Top Cake Business Mistakes
CakeBoss has been helping cake bakers get their businesses organized since 2007, and in that time we've begun to notice some often-repeated mistakes that could be avoided with some planning and forethought. Here are a few.
1. Not having a pricing structure set before taking orders.
After you take an order is not the time to wonder how much you should charge. Many people fall into the cake decorating business almost by accident, having never given a thought to pricing. Your first order of business should be figuring out your expenses and your pricing structure. It is acceptable to get the details of an order from the customer and then say “Let me work up a quote and get back to you in an hour.” This is a much, much better alternative than just tossing out a number off the top of your head, and then regretting it later. Never – EVER – book an order without discussing the cost with the customer. This only leads to misunderstandings and heartache. Avoiding the question of price and payment and then expecting to work it out at delivery is both unprofessional and unfair to everyone involved. For more information on cake pricing, see our article on how to price your cakes.
2. Not having set policies before taking orders.
When will you collect payment - at the time the order is placed, or on delivery? Will you require a deposit? (Hint: YES) Is the deposit refundable? Will you take personal checks? Will you deliver, and if so, how much will you charge for delivery? Will you charge for tastings? Will you limit the number of people who can attend a tasting? (Hint: YES) How far in advance must wedding cakes be paid in full? Will you leave the cake at a party without having received payment? (Hint: NO! Take that cake and walk right back out the door!) Will you have a minimum order amount? (Hint: YES) Think about all these things and more before the orders start rolling in! Here is a sample of our cake contract to get you started.
3. Not having a planned menu before taking orders.
A paid order is not the time to be trying new recipes. Decide what flavors (cake, frosting, filling) you will offer. Make sure your recipes are tried, true, and delicious! Decide now what you will say when a customer asks for a cake that’s not on your menu, or asks you to make her Great-Great-Great-Grandma’s recipe for banana cake. (Hint: NO)
4. Letting the customer be the (cake) boss.
Customers don’t get to decide how you run your business. What will you do if a bridezilla comes to you with a picture of a beautiful fondant cake, but demands that you make it with cream cheese frosting because fondant is “gross”? That is a Cake Wreck waiting to happen. We once read a story of a bride who demanded that no support be put in her cake because she didn’t want “wooden sticks” in her cake. The cake collapsed because the cake maker agreed to this request! YOU are the boss of your business. YOU are the expert. If a customer asks you for something that’s unrealistic, tell them so. Don’t risk a headache or disaster just to make the sale. Some sales aren’t worth it.
Mickey Mouse. Sponge Bob. Elmo. All are extremely popular cake requests by parents, and fun cakes to make! The problem is, they are all copyrighted characters, which means that you may not reproduce them for profit without first obtaining permission from the copyright holder (which in some cases is virtually impossible or cost prohibitive). See our article on copyrighted cakes written by attorney Michael Atkins.
5. Reproducing copyrighted characters on paid cakes without obtaining permission from the copyright holder.
Research the law in your state to make sure you are compliant with all necessary regulations.
6. Not checking into local health regulations before taking orders.
7. Airing personal or dirty laundry on social media.
This is a new issue, arising the last several years as cottage food laws and social media have both exploded in popularity. If you have a business Facebook page, or Twitter account, we strongly advise that you keep the posts on these media strictly business related. Posts under your business name on social media should have one goal: to further your business. Posts about your personal life, a feud with another colleague, or anything that could be considered a "rant" will have the opposite effect on your business; they will make your customers less inclined to take you seriously.