Starting and running a business of your own is exciting and rewarding, especially if it involves a creative endeavor you enjoy such as a cake business. If you haven't acquired professional skills in cake baking and decorating, this would be your first step. Secondly you must be prepared for the cost of a business startup, as well as accounting and legal details. Starting a cake business can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be.
Cake Baking and Decorating Skills
If you already have a few cake recipes that wow guests every time you serve them, you've got a good start. Certainly you will want to acquire basic white, yellow and chocolate recipes that come out moist and light. However, you must have some specialty cake recipes that will be part of your business branding. A way to set your cakes apart from the rest even when you are using a plain cake recipe is to create fabulous fillings. When you have perfected your recipes, make sure you've written them down, or stored them online in a database. A good way to keep them handy and in order is to write the recipes on index cards and put them in a sleeved photo album. Take classes and practice the learned techniques until you are nearly, if not, perfect. Check with community colleges, craft stores, baking supply stores, even bakeries to learn what kinds of cake classes they offer. Culinary institutes offer courses leading to a Baking and Pastry Arts degree. Michaels Arts and Crafts Stores offer classes in Wilton's Cake Decorating.
Creating the Cake Portfolio
As you practice your cake baking and decorating skills, start a portfolio of pictures. It would be a shame to finish that perfect cake that you would like to offer for sale and not be able to show it to customers. Blow up your cake pictures so the details can be seen easily, then start another photo album. This time you will purchase one with larger plastic sleeves to accommodate not only the picture, but the cake name and any additional details such as what icings or fillings go especially well with it. Make notes to yourself about the cake and tuck them behind the cake picture. Branding is very important in any business and that holds true for the cake business, as well. You must have enough cake options that will satisfy most everyone. However, specializing in a certain style that is all your own or in a certain cake area such as wedding cakes or children's cakes can give you a certain air of professionalism and be quite lucrative especially in larger cities.
Supplies and Location
As you add cakes to your portfolio, make sure you have the supplies and equipment needed to produce them. Of course, you will need the basics like a commercial mixer, various sizes of cake pans, icing and filling spatulas. Choices must be made about the location of your cake business. Will you start by working out of your home or will you open in a strip mall or shopping mall? Certainly you can have a location in your home set up for clients to view your portfolio and order their cakes. However, in most states anyone selling food to the public must work in a certified kitchen. In some locations it is possible to have a home certified kitchen. It must be inspected and approved by local authorities, usually the sanitation department and fire department. Another alternative when you are first starting out is to rent time and space in a commercial kitchen in their off-hours. Restaurants, bakeries, churches and senior centers are just a few places to try.
Most likely, you will need specific licenses and/or permits associated with your cake business. You must pay income taxes on your profits. If you don't have professional bookkeeping experience, it's best to consult with an accountant before you begin. If you get all of your ducks in a row before opening your cake business doors, you will have fewer problems down the road.
Advertising and Marketing
New businesses usually do not start out with a big advertising budget. So, how do you create that buzz needed to bring in customers? The first rule about advertising and marketing is to always present yourself professionally. Start by telling your family and friends about your new business. Be sure to leave a business card and an expert-looking flier with each of them, detailing your services.
A website is an excellent way to display a portfolio of your cakes. Be sure to add your site's URL to business cards and fliers. Most large chain grocery stores have rules about advertising outside businesses, however, local markets are more apt to let you leave a stack of fliers at their checkout stands. In fact, any smaller local shop is a possible free advertiser. Just ask. Offer inexpensive classes or presentations. You will be selling to a captive audience. Write an article or press release for your local newspaper or magazine.