Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Rambling Post About Cake Businesses And Why You Shouldn't Necessarily Have One.

One of my cake friends pointed out this blog article last week and said that people on facebook groups were going nuts screeching about how horrible the author was. In talking about why this was happening, we decided that facebook is like middle school.

No, not really, I decided that on my own, not that other people haven't thought the same thing, I'm sure. But we did decide that people are too quick to assume that other business owners are trying to "keep them down" and that they don't want to read. Because the article is pretty basic advice similar to what I've been saying for years. Nothing wrong with that.

(The one thing I disagree with is the don't copy things, because replicating designs make you faster, which means that you make more profit. That isn't bad. Other than that, I'm on board with what he's saying.)

I'm going to copy my comment summing up what I think is going on to make people offended: "I think what's going on now is that there are so many people opening under cottage baking laws, or just selling illegally, that the market is glutted. Since the market is glutted, people who have been in business longer are losing business to cheaper businesses. Since they're losing business, everyone starts whining on cake forums. Since everyone starts whining, people see themselves being complained about and get sensitive. Since they're sensitive, they're ready to attack anyone who suggest they're taking business from other people. And since cake people are so frickin' psychotic something minor blows up into something ridiculous."

Another baker also made the point that the majority of cake decorators have no clue about running a business, and that results in them losing focus of what running a business is for. The answer to that is that a business is to make money. A business isn't to give you something to do that you enjoy all the time, nothing is ever going to be all hearts and roses. A business exists to make money so that you can pay your bills.

Something that I hear a lot is that cake decorators have businesses because we love cakes so much. No, but that's why people whose hobby is cake decorating start a cake business and think that it will be lots of fun. Then they realize that the business of cakes takes far more of your time than the decorating of cakes, and it isn't fun anymore. Have you ever noticed that when decorators scale down their businesses it's always the cakes that go first? They might still be involved in the cake industry by teaching, writing, designing websites for supply sales, doing tutorials etc, but making and decorating cakes is usually the thing they cut from their schedule.

If you want to have fun with cakes then keep it as a hobby. There's no law that says you have to sell them, and there are plenty of studies that show that when you pay someone to do something they lose interest in that activity. It's a matter of extrinsic vs. intrinsic reward.

Anyway, back to the original point. My point is that if you think that people are trying to blacklist you and say that you're an undercutter, then maybe you secretly think that about yourself. Look at why you get so offended by this kind of thing and maybe adjust your attitude. The last part of the article talks about paying attention to yourself and not worrying about other people. Yes, do that.

If you're spending all your time on cake forums and in cake groups with people who post whines about undercutters and this and that and boo hoo, you're wasting time that you could be using to improve your business. Instead of taking time to spend in whiners groups, why don't you go read a Hubspot article about marketing, they have a lot of good advice. Or do searches for wedding trends so that you can design a couple of new display cakes. Turn off facebook and go to a networking meeting where you'll be talking to people in real life who might actually refer business to you.

Ignore the online rabble-rousing and pay attention to your local market. While everyone else is getting worked up and complaining to each other, you could be improving your bottom line by paying attention to your business. That's where your income comes form, not from facebook groups made up of people who will never buy a cake from you.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA

Monday, April 14, 2014

Checkout51 Coupon App Review

Checkout 51I'm skipping Craftsy this week because I came across a coupon app that I wanted to review instead. It's called Checkout51, and it's one of those things where you shop, then get money back on top of the coupons you used. So since I'm cheap I decided to try it out.

It's available for android and apple, so you put the app on your phone, then check on Thursdays, which is when the new offers are loaded onto the system. The offers are good for one week, and all you have to do is buy the item, then take a photo of the receipt and upload it. The website has all the info on their FAQ page about how to do it, so it's not hard.

When you get to $20 worth of savings logged, they send you a check for the total. I also use Saving Star when I remember it, but you have to submit the store cards, then keep track of what you have loaded onto them. I forget to do that, but I think I can easily check a list of what's available then send a photo of the receipt...It's more like rebates than coupons.

What I liked about this is that even though there are the basic coupons for cereal and cleaning supplies, there were also ones for milk and fresh vegetables. I have weird kids who like broccoli, and there was a coupon for broccoli. Really, do you ever see a coupon anywhere for milk and fresh broccoli? I'll take it.

One thing to be aware of is that there are a limited number of offers per week, so you should check what's available before you go shopping then upload the photo right away. I checked it on Sunday, so I assume that there were things that were offered on Thursday that I missed. But there were still enough that I got $7.50 back on just a few items. Plus, they give you a $2 bonus for trying it out the first time.

You're also not limited to any specific store. You can upload receipts from any store as long as the item is clearly shown on the receipt. I came home and uploaded two receipts from CVS and the grocery store, and it takes the photo then asks you which ones of the offers are on that receipt. The process was really easy other than having to verify your email address, which it asked me to do a couple of times until I just closed it out and restarted it. It worked fine after that.

I like this app enough that I'd recommend it if you do coupons, and I added it to my affiliate partner list on my blog. It's pretty straightforward and it's nice that you don't have to load all of your store cards, or even have a card for the store, just the receipt with the item listed on it. I could go to a random convenience store I've never been to and as long as the receipt has the item listed on it I can get the rebate.

You can also stack the discounts. I got some sunscreen at CVS, used a CVS store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon there, then submitted the receipt for the same items. If you have other savings apps or store coupon apps you can get discounts from all of them if there's overlap in the items that are listed.

In the interest of full disclosure, I get an affiliate fee for everyone who signs up through my links. Also in the interest of full disclosure, this is the money that I use to do giveaways, so I'm not going to be retiring on the $20 a month I get from affiliate links. In addition, if I think something stinks I'm not going to recommend it.

