Monday, September 30, 2013

Craftsy Class Review: Small Cakes, Big Business

Small Cakes, Big Business touches on the idea of a mid-priced line of cakes that you can offer without customization options. The reason that I say it touches on them is that it gives you the basic concepts and a few details about the business side of it, but it really doesn't go into great detail.

This class is taught by Chrissie Boon, who owns Too Nice To Slice in Ontario. She added a line of special-occasion cakes that customers can order online, and that allow her bakery to capture the market of people who want something nicer than a grocery store cake. There are a lot of caveats to this, though, and I was disappointed that she didn't address most of them.

As I mentioned before, the business side of this concept in this class was woefully lacking. The time that was spent on how to price these cakes was a total of 45 seconds. In that time she said that you have to take your costs into account. For someone who already has a custom business and who knows how to do this, that's pretty basic. But if you're starting out and have no idea what that means, you're not going to get that information here.

The business tips for marketing the line of cakes is basically looking at her website and seeing how she set it up. There's no mention of how to add a shopping cart to your website, how to set limits, etc. It's all very, very basic information.

The bulk of the content in this class was about how to decorate four basic cake designs that she makes, and how to pre-make some of the decorations to cut down on assembly time. She shows how to make and store some of the basic decorations that go on these cakes, which is useful for other things too. Even if you only do custom cakes, it never hurts to have a bunch of filler flowers available, for example. Making them ahead during a slow business time can save time when you're busier.

My main gripe about this kind of line of cakes is that you will ALWAYS get people who want to change a color, change the serving count, want to add a detail, or want a different flavor. She mentions that as soon as you start changing things you increase your production costs, but that was really glossed over.

But this is a major concern. If you've reduced your costs by ordering 200 pounds of bulk fondant in a specific color, then you have to buy one tub of a different color to accommodate a customer change, that will affect your profit margin. So this kind of cake line HAS to be something that you're super hard-core about not allowing clients to change. If you are bad at saying "I'm sorry, we don't allow changes for this design, would you like to talk about our custom cakes?" then this type of pricing is not for you.

Another concern is that when you drop your pricing to do this kind of thing you run the risk of devaluing your cakes in customer's eyes. This is a risk, and sometimes it will work out but other times it's better to keep your pricing consistent. It's another reason why you need to be VERY strict about not changing designs for a one-price-fits-all cake.

A couple of years ago there were a bunch of people who thought about doing a basic line of wedding cakes...One flavor, no tastings, no changes to the basic design, and one flat price. The problem with this is that brides want custom, and the bakers who I know of who tried this all seem to have abandoned it pretty quickly. If they were using it to lure brides in to upsell them to a custom design the brides were po'ed. And if they stuck with the basic pricing they were making less than minimum wage, so that wasn't a great business model.

She does address this kind of issue briefly, but I wish that there had been a section where she just talked about the drawbacks of this type of business model and how to avoid those. Her bakery also sounds like it has a fairly high production rate, so they're probably able to add these cakes in to their production schedule with minimal effort. If you're a totally custom home-based business then making a basic design is a different story. You need to decide how flexible you want to be in terms of accepting orders, and if you have a full schedule for the week and you get three or four basic cake orders that might make you want to go strangle someone. She talks about her online ordering system and mentions that she doesn't accept orders to be picked up on Sunday or Monday, so you need to be able to set limits.

The pricing on her cakes is really low, $75 for a fondant-covered cake that serves around 30 people. I assume that she's able to offer these because she's doing bulk business from a commercial kitchen. To be totally frank, I wouldn't think that these cakes would be worth the time that they'd take me to make them for that amount of profit, based on the way my production is set up. I'd rather take a nap. If I owned a bakery that needed to pay rent and make payroll, however, I would consider it.

My final review:

Skill Level: Beginner to intermediate
Equipment you'll need: random stuff, lots of fondant.
Sleep-Inducing level: not too bad, but I was waiting for the business advice that never really came.
What it assumes you already know: How to price cakes to make a decent profit, how to say no.
Unnecessary Level Of Difficulty For Techniques Shown: Not much.
Annoying Host Habits: Nothing that she did, but the Craftsy platform itself was lagging so it was like watching a badly dubbed foreign film.
Level Of Helpful Hints Learned: Basic tips about making things ahead and storing them. Basic tips about how to set thins kind of thing up, but it left a lot for you to figure out the hard way.

I'd recommend this class for ideas about how to make things ahead and store them, or how to design  some cakes that you can use as a basic all-purpose product line. I wouldn't recommend it if you're looking for detailed instruction about how to set this kind of thing up, but it could spark some ideas if you're interested in considering it.

Click here for my Craftsy pattern shop, which has a bunch of freebies in it: A Cake To Remember On Craftsy


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC,  online cake supplies at  www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

1 comment:

Eva Farragher said...

Meh...anyone else get the feeling that Craftsy is scraping the bottom of the barrel with someof these classes?

I remember them the GFC hit the USA and a bunch of decorators offered the cheap-o wedding cake option. You're right - it dies off quickly. No matter how you try to streamline design, brides be wanting to change it up, regardless of what you call your cake pricing schedule.

I'm with you - rather take a nap than bust my hump making $1.45 per "non-custom" cake.