signed up for a six-week course at the Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts in Toronto where she eventually earned a Confectionary Arts Diploma. She now spends many hours of each week in the kitchen and loves it!

2. Be realistic about how much a cake business is going to cost
From buying specialized equipment to finding a suitable workspace (Bifield books time in a commercial kitchen), starting up a cake business isn't cheap. You'll also have to carefully consider how many cakes you'll have to sell each week in order to make a profit.

Bifield says it's important to take the cost of ingredients into account when you're trying to determine how much to charge your clients for cakes. Make sure you are factoring in a decent hourly wage for yourself, otherwise you'll be run ragged in no time -- with little to show for it.

And if you want to build a clientele online, you'll need a decent website to promote your business, so keep that cost in mind, too.
3. Know your market
Bifield says it's important to know who you're targeting with your cake business before you get started. Knowing she wanted to specialize in wedding cakes, Bifield then determined that she wanted to focus on the higher end of the market. But she says making cakes that sell for thousands of dollars comes with its own unique set of challenges. "It means working with high-end brides, and not everyone is suited to that," she explains.

There's nothing wrong with building your business on making birthday cakes for busy families. Just be clear that it's what you want from the get-go, and price your products accordingly. "When I was starting out, I used the local market prices as my guide," says Bifield, "and then tailored the pricing based on my own abilities and experience."

4. Don't undersell yourself
No matter what you do, don't sell yourself short. After all, the time and skill involved in making cakes are valuable. "If you end up charging $100 for a cake, then all you will end up doing are $100 cakes. Instead, set the bar at where you want to be," Bifield recommends.

Breaking the cost of a cake down into a per-serving price can be a useful guide for determining prices. "Think about what you would pay for a piece of cake in a restaurant."

5. Get your name out there
Once she'd decided to make cakes for a living, Bifield put all her energy into networking. Because she knew she was targeting the wedding market, she set up meetings with people in the industry -- from wedding planners and photographers, to other cake designers.

She also took out a booth at a wedding show where she met prospective brides. In the beginning she says she also donated cakes to charity events in a bid to get people sampling her tasty creations.

Bifield also recommends taking advantage of social media tools to promote your cake business. In fact, she credits Facebook with really helping her take her cake making from hobby to full-fledged business when people started booking orders after finding examples of her work on a page she'd set up to share pictures of her cakes with friends.

Bifield says the best part of her job is the fact that every day brings a new challenge and allows her to do something different. "It's the opposite of working at a computer all day," she says. In fact, she says she knows she's found her calling because of the fact that she doesn't notice anything else when she's in the kitchen. "I have put my heart and my soul into this," she says. "But I couldn't be happier now!"


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Food Tips

How to start a cake business