Go here to sign up: Checkout51

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and is a Checkout51 affiliate.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weekend Craftsy Sale

Craftsy is having a flash sale this weekend and a couple of classes that I've reviewed (and are worth getting) are included. This includes the Classic Flowers class and the Wafer Paper class. The bobblehead cake class, which wasn't about bobbleheads, and the one about how to start a cake business are also in there, as well as a couple others that I haven't watched. Click on the banner above to check out what they have available.
Remember too that there are more than cake classes on there...There are a couple of food classes and some photography and jewelry ones that I'm going to go look at later today when I get a chance, and since they're all up to 50% off I might grab a couple of those.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, cusotm wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and is a Craftsy affiliate.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How Long Does It Take To Make A Cake/How Much Do You Earn Per Hour?

Whenever someone asks me how long it takes to make a cake, I know that they're really thinking "How much is she making per hour so that I can feel ripped off?"

It's true that if I charged $500 for a cake, and it took me 3 hours to put it together, that would seem like a HUGE per-hour wage. But noooooo, it doesn't work like that. Since we're in tax season and everyone is probably thinking about this subject, I decided to do a little experiment.

I don't usually keep track of how much time I spend working because it's all...the...time. Yesterday I started at 7am and didn't finish up until 11, with about three hours scattered in there when I wasn't doing something business-related.

But every now and then I decide to see how long it really takes to make a cake, hands-on working time only. That doesn't include the time for tasting appointments, bookkeeping, etc, just making the decorations and the cake itself. Just for curiosity's sake, I'll do that with one of my wedding cakes for this week.

For this week I have one cake that needs gumpaste flowers, so I decided to track that one. I'll say that I'm pretty fast at putting flowers together, so the time shouldn't be too much, right? Yeah, right, I also know that I always underestimate how long things do take.

First were 10 smallish roses, which took an hour:
Plus an hour shopping and travel time this morning to get the ingredients for the cake.
Next, gumpaste callas and filler flowers, which took an hour to put together and to make the centers.
Coloring the flowers took about 45 minutes.
An hour and fifteen minutes to make the pearls for the borders.
Then the baking, which took me 1 hour hands-on time including the washing of the dishes.
 Making icing, fillings and icing the cake, two hours.
Piping decorations on the cake, covering the board and putting the pearls on, one hour.
Loading the cake and delivering it with final setup at the reception site, another hour.

For a total of about ten hours of hands-on time.
I know how much of a percentage of my gross revenue I usually keep after taxes, so based on my estimated net for this cake I probably made about $25 to 28 an hour if I don't take anything else into account. However, there was still time involved doing tasting appointments, answering emails, calling the venue to arrange delivery, doing routine paperwork and marketing tasks, etc etc, so I can easily add an extra 3 hours of time per cake onto the total hands-on time. That reduces the per-hour rate to about $22 an hour.
Well, nuts. I usually aim for about $30 an hour for cakes based on the fact that I've been doing this for almost 20 years. So this particular cake fell a little short. Now I know that $22 an hour seems pretty darn good to some people, but if I started a housecleaning business I could get $100 for two hours of basic housecleaning and not have as much stress. And when I have to go to the physical therapist because of my bad back that I got from doing this, I'm going to be out $150, which decreases the profit by, uh, a lot.
If I had a cake that didn't take as much time my hourly rate would have been higher, and what I generally do is try to even it out so that it's around $30 an hour overall. That's not as hard to do as you'd think... But it's good to look at the individual components of what your total income is every now and then to see where you need to make adjustments.
My answer to the question "how long does a cake take to make" will continue to be "It's a full-time job." And I'll do this exercise a few more times to see whether I should either cut my costs or if it's time to raise my prices. Or go start a housecleaning business.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA

Monday, April 7, 2014

Craftsy Class Review: Custom Lettering and Monograms

Craftsy LogoThis class was taught by Nicholas Lodge, which is the only reason I decided to watch it. After all, how many monograms and lettering have I done in my time...I figured it wouldn't be anything really fantastically new. But I know that Nic Lodge is an excellent instructor, so I decide to give it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of information in the class. He goes over a variety of different ways to do lettering and monograms, and in his typical fashion, gives a ton of information as he talks throughout the course. He's a wealth of knowledge, and his classes are well worth taking just to hear the tips and tricks he passes along while doing simple things.

The methods that he touches on in this class include stencilling, piping, metallics, floodwork, royal icing, piping using metallic-colored icing, and using fondant to stencil. He also covers tappits and cutout letters and dimensional lettering. I'd seen and done all of these things before, but to have all of them in one place and to see them done in different ways than I do them was a good refresher course.

I have a cake to do next weekend that includes a monogram, and I'll use some of the techniques that he demonstrated. This class was better than I expected it to be, so I'd say that even if you've done monograms before it would be worth the time to watch it.

My final review:

Skill Level: Beginner
Equipment You Have To Have: stencils, dusting colors, food coloring etc.
Sleep-Inducing Level: I only fell asleep a couple of times but I was tired to begin with, as usual.
What It Assumes You Already Know: Not a lot.
Unnecessary Difficulty Level Of Methods Demonstrated: Nothing comes to mind.
Annoying Host Habits: I like his teaching style because he never stops talking, which keeps you engaged, and he really does give you a lot of information. So no, he doesn't annoy me.
Level of Helpful Hints Learned: A lot of basic information and some tips on mixing icing and "paint" that were useful.

Go here for the class: Custom Lettering And Monograms

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA