This is the second in a series of interviews with people who are running small cake businesses, and who are happy with the amount of business and money they're making. (Read part 1 here) What are they doing that you're not? What can you do differently to increase your business? Read on:
Second in our series is Kitti Lightfoot from Blairs, VA. she owns Kitti's Kakes and has been in business for about 7 years. her contact info is here:
-Do you do cakes because it’s a business for you or because you think it’s fun, or a combination?
Originally, this started out as a hobby and was a fun activity. Now, it's a full-time business and a second income to help supplement my husband's salary. Is it still fun? Well, no, not all the time. I used to enjoy all aspects of decorating a cake, including baking and shopping for supplies. Now, I'd rather have someone else do the baking, make the icing, etc. and I just do the decorating.
-What’s your opinion of social media for business? Do you think that people are too concerned with being online and how many likes/followers/contacts they have? Do you think that social media sites are beneficial to businesses?
I do believe social media is important for businesses, to some extent. I've had a Facebook page for 5 years now. In the beginning, it was almost as good as "word of mouth". Although now, many "likes" aren't local, so that certainly doesn't help to generate business. I now look at my FB page as an extra extension to my website. I find that too many pages are more concerned with how many likes/followers they have. It's nice to know that you have a following, but if it's not bringing in the orders, it's useless.
- Do you belong to any networking groups or professional organizations for your business?
I do not belong to any groups or organizations for cake decorators. There aren't any here locally. The nearest ones are at least an hour's drive away. Although, I have been speaking with another local decorator to get one started. I do however network with other wedding vendors, so I am able to generate clients through those recommendations.
-Do you actively pursue publication opportunities? Do you want to have a lot of media mentions for your business?
I don't actively pursue publications, but I have had a few cakes published in a local and national magazine. To see your cake in print is really cool! If the opportunity arises, and doesn't require me to "compete" with others for a spot in the article, I will send out some images. Typically though, these publications are meant for others in the same trade as me. So, that's not necessarily going to help bring in the orders locally. However, if it's a local magazine or newspaper looking for tips/advice for articles concerning weddings or ordering a cake in general, I will always give them information for that.
-Do you know off the top of your head how much your profit margin is overall? Do you pay attention to business finances so that you know where you are financially?
Yes, absolutely. This is not just a hobby for me. I use this income to supplement my husband's income. I know how much I need to generate every month to be where we want to be financially.
-Do you pay attention to people online who give business advice? If you do, do you know if they’re successful or not?
Not really. I've learned what works for me. If I had the intention of expanding Kitti's Kakes into a larger business with several employees, I probably would seek advice on how to do that. But, I have no desire to get any larger or have anyone work for me.
-What do you think is the most effective way to get cake orders?
Word of mouth! You can advertise and post pictures, but that only shows the work. Most people want to know how the cake tastes, are you consistent with the quality, are you easy to work with, do you cancel on clients often... customers can only find out that information through their friends and family who have used you in the past. The next thing is to network with other event vendors. If you work well with others, they will recommend you to their own clients.
-Do you have sales or financial goals for your business each year?
I'm not looking to expand, so my financial goals tend to stay the same.... cover all expenses and make enough to enjoy the little extras in life.
-Do you have a website that you maintain on a regular basis?
Yes. I had a website prior to having a Facebook page. I still maintain the site. I think it's important to have information out there, especially since I do not have an actual "storefront". It definitely appears more professional to send someone to a website rather than saying "Hey, go like my FB page."
-What’s your opinion about people who spend a lot of time online giving business advice?
You have to be careful about what you read online. Just because someone says "Try This", doesn't mean it will work for you. And if they're running a business like me, how in the world do they find the time to be online so much? LOL!! I think you need to take a lot of what's being spread out in the cyber world with a grain of salt. There's a lot to be said for going out there and doing it yourself, trial and error.
-Do you pay attention to your local competition or not?
I do, to some extent. Social media has made it a lot easier to see what others around you are doing. At first, it used to bother me if the local competition had more "likes" than I did. But, when I look at my schedule and see that I stay booked several months in advance, I know I have nothing to worry about. At one point you need to shut it off and focus on your business and continue to put out the quality work that you are known for.
-Do you have any advice for people who are starting out?
Do some research. Become a legal business. Depending on your locality, it is not difficult to have a legal home-based business. It just takes a little time and effort. Also, don't underestimate what you charge for your work. It seems most of us do this just starting out. Charge for your time, not just the materials. Many people don't realize how much time you invest in making and decorating a cake. Make it worth your time.
-Where do you think is the most useful place to advertise your business?
Find other vendors in your area that you can network with. Bake samples and take them to the local venues, florists, dress shops, etc. Many times their own clients will ask for a recommendation on who to use for cake services. If there are bridal shows in your area, plan to participate as a vendor. There are also many wedding websites that you can list your company for free. Take advantage of those.
Thanks, Kitti! Now for all of you reading this...If you read the first article and this one, you'll see a lot of similar responses. Let's wait to see what next week's baker has to say and see if some trends are emerging.
If you're a home-based business that's succesful financially (you're making what you want to or more, you're not dying for clients etc) then send me an email if you'd like to contribute to this series. You can remain anonymous or go public depending on how honest you want to be!
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, online cake supplies at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com